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Mike Tussey: More Murphy’s Law — and another recipe for disaster

Recently, I examined Murphy’s Law and how it affected me drastically while broadcasting a football game in September a few years ago. For those of you who haven’t heard of Murphy’s Law, it’s simply defined in this small phrase: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

The aforementioned football game on a sweltering 96 degree day in September a few years ago, in reality totally prevented two broadcasters from what should have been a routine broadcast. Murphy’s Law stepped in early, and turned the day into a fiasco.

In fact, the steaming heat became very dangerous in a very small cubicle that did not have air conditioning, windows that opened or the availability of fans to circulate even the hot air. Three hours in 100+ degrees put us in the danger of a heat stroke accompanied by extreme stress. Luckily, we survived Murphy’s Law that horrible day.

Mike Tussey

Earlier, I had mentioned that this was the 2nd worse Murphy’s Law that I had ever experienced while broadcasting sports. Given the devastating elements of Murphy’s Law #1 one would think it would be impossible to surpass that nightmare in September.

Pull up a chair, and be sure to enjoy finishing this column for it is the worst Murphy’s Law that I ever endured throughout my career in broadcasting. Thirty years ago in 1993 I became the Radio Voice of the Huntington, West Virginia Cubs; a minor league affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. If you ever watched the movie “Bull Durham” you know exactly what life is all about in the MLB minors. In real life, it gets crazy sometimes.

My responsibility was to call the radio play by play of the Cubs’ home and away games. The summer of ’93 was as usual very hot throughout the Appalachian League that spanned from Martinsville, Pennsylvania to Bristol, Virginia. I traveled with the team on our Cubs’ bus to all the cities in the Appy League. Usually, accommodations in the visiting press boxes were adequate and calling a game was routine.

We pulled into Johnson City, Tennessee for a 3-game weekend set with the Johnson City Cardinals. My first priority was to find the press box; my assigned space and courtesy telephone line. The press box had seen better days for sure, but it would be just fine for my short visit. I was assured by the team that next season in 1994 when I returned to call the games; there would a new spacious press box for our broadcasts.

Summertime 1994 was sweltering and we were off to Johnson City for our 3-game set and on cue, it was in the mid 90’s and very humid. I was really anticipating calling the Cubs and Cardinals game in a cool air conditioned booth within the new aforementioned press box.

Enter Murphy’s Law #1.

I was told that the new press box was on hold and wasn’t built yet and the old one was not being used for broadcasting. Then, an omen of things to come occurred when I further was informed I would have to call the games from another location. That “other location” as I was told; would be located on the TOP OF THE FIRST BASE DUGOUT.

After a brief skirmish of words, I was told emphatically it was the roof of the dugout or nothing at all. So, it looked like for this game, I would be a roof dweller like it or not. There was not a cloud in the sky and the temperature was rising for our 1:30 p.m. game. I was given a ladder, small table and a metal folding chair and that was it. I asked where the telephone line hook was located.

Enter Murphy’s Law #2.

I was informed that the phone line for use was located inside the Cardinal Club House down the right field line well over 300 feet away. Our radio station gave me plenty of equipment including a very large spool of telephone line that was kept on the team bus. I had never had to use the large spool, but glad I had brought it along for the trip.

After finding Bob, our bus driver, a very large spool of line was found with hopefully enough to cover the needed length to the Home Team Club House. So, I was escorted to the Cardinal Locker Room and upon entry, I gathered dozens of stares from the guys in Cardinal jerseys looking me in my Cubs gear.

Enter Murphy’s Law # 3.

There was no telephone line in the large locker room.

I was told that I would have to string the line up and over the top of the lockers and then down a long hallway to the Cardinal’s manager’s office. Next, we entered the skipper’s office and there was a Cardinal assistant coach behind the desk on the phone. The GM interrupted the conversation and said he would have to give up the phone line to me so I could broadcast the game via that telephone line. This revelation to the coach didn’t set well, but I told him I would need it in 30 minutes.

Earlier, I had sent our bus driver to go downtown for what I termed as a “survival kit.” The mission was three fold. First, find a small fan to circulate the air on top of the dugout, then to find a small umbrella that would fasten on the back of my chair to give me the much needed shade. Last, but not least, a case of preferably cold bottled water would be necessary for hydration.

My real concern was sitting on top of the dugout with no real shade and the heat from the shingles moving up, and the heat from the sun, beaming down. In a very short time I would be a rotisserie chicken

BINGO. Mission accomplished. Bob our bus driver returned with all 3 needed survival items.

Now, the next order of business would be to string the phone line down the right field line, into the locker room and then into the skipper’s office. However, down the right field line was a small fenced in area with a small building. It even had a chain link gate. I decided to tape the line onto the building to keep the line safe from walkers.

However, I was advised by the GM that would not be necessary as that area was restricted to the public as there would not be walkers. So, I left it near the building and closed the gate.

Securing the line through the locker room and the office went well. Now the real test was at hand.

I climbed my ladder to the top of the dugout. Then set up our mixer in which to call the game. I had double checked the securing of the phone line, things looked fine and secure.

Murphy’s Law # 4.

By now, the sun was high in the sky and it was very hot and humid with no breeze. My shirt was soaked with sweat. The stress was there and my heart was skipping beats, would I get a DIAL TONE? Indeed, there was a tone loud and clear as I thought then, we will get this game on the air.

I had 10 minutes before the pregame show was to air. My call was answered and I began checking the log with my announcer and then, you guessed it.

Murphy’s Law # 5.

Our connection was cut off.So, it was time to check the long telephone line to the office phone. Then, there it was. A car parked in the secured area that was gated was sitting on top of my line.

The small building was where umpires dressed and parked, but I was told no one would be in that area. I asked the owner if he could move his car as the rear wheel was setting on top of my phone line.

Murphy’s Law # 6.

Instead of turning off my line, he backed straight and crushed even more of the line. I inspected the line and it was damaged beyond repair. I called the station and to announce that today’s game would be cancelled because of technical difficulty.

Soaked with sweat and stress, I took down the equipment from the top of the hot dugout roof and decided I needed a cold beer.

I then decided I would watch the game from the Cub’s dugout. My appearance surprised the Cubs as they gave way with giddy laughs as the game continued. Two innings later, I became a vocal cheerleader for the Cubs from my seat in the dugout. I even became critical of the home plate umpires calls.

Not a good idea.

The next inning he abruptly called time and walked to our dugout and kicked me out of the game.

Murphy’s Law # 6.

The umpire who threw me out and was not enchanted with my criticism of his calls, was indeed the very same umpire that ran over my telephone line with his car.

So, I watched the rest of the game from the stands in wonderful shade.

Oh, by the way. . . The Cubs won the game and back at the hotel pool we celebrated.

Murphy’s Law may have cancelled my broadcast, but I was a happy guy, just me, a cold beer and the Cubbies. It didn’t get better than that.

Mike Tussey has “retired” from a 60-plus-year career as a legendary play-by-play announcer for over 2000 football, baseball, and basketball games, including most recently for ESPN+. His career also includes a stint in law enforcement, teaching and coaching, and writing books, including the “Touchdown Saints.” He grew up in Eastern Kentucky and now lives in Florence with his wife, Jo. He has opened another “Door of Opportunity” and is now a regular columnist for the NKyTribune.

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