Goodbye Jerry Howarth, Hello Ricard Deitsch – Toronto Sports Media RecapWho will replace Jerry in the booth and a look at the new faces of PTS and the Academy Awards too

<span class="entry-title-primary">Goodbye Jerry Howarth, Hello Ricard Deitsch – Toronto Sports Media Recap</span> <span class="entry-subtitle">Who will replace Jerry in the booth and a look at the new faces of PTS and the Academy Awards too</span>


Happy Saturday..

It’s been a while and much has gone on, much to write about so let’s go..

As we wrote last year, rumblings were abounding that the 2017 season would be Jerry Howarth’s last as the radio voice of the Toronto Blue Jays. Well, that proved to be true, albeit the official announcement came a little later than expected.

The good? The guy had an unbelievable career with the Blue Jays and with the current state of media in total flux, it’s hard to imagine anyone will ever match Jerry’s run in Toronto ever again.

The bad? Given the proximity to the start date of the season, the limited field available to replace Jerry. Hard to imagine being able to talk to anyone employed by other teams with spring training already in play. Doesn’t mean they won’t land anyone but in an ideal world, the position would have been open at the end of last season with a full offseason to conduct a proper search.

The ugly, Bob McCown- the dean of the station not saying anything about Howarth. Rumblings are that Bob blames Jerry for the Cito affair many years back and as a result, Bob has not anything to say to or about Jerry since. I am told that Jerry’s name was raised to Bob on air by a baseball insider the day of the announcement and Bob’s reply was something akin to, let’s talk about things that are important. Petty to say the least.

So what do I think happened? I think there was an ongoing effort to keep Jerry in the gig throughout the winter, with the brass telling him not to make any decisions until the spring thinking that the rejuvenation of spring would lure him back. I think his health and age and a reluctance to do anything other than the full-time gig surprised some folks and they’ve had to scramble since. Fact? No. Just my two cents.

Finally, on Jerry’s retirement, you should do yourself a favor and take a listen to the end of the Blair show the day of the announcement. Blair who is akin to Walter Matthau in the movie Grumpy Old men actually displayed some emotion in his closing remarks to Howarth. Blair’s show of emotion as stunning as Max Goldman shedding a tear in the all-time great flick. Up there with Blue Moon’s and unicorns it’s worth listening to.

So, who do the Jays turn to in the booth?

Well, they bumped Joe Siddall out of the radio booth and into the tv studio to do pre and post games. So the radio booth is currently empty, completely swept clean of talent awaiting new hosts.

In that the reviews of Siddall were nothing short of positive, it’s a move that suggests that radio is not nearly as important as tv. If the radio was, then why pull a strong performer away. No one would have blinked if Joe remained in the booth.

The saddest part of the Siddall move was that the response was crickets. Literally, no one cared. Seriously. The silence was deafening. Why do we think this is? Could it be that we don’t have baseball or Blue Jays on the brain yet? IS the reason that it is the dead of winter as far as sports go? The Olympics were on, the Maple Leafs and Raptors are both having good seasons that are capturing our hearts and imaginations. Is that the reason? Is this a further sign of the erosion of interest in the Blue Jays by the masses and returning to the die-hards only? Radio, TV, and attendance numbers were all down YoY last year, is this a further sign of decline? I guess time will tell. I was stunned at how little attention the news garnered. Maybe it’s just me.

The easiest avenue for the Jays to have followed was to promote Elliot Price from the morning show and plunk him in the radio booth. Price held that same gig before and by all accounts was damn good at the job. The Jays had the gift of someone with MLB experience already in the market, on the flagship and yet Price announced on Twitter this week that the favorited, clubhouse leader was not in the running. Stunning.

The next decision would appear to be, do they hire full-time replacements for Joe and Jerry or do they go via committee. There are a lot of folks in and around the team who could pick up a slot of games, allowing the team the time to conduct a proper search. These names include Mike Wilner, Dan Shulman, Buck Martinez, Matt Devlin, Kevin Barker as well as others.

Another option is to name full-time replacements. These can include some pairings of the above names or add in totally fresh names too.

Let’s take Matt Devlin out of the running for a full-time role. I can’t see them asking or him wanting to jump Raptors ship for Blue Jays radio.

Mike Wilner. Look Wilner is going to play a role, there is no doubt. Does he get the coveted full-time member of the play by play team? That is the question. Like him or not, he gets kudos, again, for hosting Jays talk, the hardest gig in town. However, there is no more divisive member of the Toronto sports media landscape than Wilner. He is the complete opposite of Howarth and Cheek. If Wilner were going to be the guy, why not announce it then. Unless the other partner is not yet confirmed.

Dan Shulman. Landing Dan as the full-time radio voice of the Jays would be a home run. It would also be the move that would be most stunning. Not because he isn’t qualified, more so that he is way overqualified. If you could get Dan for an entire season you’d want him on TV, not radio wouldn’t you? I mean if he were willing, wouldn’t you broom Buck to radio booth and put Dan on TV? More importantly, Dan’s move back to Toronto and away from ESPN was to spend more time in Toronto not less. 160+ games would be more full time and less time at home. If Dan plays a role in radio look for it to be part of a by-committee, not a full-time gig. Just a hunch.

Scott Richmond. Former MLB player and Blue Jay. Has already called a spring training game with Wilner and is the time of hire that makes sense for Rogers.

Ben Wagner. Ben is the voice of the Blue Jays Triple-A affiliate, Buffalo Bisons. He too has received some airtime this spring. In an attempt to foster the whole minor leagues to major leagues story, this move would make sense. Based on my unscientific research, other than Shulman he would be the choice of the fans.

Here are some names to think about…

Joe Carter- played a role on the TV side of things in the past. The Jays love to bring back alum to remember the glory days and he would be a natural on the radio. Would he want a full-time gig?

J.P. Arencibia- He is my dark horse candidate. Former Blue Jay, well spoken and a catcher where all good broadcasters come from :). Would the Jays bring him back?

Jose Bautista- I am joking, kind of. If Jose can’t find a gig, would he consider a role? I could totally see the Jays signing up for the circus that would be.

The field. Of course, they could hire someone no one has considered or thought of.

The season is not that far off, time is ticking.

Who do you think will get the gigs, who do you want in the booth?

The the other news that broke since I wrote last was that Stephen Brunt has returned to the co-host chair on Prime Time Sports alongside the chairman of the Jerry Howarth fan club Bob McCown. As we told you a while back this was not surprising given the news that Damien Cox was out in that role. The surprise is that Scott Moore has reached across the border to bring in American sports media guru Richard Deitsch.

Deitsch is THE MAN. He has been a regular guest and at times co-host on the Fan and PTS for years. The fact that he has made a full-time commitment to a station in Canada and PTS is quite amazing. I am surprised that Rogers will pony up that kind of money that I can only imagine Richard Deitsch will command and equally of interest would be his immigration visa.

The number one comment I received about the news is that the Fan with this announcement has continued it’s all male, old guy reputation. I think that’s fair. It is well documented that Moore has decided to skew older when it comes to talent in key slots. Brady in the am is the lone exception.

Pulling Brunt off the Blair show is a complete no-brainer. It makes no sense to have that quality of talent in the 9-12 slot. None. McCown’s numbers are in decline of late and bringing Brunt back will help regain the older audience. If you want the definition of akward, listen to Brunt being interviewd by McCown the day of the announcement. “How does it feel to comeback to PTS”… LOL

Brunt’s one comment in that award winning segment tells me, perhaps why Richard Deitsch would take the role (besides what is likely obscene money). “PTS was and remains the only sports radio destination”. That remains the truth. I have written this many of times, but PTS and McCown are the Ted Koppel of sports news. When news broke back in they day we would all stay up to watch Nighline. No matter what, Koppel would have the newsmakers on his show. Guaranteed. McCown built that with PTS and it remains that today. When the big news breaks you want to hear PTS that night. No one else does that.

The problem is, Bob’s interest level in the story is limited outside of his common loves- i.e. the Blue Jays. As I have written countless times when Bob is engaged on a subject he is the BEST interviewer anywhere. The problem is he is not engaged all that often. Richard Deitsch and Stephen Brunt rescue Bob on the 75-80% of the stories he has to cover but could care less about. The B and C class stories that make up the mundane world we live in are the ones Bob doesn’t care about and it’s apparent in his lack of interest and understanding of the basic facts of those stories. He is now going to have consummate pro’s around him that take great pride in knowing their shit.

So, while Richard Deitsch’s tends to focus on the matter that I love, clearly you do too or you wouldn’t keep coming here, we don’t represent the masses. The story is rarely the storyteller. Brunt and Deitsch will ensure that things are covered properly. Would it have been better to find someone whose focus is more on the x’s and o’s to appeal to a younger more general crowd say JP Morosi? Maybe. Given the demographic, given Bob and the stories he covers Richard Deitsch is a great choice.

One of the c stories Bob has butchered since inception has been the Seattle NHL story. Huge news out here this week as Seattle hockey fans bought over 30,000 tickets in a ticket drive to bolster the already filed expansion application. Geoff Baker formerly a Toronto scribe is out here in Seattle already. My question is who else will move to the Emerald City to cover NHL when the team is announced. There is a complete lack of hockey media here.

Hats off to the folks at Karbon Sports out of Toronto. Their wearables were the best I saw at the Olympics.

The Academy Awards are tomorrow night. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri appears to be the leader to clean up. It was NOT the best movie I saw all year. That would go to I, Tonya. Don’t really care about the artistic side of things per se. I want a movie that first and foremost entertains and secondly makes me think. I, Tonya did that. 3 Billboards is a poor person’s Fargo in my mind. How quickly things transformed was beyond belief.

Not sure why, but lots of folks keep telling ME that this will be Lou Lamoriello’s last year as Maple Leafs GM. They tell me he will take on the role currently played by Cliff Fletcher. Will this move be enough to satisfy the other members of team Shanny?

Finally, the Leafs raised ticket prices again. I see the usual battle cry against the big, nasty corporation. Supply and demand is the easy answer. As long as people or corporations continue to buy tickets at both market and secondary market prices teams will continue to raise prices. The inverse is the only way to stop it. Yes, it’s sad that the franchise continues to raise tickets despite not having won the ultimate prize in decades, but as long as people continue to be willing to pay…



  • comment-avatar

    Would The Fan/Sportsnet go with a completely different option altogether radio wise and just do away with the radio guys completely and have a simulcast with the TV guys? I could see some corporate bean counter bring up the notion of “why should we pay two sets of guys if we’ve got the tv guys already?”.

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    “The saddest part of the Siddall move was that the response was crickets. Literally, no one cared.”

    I love reading your blog, but sometimes I think you really view the sports world through a myopic Maple Leafs fan bubble.

    The Siddall hiring wasn’t huge news, but the Zaun firing was. And there seems to be a ton of curiosity about who’s taking over the radio jobs. There’s basically listener campaigning:

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    I’d like to see Wilner get a shot. I think he’s come a long way with his play by play and deserves it. I haven’t been listening too much to the Spring games, but from what I understand they’ve been pairing Wilner with Richmond at first, and now with Ben Wagner and Rob Fai? Richmond didn’t quite sound ready to me. I’ve heard Wagner before and thought he sounded quite good. Maybe Wilner/Wagner splitting the games like Tom and Jerry used to could work.

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    Regarding Siddall, I think the minimal response is more of a “let’s wait and see” reaction.

    Zaun was refreshingly outspoken and did not hold back criticism when he felt it was warranted. With Campbell being a charter member of the “all is well in the SN Kingdom” fraternity; I am waiting to see how Joe approaches his new role. His creds are fine but I want to see if he will speak outside of the company’s comfort zone.

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    I’ve enjoyed Ashley dockings commentary on Blair show. No problem making her cohost.

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    If we can’t get the theoretical best co host rotation to me (Brunt and Arthur), this might be next best alternative.

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    When they vote for the Frick award I hope they consider Jerry had to put up with Mike Wilner and still provided a HOF performance.

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    Was happy to see the Deitsch addition to PTS. But nowhere that I know of is 20 weeks a year considered a full time job. 30 weeks would be a low number. I don’t get it.

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    I remember former Blue Jay Rance Mullineks doing a good job on radio with Jerry when he had the chance. Perhaps he is worth a shot. Jerry made a lot of the guys he shared the booth with sound better than they actually were. A testament to how good he was at his job. He will be missed.

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    Jerry was the best because he had a warm, genial, and pleasant persona. Hearing him call a game on the radio was an absolute pleasure, and every year I’d make sure to tune into the first Jays grapefruit league game on the radio just to hear his voice for the first time all winter.

    Now, contrast that with Wilner’s prickly persona.

    Come on.

    No doubt Wilner will have a role, but I find it hard to believe he’ll be hired as a full time play-by-play guy. Would be interested to see if the role goes to someone out-of-market, which I wouldn’t mind given the options we have in-house. It’s too bad Elliott Price is out of the running.

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    Wonderful edition as always.

    1) Scotty Mac has been spectacular on Overdrive. He’s such a great host. Very talented. It’s been a pleasure listening to him.

    2) Ashley Docking, as someone mentioned above, does a wonderful job with Blair. Blair skews to the geriatrics (also he needs to see a doctor, dude does NOT sound healthy) so Ashley definitely makes the show more interesting for those of us who aren’t 87 years old.

    3) Is Brady okay with Elliot Price taking over every convo? He’s obviously the alpha on the show. It’s sad to see what’s happened to Brady’s career.

    4) Overdrive is by far the best show on radio in Toronto and it’s not even close.

    5) I don’t think I’ve listened to a Jays game on radio in 20 years. Do people actually still do this?

    6) Can John Shannon retire? Please!!!!!!!

    7) Subscribed to the Athletic. Justin Bourne is a spectacular writer. Do yourselves a favor and subscribe. Well worth it. Jonas Siegel is pretty darn good too.

    8) Is there anyone more likable in the media than Mark Masters? He just seems like a great human being.

    That’s all for now. Have a wonderful day.

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    This should prove to be a very interesting time period in radio. Good move on PTS Brunt and Deitsch will be a welcome improvement and make Bob better for it.

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    Hans, I don’t think they would simulcast baseball. The TV call wouldn’t be descriptive enough for radio. And they probably want to get the radio call right because unlike the other sports, baseball is a huge radio property. It’s every day for half a year and it’s the kind of sport you listen to while doing other things.

    To that end, Justin you make a great point about Wilner. He won’t wear well. It’s not his role. Imagine anyone saying to themselves “Sweet! Spring means I get to hear Wilner again.” It’s lunacy. Ben Wagner seems like a very inspired, organic option.

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    Drumanchor3 years ago

    I seem to recall, years ago when the Jays had their minor league affiliate in Las Vegas, that they once had the radio voice of the team do some broadcasting for an inning or two and he was great. Smooth, knowledgeable, classic dulcet tone – almost Tom Cheek-like. He worked well.

    Of course, I doubt very much that he is even slightly close to being in the running, but, for me, that classic style of radio baseball play-by-play is perfect.

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    Pants Go Brown3 years ago

    Truth is Joe Siddall was OK on colour, but never really hit his stride doing play x play.

    I always preferred Tom more, but grew to really like Jerry — what a dick McCown is for not paying tribute to Jerry. McCown is such a primadonna.

    And please no Wilner on play x play. Sanctimonious and arrogant. Gotta be someone better.

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    From what I understand Jays games on the radio are still a big property. I seem to remember when the Jays were in the playoff runs in 15 and 16, The Fan’s ratings were distorted, making it seem like Walker had massive ratings, but it was actually reflective of highly rated Jays day games. I listen in the car or doing errands for sure. Classic summer habit.

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    Listened to a bit of the game on Sunday and I thought Ben Wagner was great. I’d take Wilner over Rob Fai or Scott Richmond though.

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    @Sam – I’m glad The Fan is making an attempt to include more women, but I have to say I haven’t enjoyed Ashley Docking on the Blair show all that much. Just found her questions/comments a bit clunky. But maybe she’ll get better, guess you have to start somewhere.

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    I’m in the minority but didn’t enjoy Jerry much. He repeated the same things over and over and thought he was also the color guy at times. Just my opinion. Siddell is great, he’ll be good but I’ll miss Zaun here and there. How bitter will Wilner be if he doesn’t get the full time gig? I assume he’s not otherwise they would’ve already dropped that.

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    Count me in among those who will miss Jerry. His warm and friendly manner has long since ceased to be the norm in broadcasting, and there’s no need to be “edgy” on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I’ve done a hundred and one different types of household tasks listening to Jerry, and enjoyed some of his signpost sayings to get an idea of where we were in the game i.e. “Blue Jays are in flight” to indicate their first run, “settle in” when the first inning ended, etc. Maybe it’s corny – fine by me. I don’t think (I hope) that it’s an age thing. I enjoyed Early Wynn way way back when I was a lot younger. You could tell that these men cared about baseball, and about their listeners.

    Althought I liked how Jerry worked with Tom, of course, and later Alan Ashby, I thought that he and Joe Siddall were developing a good rapport, too. It will be a different sound this summer to be sure.

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    Poker Guy3 years ago

    I always thought Alan Ashby had a smooth and soothing delivery. I am sure whomever they tap to replace Jerry Howarth, who replaced Early Wynn early on in ’81 I believe won’t please everyone, but that we give that person a chance as everyone gave Jerry a shot.
    Let’s be honest, when we all heard Jerry’s nasally voice and, delivery for the first time, didn’t you think “who the heck is this guy?” Some 36 years later, we say good-bye to the little guy.
    Thanks Jerry. All the best.

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    The Jays have done a good job with their radio broadcasts. Tom and Early Wynn were great. Tom and Jerry the best – Tom bringing an old-time baseball conversation all game and Jerry peppering in with clearly researched bits and stats. Alan Ashby was in this class, too. I like Joe Siddal a lot more on TV than radio – he was more of a scout or a coach, and that he was trying to teach me something. His strengths play better on TV and indeed in the Zaun role; and less on the radio where I want pauses and stories and a laid back conversation. And as for Wilner, I don’t find that his arrogance and condescension shows up much in the broadcast booth. I don’t mind him – he’s a little bland; maybe as a second guy in the booth?

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    You’re totally right, Poker Guy. I didn’t like Jerry at first. And if Wilner wants to spend a couple of decades playing second fiddle to a more established play by play guy with a stronger voice like Jerry did, I might come around. But then again I might not, because Wilner already defined himself a certain way, while Jerry arrived here a baseball play by play guy. How you meet someone is very important in human relationships of all kinds. In any case, I don’t feel like Wilner is owed anything.

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    Original Mitch3 years ago

    If Wilner gets a sniff of this job, then Rogers will truly defined itself as a company where sycophantry and bootlicking trumps any form of talent. He’s a dispicable radio personality who belittles and insults all who call in. His baseball IQ is fine but not any greater than thousands of people who watch baseball. The only reason he has a job is his ferocity for defending the company product. That’s fine. Having a call in show where you tow the company line is one thing. Getting the reigns as a national PxP broadcaster for a Major League Baseball team? That’s another story. Funny enough, as I write this I’m remembering his exact counterpart getting the job on the tv side. I guess bootlicking does work at Rogsrs lol. But how well did that work out for Campbell?

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    Listened to some of the game on the radio this afternoon and I’m calling it right now: Ben Wagner is the new lead voice of Blue Jays baseball. It’s not even close.

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    Please, please, please anybody but Wilner, just not a real play by play guy, no true knowledge of baseball unless you count a journalism degree, he doesnt have the laid back style or anecdotes of great ones like Scully et al. I would love to get Alan Ashby back, he was a natural. Also, after a week of the new PTS, it looks to me that Deitsch looks bored already. Only natural as he is a sports media guy. not not one to talk about the Leafs 4th line centre or the Jays bullpen. Probably sorry he signed up for this.

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    Mitch, have you actually listened to Wilner call a game? He’s damn good at it. His Jaystalk persona never makes an appearance when he’s calling games.

    As for the people criticizing McCown for not paying tribute to Jerry…Jerry’s a far more polarizing figure within the Jays media world than he is among fans. Or do people think Alan Ashby and later Jack Morris left solely because they got better job offers? Jerry could be a difficult person to work alongside.

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    Listened to the full Friday show. By no means the best ever, but I enjoying the lack of grandstanding, sniping and stupidity one often encounters in the last two years.
    Also, not sure if it has been mentioned before on PTS, but first hour on Mondays will now be a full hour with one guest and Bob. Which sounds great. First up, Richard Peddie. Personally, I’m going to wait for week 2 to start listening ;).

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    “Or do people think Alan Ashby and later Jack Morris left solely because they got better job offers?” Yes, that’s exactly what I think.

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    Thanks for the information……….that’s very interesting……..McCown doing long form interviews has been pretty good radio in the past……’s definitely worth a try………..much better than taking calls on Mondays

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    Gary M, keep drinking the Rogers kool-aid about Howarth. It will all come out, eventually.

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    Brent in LA

    R u seriously kidding me? Overdrive is the best show on tv/radio? Hayes thinks he knows lots about everything, NOT, O’Neill is bored and checking the time looking to leave and McLellan doesn’t know or participate in interviews interviews outside of hockey and freely admits he doesn’t know much about sports outside of hockey. So why do you think this is the best show?

    Yeah John Shannon just seriously get out. He must have pictures of Rogers higher ups. How did he survive the purge over year ago?