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An interview with Ed Randall of Talking Baseball

Ed Randall has been covering baseball on the radio and on TV for 38 years. In recent years he has made his home at New York City’s WFAN 660 AM, where he hosts Ed Randall’s Talking Baseball on 9:00AM Sunday mornings and on the MLB Home Plate SiriusXM satellite radio channel 175 where he hosts Talking Baseball on Saturdays. Recently he has complied a series of DVD’s from his television show Talking Baseball. The series is organized by team and each team DVD features a number of interviews with classic ballplayers in the clubs history, such as Ted Williams, Dom DiMaggio, Roger Clemens and Roger Clemens.

I got a chance to speak Ed about his new DVD series and about the Red Sox new manager, Bobby Valentine. Covering baseball in New York Ed has spoken with the gregarious skipper many times and enthusiastically supported him for the Red Sox position.

What can Boston fans Expect from Bobby Valentine?

I think they can expect the unexpected. [He is] totally unpredictable. Nobody will out work him. He has a tremendous work ethic and frankly he was one of the most brilliant baseball intellects I have ever been around in the game. Certainly, in the contemporary game, he is almost without peer. The way in which he sees the field, the way he diagnoses strategy is really extraordinary and I think they are gonna see the best Bobby Valentine ever, better than the one in Texas and in New York, even though he did take one of those team to the World Series.

What would you say his style or approach to the game is?

I would think that he is aggressive; he is going to push the action. He cut his teeth in the National League, which is not the league that sits back and waits for the three run home run, historically. He is going to play a National league style, the kind of style you have come to expect from Mike Sciocscia in Anaheim.

How does he handle young players and the balance between give kids a chance versus playing the more established players?

I don’t think he has ever been a person who you look at and you characterize him as a guy who only like veterans like Billy Martin years ago. He is going to play the players that allow him to win. In New Yokr, he got the World Series under what I thought were extraordinary circumstances, he got the most out of an outfield of Timo Perez, Jay Payton and Benny Agbayani. That’s not exactly Murder’s Row, none of them are immortal and he took them and he out managed Dusty Baker and Tony LaRussa on route to the World Series. I think that was a monumental achievement.

How does he handle the media, they seem to love him. What is the cause of that and what can we expect from him in Boston?

Well, now he is coming out of the media as he has been working for ESPN. He has always been photogenic and he has always loved the camera. He always understood the role of the media. He’s been quotable He enjoys the give and take with the media. I think he is made for Boston, which is veracious in its appetite for material from its coaches and mangers in the various sports. He really understands the game and I think that will serve the city of Boston very well. I was advocating for his hiring on the air for about a month before it even happened he even became a candidate, because here is a guy who can change the conversation from the horrific events of September and October with the franchise. I think he is going to be fantastic for the city of Boston.

When you are going to interview someone like Bobby Valentine or one the all time greats you interview in the Total Baseball DVD series, how do you prepare?

John Wooden, the great UCLA basketball coach, said "failure to prepare is preparing to fail" In my career, one of the things I have become noted for is my veracious reading habits and my preparation, which I believe is second to none. I do a tremendous amount of reading. I have files on players that go back many years, and what it comes down to is, whether it’s preparing for Bobby Valentine, or anybody else, its about doing my homework. It’s a day before I do my weekly show on XFM and I will spend all of tonight reading and doing my homework. I feel I owe it to my guests, I owe it to the audience. I have a tremendous curiousity and it gets satisfied when I can do these interviews.

Is there one things that stands out to you when you are review your files that you find you in on, that gives you a greater sense of how the player and who they are?

No, what I take from my preparation is that there are moments when I will

find something that nobody knows that is something that I didn’t know at first and I have to ask about that. I am as curious as the audience and I have always put myself in the position where if the people who tune into my show where in my place, I am asking the questions they would be asking.

When you were compiling the series, how did you choose which interviews you wanted to include for this, it is such a vast collection?

It really was a vast collection. It is the greatest body of work from any one assignment I’ve had in my career. It was twelve years and we selected the series from 500 hours of footage. We tried to select the greatest names from the many people who were kind enough to take time out of their busy schedules to sit and talk with and we tried to select some of the players who may not be as well know, but who had great stories. I think we have done a great job putting those things together.

Do you find that these players you speak with have a different view of the game than the average fan?

I would say emphatically, yes. I have a good friend, who pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates many years ago and its really something to watch a game with him. I have been on the air 38 years and I think I know something about the game and yet when I still and watch a game with him, I hear him say things that I didn’t see. I think they are different than the average fan in that they absorb tan awful of nuances that we may not see ordinarily.

Is their any player that you have spoken with that has changed or reshaped the way that you see the game?

Just listening to Bobby Valentine is certainly a good example of that. Buck Showalter would be another keen baseball intellect and I will take stuff away from them, whether it’s about a player or a comment on the game. I will see the play again and the will have altered the way I see a game or an event.

As far the Red Sox Talkin’ Baseball DVD is concerned, is their any one player that was your favorite to interview or that you found the most engaging to interview?

The instantaneous and obvious answer to that is Ted Williams. When people ask me of all the people you have interviewed in your life, he always comes to mind. Interviewing him was an incredible experience for me. It not that I was so impressed that he hit .344 for his career, I mean .344, but also his life was so fascinating. I had Curt Gowdy, who was the voice of the Red Sox, on the show at a different time and he spent a lot of time with ted Williams, they were great friends. On my show he said Ted Williams was the greatest hitter he ever saw, he was the greatest fly fisherman he ever saw and that he was the greatest fighter pilot in the eyes of many, including his wing commander in Korea. His wing commander happened to be a man named John Glenn. John Glenn said Ted Williams was the greatest fighter pilot he ever saw, the opportunity to have him come and sit down and talk with me about baseball and his life was something I will never forget.

What is the biggest challenge for you in interview one of these great players?

I really hope to find a question or a series of questions or solicit information that have never heard before and that’s really difficult when you are talking to people of have been interviewed for that last thirty or forty years of their lives. It’s hard to find something new and that, to me, has always been the greatest challenge.

What do you want fans to take away from the Talkin’ Baseball series?

As we did the show, it was my intention to strip away the statistics, the salaries, and to just to treat them as human beings. I didn’t care if the guy across from me was making two million dollars a year or eight million dollars a year; that to me was irrelevant. I wanted to talk about their lives, their achievements, the mountains that had yet to be climbed, their perspective of the game of life, their struggles. [I tried to] expose them as human beings, and not just world-class athletes and just have a simple conversation for half and hour every week. Some guys would come in and be nervous and I don’t know why, but I had some ability to be able to get them to relax and to talk just like we were two guys sitting in my living room.

It’s quality work It is something I am extraordinarily proud, to have done this for twelve years and it’s a treasure trove of work. When I did the show, I would always tell guys, don’t say "yesterday" or "tomorrow" or because we don’t know when the show will air in different parts of the country and I didn’t want them to date the show. That has served us well now as we have revisited the show and been able to make it as timeless as possible. I hope that people will sit down and enjoy them and laugh at how funny looking was over the years and the players and how they changed.

Ed will speaking with Bobby Valentine again on Sunday January 29, 2012 in Valentine’s home town of Stamford, Connecticut from 5:30-7:30 PM as part of his Hot Stove Report Series. Tickets are $40 in advance and $50 at the door. The proceeds go to Ed’s Fans for the Cure Charity, which is dedicated to fighting prostate cancer. Tickets are available through the Fans for the Cure Website. You can pick up the Red Sox Edition of Talking Baseball here.