May 7, 2012
When a young Dave Flemming first walked into the KZSU studios, disc jockey Kevvy Kev had an orange traffic cone between his legs and was smacking it with a wooden spoon. Kev had microphones everywhere for his rap/hip-hop show. He'd shake a box of broken glass for effect. Whack on this and that. Start and Stop. Spin records. For an hour.
'That's something you don't see every day,' thought the Giants' future World Series announcer.
“There was all sorts of crazy (things) going on down in that basement that a naïve little guy from Montana didn't understand,” said Kris Atteberry, now a member of the Twins' broadcast team. “(That show) was way ahead of his time.”
On road trips, KZSU broadcasters would stuff their gear in an old, faded Stanford duffel bag and carry it onto their flights. Wires. XLR cables. Broadcast equipment with dials. Microphones. Telephone key pads. Things today, the TSA might keep an eye one.
“Stuff never worked,” said Atteberry. “We jerry-rigged everything. I do remember how hard it was to come up with the money-- probably $25 or $35 bucks to get an 'FCC license.”... It's amazing, frankly that we got on the air.”
Out of that 'snake-nest of wires' came three major league broadcasters-- Flemming, who has been a part of the Giants play-by-play team since 2004, as well as the lead voice for Cardinal football; Raymond, who once couch surfed and slept in his car, before settling down with the Astros in the winter of 2005; and Atteberry, who once joked to his wife, Jennifer, that you can't just get out of college and broadcast major league games, watching his two classmates get major league jobs, before he did as well, in 2007.
ROOTS AT KZSU
Raymond (right) was the oldest of the group, finishing up his degree in communication in 1994 as the senior class president. He came to The Farm as, a track athlete, or as he put it, “his floundering track and field career,” and finally quit the team his junior year.
“My first assignment was sideline reporter for football,” said Raymond. “I did some interviews and provided valuable insight from the field, stuff like, 'Bill Walsh can yell, really loud, guys. Back to you.' and 'Boy it's hot down here. The fat kids really sweat a lot.”
Those hard hitting reports got him a gig at the 1993 College Cup for soccer in Chapel Hill, N.C., with Stanford great Julie Foudy providing color for KZSU. Only problem was, Raymond had never watched in his life.
“The game was phenomenal, but the play-by-play was tragic,” said Raymond. “Turns out the game ended in a tie and my embarrassment extended to four overtime sessions. Foudy didn't know a thing about broadcasting before that day, but was incredibly smooth and professional. I'm pretty sure I'm the only one of us who remembers that broadcast”.
Maybe it was the Mia Hamm halftime interview, but KZSU let Raymond fill in a couple of times for basketball and baseball.
From there, the very personable Raymond was an unemployed graduate in 1994. For several months he lived out of his car, as he says, “trying to dodge the trappings of things like employment, rent and furniture.” With access to the campus (i.e. keys), thanks to his trappings as student body president, he was able to sneak a nap on a couch, grab an extra slice of pizza from a coed or shower at the pool.
As sports director, he was also the lead voice for the women's volleyball team's title run in 1994, getting another high profile halftime interview. This time it was with Texas Governor Ann Richards.
“She happily obliged and I was too ignorant to know how to refer to someone of her stature,” said Raymond. “She was way too cool to care. The governor eventually took over the interview and began asking me questions!”
As Raymond was learning about the 'beautiful game' and as Atteberry swears, buying a drink for the Republican govenor, Atteberry, the English literature major with an emphasis on 20th century American fiction, was broadcasting the 'Brevin Knight renaissance' and the baseball postseason in 1995 and 1996.
Atteberry (right with Dan Gladden) called pitcher Kyle Peterson's return to his home town in 1995 in Omaha; he was on the mic during the two NCAA basketball trips that were stopped cold by John Calipari's UMass teams; and he watched all of the Pac-10's great points guards from Tyus Edney to Jason Kidd to all of Arizona's great ones-- Staudamire, Bibby, Simon and Terry.
But most memorable might have been on the team's White House trip in December, 1996. Following the tour, and with some of the players signing autographs on the lawn, a homeless man from Lafayette Park staggered over with a machete taped to his hand. The Secret Service were quick and precise.
“They gunned him down as we were laying on the White House grass,” said Atteberry.
Atteberry became a one-man show for baseball in 1996, working his craft with former player Mike Robbins and Tom Baranowski, the 'Red Baron',.
“The Red Baron used to spend the flights back from Arizona peering out the window of the plane, gleefully rubbing his hands together and saying that it was a great night to look for aliens.”
As the rookie in 1994, Flemming was regulated to board duty to start his broadcast career.
“At KZSU, you started out by engineering games-- pushing buttons in the studio,” said Atteberry. “Other than the spectacular hair cut, we were too stupid to realize that the best broadcaster of our generation was pushing buttons in the studio... You think maybe we should have let Flem out of the cage? It's like having Picasso cleaning brushes, or Hemingway writing obits.”
One thing was sure, if the Greeks ever needed a broadcaster, Flemming was your guy. In about fourth century BC, maybe.
He was a Classic major with a focus on ancient Greek language.
He eventually ran the gamut of sports from baseball to basketball, football and volleyball. The quickest to the majors, Flemming has also been the lead voice to Stanford football since 2007.
In 1997, Flemming (right) called the last second heroics of Knight to Pete Sauer that beat eventual national champion, Arizona, at the buzzer. The team would go onto beat Tim Duncan's Wake Forest club, a few weeks later in the NCAA Tournament . The season also included UCLA's worst ever defeat in program history, aka “The Maples Massacre.”
That was the start of some remarkable, called moments for Flemming.
“He's King Midas,” said Atteberry. “Stanford goes to the Final Four with him as a student. First ever big league game is a no-hitter. World Series. BCS. Every game he works ends on a four-point play at the buzzer or a Hail Mary. He's magic.”
MOVING THEIR WAYS UP
During the summers (1995-98), Raymond began broadcasting for the Sonoma County Crushers of the independent Western Baseball League.
One thing Raymond was not destined for was a management position at Olive Garden.
“He was a waiter and was in the kitchen on break or between tables and he was eating a breadstick. Like they don’t have a million of those laying around,” Attebery relays and Raymond also remembers. “His manager comes in and goes off cussing him up and down and threatening to fire him and screaming about not being allowed to eat, etc. So 'Zippy' dropped the breadstick and walked out. Many a drop the breadstick moment has come and gone since.”
He was also not destined to be a writer for Forbes Magazine. Though he broke the story of Microstrategy in 2000, that led to the eventual popping of the dot.com bubble. Market analysts wished he would have gone sooner, as they were tracked him down and verbally abused him between minor league stops in Charleston, S.C., and Des Moines, Iowa.
“My years at Forbes pushed me to think about everything with a much more open, observant and critical mind,” said Raymond. “I didn't know it at the time, but working at Forbes might have been the most important part of my development.”
Raymond did games for Triple-A Iowa from 2000 to 2005, and broadcast Drake football and basketball (2002-05) before spending the 2005 season with the Brockton Rox, also of the independent leagues. He would get 'spot starts' with the Giants in 2003 and Orioles in 2005, befriending Hall of Fame broadcaster Jon Miller, who would also work with Flemming.
Atteberry also went the small-town route, starting in Cody, Wyoming as the ultimate utility guy-- DJ, newsman and sports broadcaster.
In one night in the thriving metropolis of Afton, Wyoming, the press box crew was grilling elk and drinking Schnapps. The students in town had lined a plastic tarp in the flatbed of a truck and filled it with water, for their own personal, 40 degree, hot tub, down the third base line. Another night in Cooke City, he saw a horse named Comanche, get spooked and leave his rider in a heap as the town folk went chasing after him. Atteberry even had to wrestle a pig. Unsuccessfully. And rope a calf. Likely unsuccessful as well.
Raymond and Atteberry careers would also intersect. When Raymond got to Charleston he called Atteberry from a pay phone about an opportunity in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Atteberry spent three years. In the off season he worked CS Fullerton basketball and Pepperdine athletics events while his wife was in grad school in Southern California. He would spent five years in St. Paul, in the independent leagues, another near stop for Raymond.
In a publicity stunt in 2000, Charleston traded Raymond to St. Paul for a 'case of crab cakes and a pound of shrimp' Raymond instead went to Iowa. Atteberry found his way to St. Paul in 2002.
The early days were also memorable for Flemming, who started his pro career with Visalia in 2000. As the assistant general manager of Visalia, he was tasked with changing the beer kegs at the concession stands or vacuuming the clubhouses. After their clubbie quit mid-season, the Stanford graduate was washing jock straps well past midnight, spending his 24th birthday a the smoke-filled Lake Elsinore Hotel and Casino, washing uniforms.
After a year in Visalia, and three in Triple-A Pawtucket, he reached the majors in 2004.
As Atteberry's wife, Jennifer, a Cal grad, asked one night soon after Kris' graduation in 1996?, 'Can't anyone broadcast for the Giants?'
Kris explained it took a lot of hard work to broadcast, and not just anyone could broadcast, where they wanted.
In 2004 Flemming got his first MLB job, of which she said, 'I thought you said this business was hard?” After telling her about Raymond's good fortunes in 2005, she quipt “You know you might not be as good at this job as you think you are.”
Two years later after five years with St. Paul, Atteberry completed the trifecta.
Suffice to say, those KZSU years not only created three major league voices, but also a commissioner of the West Coast Conference Jamie Zaninovich, Stanford athletics development director Joe Karlgaard, Comcast SportsNet Bay Area personality Scott Reiss, minor league announcer Jesse Johansen, and ESPN's Scott Walker and Troy Clardy.
“The cool thing for me is that you run into a lot of the guys from Syracuse, who studied 'broadcast journalism,' They obviously learn the mechanics.” said Atteberry. “At the Zoo, you were never taught the mechanics, but we had such intelligent, funny interesting people... You can know how to say it, but if you don't have anything interesting to say, what good is it?”
And that guy Kevvy Kev? The show, “The Drum” was the longest running hip-hop show, going off the air in 2011 after beginning in the late 1970s. Kev, who'd been turning records since 1984, interviewed Jay-Z, Ras Kass, the Fugees, Wu-Tang Clan and Busta Rhymes, during the early stages of their career.