By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
"You can tell he's listening to it when he walks into the box," insists director of broadcasting Eric Brummond, 29, another control-room regular. "At least I think he is."
"We searched all over for it before we finally found it on some import CD," Brummond says.
What about the Big Cat, Andres Galarraga? According to a persistent rumor, he wasn't exactly thrilled about stepping out of the on-deck circle to the sound of his first signature number, Henry Mancini's decidedly un-macho "The Pink Panther Theme."
"I haven't had anything confirmed," Dunn responds gingerly, "but he did request something else."
The Venezuelan slugger "brought in a cassette with something on it kind of like `El Matador,'" Brummond confirms. "I don't know why it was changed. The tape might not have been in very good shape."
"So now he's got `Black Cat,' by Janet Jackson," Dunn notes. "He's hitting pretty well at home, so I guess he likes it okay."
Not everyone's equally bowled over by the music. "We've heard some people say, `It's an old-time ballpark, so it should have more old-time music," acknowledges Brummond. "So we've increased the amount of organ we play."
"I try to pick out some Fifties and Sixties stuff, too," Dunn adds. "Which is pretty old-time to me."
At 5 o'clock sharp, Berger assembles her crew: Dunn, the McWilliams brothers, video technician Brandy Lay and a handful of others. Joining them are Coors Field organist Chuck Shockney, a neatly dressed gentleman with bright eyes and Bob Palmer hair, and public-address announcer Kelly Burnham. Berger tells them that the night's show should be a routine one. Only the National Anthem looks to be out of the ordinary; it will be delivered by an eighty-member choir from Heritage Christian Center in Denver. Dunn, who has to mike the singers, is unconcerned. "We only have two microphones for the national anthem, so there's not much I can do," he says. "Thank goodness everybody will be quiet."
After a short dinner break, JD returns to his computer monitor and starts pounding in data to be projected that night on the giant screen. As you might expect from someone who had his first name legally changed to remove the periods ("There shouldn't be any periods, because `JD' doesn't stand for anything," he divulges), he's meticulous about getting every number and punctuation mark just right, even though he's been composing variations on the same messages for his entire adult life. "I've typed `Welcome' and `Hooray' and `Happy birthday' and `Will you marry me?' a thousand times," he grumbles. "Sometimes it seems like every game somebody's wanting to get married."
The senior McWilliams at age thirty, JD backed into his career as a purveyor of ballpark culture. As a teenager, he babysat for the daughters of Gary Tischer, a neighbor who oversees Mile High Stadium, McNichols Arena and other venues for the City of Denver. When, in 1983, the person who recorded balls and strikes for the minor-league Denver Bears left the position, Tischer asked JD, then eighteen, if he'd like to take the job on for the summer. "I had to push these big, old mechanical buttons--clunk, clunk, clunk," JD recalls. "I think I made $15 a game."
Over the course of the next four years, JD enrolled in and dropped out of Colorado State University and kept track of a lot of balls and strikes. Then, in 1987, Mile High received a Diamond Vision video screen and a new matrix board--and because JD was the only person on staff with hands-on computer knowledge, he was hired full-time. Since then, he's handled a variety of duties (running the matrix board, programming music, videotape editing, technical directing) for the Broncos, Nuggets, the recently departed Denver Grizzlies and the Rockies. He's looking forward to taking on similar responsibilities for the National Hockey League's Colorado Avalanche and hopes someday to put together new episodes of JD's Swingin' Meat Gallery, a variety show he co-created with Las Vegas-based cameraman Erich Albl.
JD didn't make a dime from the three episodes of the program he put together in 1992 (they ran throughout that summer on KUBD-TV/Channel 59), but that doesn't make him any less proud of them. "We'd do things like a video for Steve Miller's `Take the Money and Run' where we acted it out using Playskool people--you know, those little wooden toys with no arms. We had two of them shoot another one until some fake blood ran out," he enthuses. "And I'm going to do more things like that. The show hasn't been canceled--it's just on extended hiatus."
It was JD who brought his kin into the matrix-board business. Davey, 27, took over balls-and-strikes duties in 1987, and Ronbo, 21, has been recording statistics on and off since 1990. Just as surprising, they still live together in the house where they were raised. "And," Davey says, "we haven't killed each other yet."
In fact, Dunn and the McWilliams brothers exhibit the easy camaraderie of a comedy team. As pitcher Saberhagen takes the mound just prior to game time, Dunn realizes, "Hey, I don't think Saberhagen has a song yet. I don't think anyone's asked him."