As an aspiring sports broadcaster, Mario Impemba is kind of an inspiration to me to want to go into the business. Ever since I watched my first Tigers game around the 2005 season, I've wanted to learn more about baseball, and what goes in to a broadcast on a daily basis. I'm probably giving him a little too much credit, since I've heard games called by the likes of Vin Scully, Jack and Joe Buck, Ernie Harwell, and many others, thanks to the internet, and various games on MLB Network. However, Mario was the first announcer I listened to, and that's what got me started on the path to what I want to do for a living.
So, when he announced on Twitter that he was writing a book based on his experiences as a broadcaster, titled "If These Walls Could Talk," I was excited. The person I listened to on TV for so many years, writing a book on his experiences? Yes, please! When I got the book about a month ago, I wasn't disappointed. In fact, it was some of the best reading about baseball I've done in a while. The subtitle of the book, "Stories from the Detroit Tigers dugout, locker room, and press box" is kind of a bit misleading, since he doesn't just talk about his time with the Tigers, but the stories and experiences he tells from his time with the LA Angels and various minor league teams are just as good as the ones with the Tigers.
Some of the highlights in the book include a time back when he did a broadcast of a Peoria Chiefs road game, and forgot his equipment case back at home. He improvised well and did the broadcast in time, even using a roll of toilet paper as a microphone stand. Another tale he recalls is when he was interviewing for a job as the Angels radio announcer, the program director wanted him to take on a more hispanic last name, since he believed Impemba would be hard to pronounce among the Latinos in the LA-Anaheim area.
The more recent stories from the Tigers mentioned in the book include his thoughts on Jim Thome hitting his 600th career homer against the Tigers in 2011, his time calling a game with the great Ernie Harwell, and recollecting on some of the more famous Tigers pitching performances of the past 10 years - Justin Verlander's two no-hitters, and Armando Galarraga's "Imperfect Game". The book was also recent enough to talk about (shudders) the no-hitter in Miami thrown by Henderson Alvarez on the last day of the 2013 season, saying, "I'll never see a stranger no-hitter in my broadcasting career."
In one section of the book, one of the more interesting ones to me, is what goes into making a broadcast on TV or radio happen on a daily basis. From the pre-game interviews (he gives a list of some of the easiest people for him to interview) to going through last minute prep work in the booth (including a strange moment he recollects in 2002 with an on-air gaffe), he gives a lot of detail in the book about setup and the technical things in the booth, with stories intertwined.
One of the more entertaining short sections is called "Announcer Speak," a sort of "this is what I really mean when I say..." section. Example: "'He's showing great leadership skills by walking to the mound to settle down the pitcher.'Translation: 'The pitcher can't get anyone out and the catcher just can't take it anymore, so he comes out to stop the bleeding. In a related story, the pitcher wants the catcher to get away from him.'"
Along with the stories, he also gives credit where credit is due. Some of the people he thanks in the book include Dave Dye, the sports director for the MSU radio station at the time, who gave him his first opportunity to broadcast a couple games for the Spartans basketball and baseball teams, and Matt McConnell, his roommate at MSU, who pointed him in the direction of the Peoria Chiefs job.
I would recommend "If These Walls Could Talk" not just for those interested in going into broadcasting for a career, but I would also recommend this to the casual Tigers fan who is interested in a different perspective of some recent Tigers history, and for those who want a good baseball read.