Book Review: You Can’t Make this Up

“Do you believe in miracles?” If sports fans were asked to bring up the first thing they remember about Al Michaels, his quote from the 1980 Olympic Hockey game which pitted the United States against Russia is probably the best AND the first thing that comes to mind. While hockey isn’t what this site is about, Michael’s new book, “You Can’t Make This Up: Miracles, Memories, and the Perfect Marriage of Sports and Television” delves into many other topics, including spending a significant amount of time on his coverage of baseball throughout the years.

In essence, baseball seems to be Michaels’ real passion. Yes, in recent years, he has been a big name on Sunday Night Football on NBC, and before that, Monday Night Football, but baseball is what got Michaels going and was an integral part in growing him into the broadcaster that he is today.

As Michaels describes it, he knew he wanted to work in sports in some capacity, other than playing them that is. He decided to attend Arizona State University and at that time, the interest in working in the sports world was much less than it is today. In any event, Michaels took advantage of the situation, and soon was calling every Arizona State competition the school would let him. This included dozens of baseball games every year. By the time he was done with college, he had more than 80 Sun Devil baseball games under his belt and was ready to start his career as a broadcaster.

The problem was that even though the field wasn’t as saturated as it is today, there also weren’t nearly as many jobs as there are today. Local sports teams didn’t have their own television networks as is common place now. Each team had a few guys on the radio, and some games were carried nationally each week. If you wanted to catch on, you more than likely had to do it with a team.

His first real foray as a consistent play by play baseball man was with a minor league team in the Pacific Coast League named the Hawaii Islanders. Here, Michaels was the voice of the team and also got to call many other games throughout the year, including a large amount played by University of Hawaii teams. Getting your first real job in paradise doing what you want to do, isn’t such a bad thing…Michaels’ career was already off to a fast start.

After a few years in Hawaii, Michaels received an offer to become the voice of the Cincinnati Reds right at the height of the Big Red Machine days. Even though it was a slight pay cut (because of the totality of the work Michaels was doing in Hawaii) and he would have to move to the Midwest from paradise, Michaels decided to make the move. He spent a few years in Cinci and got to know the players very well.

He then received an offer to move to San Francisco to call Giants games. Once again, Michaels was on the move. If there was one thing consistent about his career, it was change. Michaels went from team to team, from broadcast agency to broadcast agency, but always took a step up in terms of how much he got to announce and how much control he received. He lamented his move to San Francisco for some time as the team was awful, the players didn’t care, the stadium was the worst in the game and no one paid attention to them, but it was an increase and pay and allowed him to move to the west coast.

That move also put him closer to people related to the national networks and allowed him more exposure. While he did call the Giants games, he also called a variety of other sports for ABC throughout the year. In addition, he eventually caught on to do a weekly baseball game for ESPN in addition to his Giants’ duties (talk about a crazy travel schedule).

Michaels explains that covering the 1989 World Series was the penultimate experience of his career in baseball coverage. This is the famed “Earthquake Series” between the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants and Michaels was on the national broadcast team for ABC when the quake hit. Michaels is extremely proud of the job he did that day covering the earthquake and considers it one of the best things he has ever done in journalism.

The book is not a must read, but it is interesting and gives the reader an inside look at a man many feel they are familiar with because he has been so prominent in sports broadcasting for so many years. There are points in the book that Michaels comes off as arrogant or cocky and times when the reader wonders what type of family man he really is if he is away so often. One thing is for sure, Michaels is dedicated to his craft and it shows through this work. He takes credit for much of his success, which he should, and often makes others look worse than their best in the process.

The asking price for the hardback is a little high based on the content, but it’s not a waste of a read.

Overall Rating: 3/5

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