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Josh Lewin Gets Called Up To The Throwback League

“I love knowing that there are people stuck in traffic without access to a live baseball broadcast and can access this anytime. The evergreen nature of podcasts in general make this the perfect platform.”

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Which Major League Baseball team was the best in history? Who would win a series between the 1974 A’s and the 1992 Braves? Would Catfish Hunter strikeout David Justice with the game on the line? 

Figuring it out would mean comparing eras in a way to account for the changes in the game and fairly make a case for one team. Is it possible? It is now. 

Welcome to The Throwback League, pitting 48 of the game’s best teams from 1974-2006.

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48 of the game’s best teams from 1974-2006 in a simulated March Madness style tournament. It’s the brain child of former Major League radio and television play-by-play announcer Josh Lewin. The TTL is a fantasy tournament called by Lewin in podcast form. All the play-by-play, the pomp and circumstance are there for you on demand. 

I had to learn more, so Lewin was kind enough to answer some of my questions and shed some light on his baby, The Throwback League

Andy Masur: Where did the idea for The Throwback League come from?? 

Josh Lewin: This was actually something I incubated 10-12 years ago… but I never had the bandwidth to actually sit down and do a demo — too much actual traditional play by play between the MLB on FOX, Chargers, and back then, Texas Rangers TV.  Now that I’m trying to stay a little closer to home and cut down on travel, this was the perfect time to crank it up. And I realized quickly that it plays better in podcast form than anywhere else.

AM: How were each of the teams chosen?

JL: The 32 World Series winners between 1974-2006 were automatic and seeded 1-8. The rest of the field is what I deemed to be the best of the 16 World Series losers from that time, seeded 9-12. It’s fun playing God!

AM: How difficult is it to muster up energy and excitement for games, calling contests that you obviously can’t be at?  

JL: Surprisingly, not difficult at all. I love baseball and love speaking into a microphone. I mean, when I was a kid, I announced to an audience of zero into my old cassette recorder. I played ball in my backyard diving for catches I threw to myself.  It was exciting then, and still exciting now.

AM: So, where do you call the games, in a studio in front of a computer? 

JL: I have a little home office in Solana Beach that’s become my own personal ballpark-for-one.  Can’t tell you how amazing it is to be sitting at my desk, looking at the ocean, a scoresheet in one hand, a microphone in the other, a dog on my lap. No rain delays, no sponsors parading in and out of the booth. Just occasionally my wife, to take the dog for a walk and give my lap a break.

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AM: Ok, so a game starts, how are you following along and what do you integrate into your “broadcast” as far as stories and such? Elements?

JL: So, the WhatIfSports.com algorithm spits out the entire play by play — every play of every game. I do my research before each game on the players just like I’d normally do… fill out my scorecard… and the it’s me and my imagination just off to the races.  A game from ’91 may feature a fan in a Cosby sweater catching a foul ball.  The lineups from 1980 may have “Cars” by Gary Numan playing on the PA in the background. I’m going for, I guess what you’d call verisimilitude.  Let’s take the fans back to the years in question, from the pop culture to the on-deck antics of David Eckstein.

AM: How does this test your skills as a play-by-play announcer?

JL: It challenges you to get as creative as possible, and to remember to give the count even when you can’t see a scoreboard! After all, radio is the theater of the mind, right? I think that’s the ultimate joy of this whole exercise as a broadcaster. You literally have to close your eyes and imagine.

I love knowing that there are people stuck in traffic without access to a live baseball broadcast and can access this anytime. The evergreen nature of podcasts in general make this the perfect platform.  That, and everyone loves brackets. Starting this up just as we’re approaching March Madness is an accidentally genius move.

AM: Is this a difficult sell on the younger generation of fans, considering many are too young to remember the teams that are involved?

JL: My kids are 21 and 25 and I have them in mind with this project. They’re baseball fans, so I figure they and the rest of whatever we’re calling that generation can benefit from learning recent history in a fun, accessible way. But my friends are mostly my age; 40 or 50. And that’s the group this should really resonate with.  I want people to say to themselves, “wow, Otis Nixon! I haven’t thought of him in years.  Roy White! I remember how Phil Rizzuto would talk about him on WPIX TV games.”  It’s like opening up an old pack of baseball cards and having them actually speak to you.  That’s why it been fun to involve some of these actual players as mid-inning guests, to talk about their memories of these teams.

AM: How is this a better than the daily grind of doing play-by-play for a team?

JL: I still have play by play in my life thanks to UCLA and of all things, Madden Football – I’ve recently stepped into the world of eSports to do EA Sports’ coverage of the Madden video game tournaments and I love it.  I’m not ready to fully pivot away from play by play — hell, 25 years of Major League baseball, 12 years with the Chargers and the NFL — I’d never close the door to more play by play work if it’s the right fit, geographically and otherwise.  

I realized a couple years ago, the coast to coast ping pong from a West Coast home to an East Coast full-season baseball package was untenable. Did that for years, but now it’s time to enjoy where I live a little bit!  The Red Sox 50-game package last year was perfect. Just enough meat on the bone, but not having to relocate for six or seven months. 

With that package no longer there, I’m blessed to have found a way through podcasting to keep my love of baseball and love of play-by-play alive. It’s almost like I created my own universe.  “How can I still do baseball play by play but not spend all that time away from home?”  And I really think podcasting is the new path in our industry; content-wise and revenue-wise.  Before too long, every team in every sport will have a Team TV Voice, a Team Radio Voice and a Team Podcaster.  I’ve been there/done that regarding the first two silos.  Maybe my next adventure will be sliding into that last one.  But for now, The Throwback League is perfect. I hope baseball fans enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoy producing it!

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For TODAY ONLY, individual tickets to the 2023 BSM Summit are reduced by $50.00. Two ticket and four ticket packages are also lowered at $50 per ticket. To secure your seat at a discounted price, just log on to BSMSummit.com. This sale ends tonight at 11:59pm ET.

If you’re flying to Los Angeles for the event, be sure to reserve your hotel room. Our hotel partner this year is the USC Hotel. It’s walking distance of our venue. Full details on hotel rooms can also be found via the conference website.

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