It was a game that the Santa Barbara Foresters would just as soon forget, but one that the Coastal Cubs will long remember. The Foresters were ambushed last Friday night in their final appearance of the summer on their home diamond at Pershing Park. They lost 5-2 to the Cubs, a team of community college ballplayers, supposedly inferior to the Division 1 talent on the Foresters.
As the game progressed with the home team committing three errors, five wild pitches, and four passed balls, the fans decked out in Foresters caps and shirts became increasingly anxious. A man shouted, “Let’s get serious!” Tim Lane, an 83-year-old fan who came out for every game this year, asked, “Should I go to the Mission and light a candle?”
The loudest vocal reactions came from the visitors’ dugout, where nobody was sitting down. They’d cheer every time one of their own fouled off a two-strike pitch, and they went wild when Broc Mortensen tripled to dead center in the eighth inning and scored their final run on a passed ball.
“The Cubs’ dugout has been involved in every pitch,” observed John Martony, the Foresters’ radio announcer, as SBCC’s Mike Jacobson sealed the upset victory by striking out the side in the bottom of the ninth.
In Martony’s 36 years as a Santa Barbara sports announcer, it has been his mission to give an honest and informative account of every game. His gigs include SBCC football and Westmont College basketball (lately on 1290-AM radio, as are the Foresters), high school football games televised by Cox, and special events like Magic Johnson’s first on-court appearance since his HIV diagnosis, an exhibition game at UCSB in 1992.
“I am an eat-drink-sleep sports guy,” said the 55-year-old Martony. Growing up in Santa Barbara, he has had a lot to feast on. He got to know the game of baseball intimately as a pitcher at San Marcos High, SBCC, and Westmont College, and he was able to listen to his broadcasting inspirations, some of the greatest sports voices of all time, who’ve worked in Southern California. “I’ve picked up things from all of them,” he said.
He twice had conversations with Vin Scully at Dodger Stadium: “His ability to tell stories was without parallel. He always got them told before the third out while keeping track of the game.” Martony found out that Scully lubricated his voice with sour lemon drops. His own elixir before a game is tea with honey.
Ross Porter, the one-time fountain of facts and figures for the Dodgers, influenced Martony to dig into the statistics that reveal the trends of the game. He said he’ll spend “four to five hours a night” after a Foresters game to prepare for their next outing. At a couple of Westmont games, Martony enlisted Porter, whose daughter attended the college, to be his color commentator. “I couldn’t get the headphones off him.”
Chick Hearn’s Lakers broadcasts were notable “for his excitement and his ‘Chickisms,’” Martony said. “I don’t have anything like his stuff. I will say, ‘Adios, amigo,’ on a breakaway touchdown.”
The versatile Dick Enberg may have come closest to Martony’s ideal. “He always knew how to say the right thing at the right time.” And as far as the sound of his voice goes, Martony said, “My wife heard [L.A. Kings announcer] Bob Miller and thought I was on the air.”
Last Wednesday night, the Foresters concluded their regular-season slate of California Collegiate League games with a 13-4 win over the MLB Academy Barons in Compton. It was an upbeat game for the Santa Barbara team and the announcer. Some of Martony’s lines:
“The Barons’ line: 1-1-1 [runs-hits-errors] is the picket fence.”
“The hit batter doesn’t matter.”
“Ryan Cash drives in Logan Allen. How do you do — 9 to 4 Foresters.”
“That’s the fifth straight time [Luke] Ritter faces an 0-2 count. He’s a nice guy, but I’m not sure I want to sit next to him on the ride home.” (Ritter then hit a triple, Santa Barbara’s fourth three-bagger of the night, past a diving outfielder.) “The Barons outfielders are coming up barren tonight.”
“[Relief pitcher] Dane Acker is looking like Michelangelo on the mound, painting the corners.”
“The Foresters improve to 34-5 and finish a very symmetrical 25-5 in the league. Join us at the Persh for Friday night’s game. Tickets are available.”
The next night was not the Foresters’ finest hour at Pershing Park, but Martony was most descriptive of how well the Cubs were playing. “I try not to be a homer, especially in the internet age,” he said. “Parents are listening. I know I’m doing a good job when people for the opposing team compliment me.”
He did not let the umpires off the hook when he saw a blown call. “That ump must have an early dinner reservation,” he said after a highly questionable “out” call at first base. At the end of the inning, he said, “No errors, unless you count the umpire’s.”
After the game, Martony peeled off the eight pages of rosters, standings, and statistics that he had taped to the table from where he broadcast the game. Then he packed up his radio equipment and the banners he had hung from his platform behind home plate.
It’s his third year doing play-by-play for the Foresters. His first year ended spectacularly well, as the Santa Barbara team won its sixth championship at the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kansas.
“I called 24 innings of baseball in one stretch,” he said. That was the night of the semifinals. The Foresters were supposed to play at 9 p.m. Wichita time, but the Kansas Stars and Hays Larks were only in the fifth inning of their semifinal. Martony went on the air and wound up broadcasting the last 12 innings of a 17-inning marathon, and then the Foresters went 12 innings before defeating the San Diego Force. “The game ended at 4:30 a.m.,” Martony said.
He believes this year’s Foresters have a resilient lineup, including a deep pitching staff, that can get through six games in nine days (Aug. 3-11) when they seek a record seventh NBC title at Wichita’s historic Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
“It’s easy to root for them to do well,” Martony said. “John Jensen — the hometown kid — Jackson Wolf, Ryan Cash, Utah Jones … They’re all respectful young men.”