First, can you let readers know about your work now at Waynesburg University – how you got started there and what you enjoy most about the position?
I have been an assistant professor of Communication at Waynesburg University since 2009. I find it exciting to help create the next generation of communicators. I teach two sections of sports announcing at Waynesburg, one section of announcing and two sections of public speaking.
I know I am learning as much from my students as they are learning from me. Advice for young broadcasters? To be successful in the competitive business of sports broadcasting, you must make a major commitment to developing and improving your style and skills. I ask my students, “do you want it badly enough?’
You started off working as a broadcaster for the Pirates in ’76. How did you get started with the Pirates and what advice would you give to others trying to get into sports broadcasting today?
From the time I was twelve years old, my goal was to become a major league baseball announcer. I was most fortunate to realize my dream at the age of 28 and blessed to announce for the Pirates for 33 years. The wonderful people of Pirates territory opened their hearts and homes to me. They allowed me to share their summertime memories with them.
One of my fortunate breaks was when I was hired as the announcer for the Charleston Charlies in West Virginia (at the time, the triple A affiliate of the Pirates). I announced minor league baseball for six months and announced minor league hockey in my hometown of Rochester, New York, the other half of the year.
Bill Guilfoile, then the Public Relations Director of the Pirates, invited me to visit the Pirates after the minor league seasons end in 1974 and 1975. Bill introduced me to Bob Prince and Nellie King. During each of my stops in Pittsburgh, Bob and Nellie invited me to announce an inning of play-by-play. This was another major break because I was exposed to the Pirates listeners. Despite the fact, that I was one of the individuals who replaced Bob and Nellie, they both were extremely helpful. As a novice announcer, I needed and wanted advice and they gave me much of it. There were many critics of Milo Hamilton and me, but most of the backlash ended up in Milo’s lap.
You eventually replaced Bob Prince which caused some backlash. How did you weather that storm, and how looking back were you able to maintain such a long career and resonate so well with fans?
I was patient and persevered. Admittedly, some of the criticism was mean and unfair. But, also, I knew that as a young broadcaster I had a great deal to learn and I hoped that through hard work and dedication, I would be successful in the long run.
Who were some of the other sports broadcasters you most admired, and why?
I grew up as a Yankees fan and listened many nights to Mel Allen. When I got to the major leagues, Jack Buck, Vin Scully and Harry Kalas were valuable mentors.
As an employee of the Pirates, how did you walk the line at times between giving honest analysis of the games versus staying positive about the team during broadcasts when the team wasn’t playing well?
In my early years, my lack of knowledge hindered my ability to handle the analysis of the games. My main goal as a baseball announcer was to do a great job of describing the action. I hoped that when people talked about my announcing, they would say, “with Lanny, we always know whats going on and we always know the score.”
My career was enhanced dramatically when Jim Leyland became the manager of the Pirates. I developed a strong friendship with him and his third base coach Gene Lamont. I learned a great deal about the game from them. Most nights on the road, I would visit with Jim and his coaches in Jim’s hotel suite. They trusted me with off the record information and I found ways to give my listeners a taste of the information without violating the trust they had in me.
From your perspective, who were some of the most memorable and most under-rated Pirates, and what made them so?
Jim Leyland, Chuck Tanner (who showed me how a positive outlook could lead one to accomplish remarkable things), Willie Stargell, Kent Tekulve (Teke and I came up from Charleston together and have been friends since 1974), Phil Garner, Bill Robinson, Ed Ott…
Humor often plays such a big part of teams to help curtail boredom and keep the team loose. How did humor play a part on those Pirates teams you worked with and who were the biggest characters any examples of the hijnks?
I worked for many years with Steve Blass and no one handles humor in a broadcast better than Steve. I cannot tell you too much about the happenings in the clubhouse. I never allowed myself to violate the sanctity of the major league clubhouse.
Do you follow the Pirates today? if so, what are your thought on the team’s direction?
Do I still follow the Pirates? Not really. After 33 years and some 6,000 games, I want to care about something besides major league baseball. Now, I can spend more time with my children and grandchildren. I check out the scores in the paper and read some of the stories. I want the franchise to be successful for many reasons, including the fact that the baseball fans of Pittsburgh deserve to have their loyalty rewarded.
If you could change anything about the game today, what would you change and why?
What have been the best and toughest memories over the course of your broadcasting career, and what makes them so?
My all time favorite game? the game in St. Louis in 1990 when Jim and his team clinched the first of the three consecutive division titles.
Any last thoughts for readers?
One final point! I enjoy doing play-by-play and for the past two years, I have been announcing high school football, basketball, softball and baseball for the MSA Network.
I love it and I work as hard to prepare for the high school games as I did when I was broadcasting in the Bigs.