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7                         Al Michaels and a Bus

"Take a seat, meat." Vin Hodges was all over Bobby Abreu who had just flailed at a pitch so far outside that Spider Man wouldn’t have gone after it. He had borrowed, some might say stolen, the line from another announcer whom he greatly admired.

"Things I Wouldn’t Do For Money, written by Dennis Rodman." Irony was lost on Penny Platinum but not on Phil and Sammy. "That’s one of the titles," proclaimed Butler, "in The World’s Thinnest Books."

"Whoa!" That basketball reference kicked an atom around inside Sammy’s skull. "Utah Jazz coach Frank Layden said he was once so frustrated with a player, that he had asked him if his problem was ignorance or apathy. The player had given some thought, then answered: ’Coach, I don’t know, and I don’t care.’"

"Whoa," Johnny Pistol dribbled in. "Shelby Metcalf was the basketball coach at Texas A&M. He said he once told a player who received four F’s and one D: ’Son, seems to me you’re spending too much time on one subject.’"

The subject that riled Bumper Morgan, and riled and riled and riled him, was consolidation. Corporate ownership. The new industry standard. Ironic, he had no way of knowing that what he railed against so vehemently, might become his ticket to paradise. His mind was drifting in familiar waters. Ah, to work again with Rocky Ocean, work for real radio guys, not for "suits." The good ’ol days. The old standard ran through his mind like an endless loop of audio tape: "You know you’re an aging deejay when you remember that you were first hired by a manager who actually worked in radio, before becoming a manager."

Kuni had intended to politely engage Bumper a couple times but more times than not, she unwittingly spun his mind back to the islands. Especially when she had informed him that she knew his pal Rocky Ocean, if only slightly. She told him the market thought highly of Rocky and of his boss Boomer, the manager and co-owner of The Wave, and Heavyweight 98. She didn’t feel compelled to tell him that some time before she had met Cole Kelly, she and the young, would-be mogul had gone out a few times, but young Boomer had struck her demure mores as a little too frisky.

Rocky Ocean and Bumper Morgan had worked together at ’Tix in New Orleans, Big Country 99 in Missoula, K-Jizz in Jersey and back in their head-banging days, KNAC in Long Beach. Rocky liked to say that they had shared their share of bumpers and rockers along the way.

Regarding those rocks and waves, and bumps and back roads, Bumper looked back through the eyes of your typical deejay; he blamed every misstep and firing along the way not upon himself, but on the sales staff. Of course.

It had been too long since they’d seen one another. Rocky Ocean with his dear Stella, had settled into a Waikiki bungalow overlooking Black Point. But Bumper never set foot on Oahu during his truncated gig on Maui.

The Boudins had brought Bumper’s pal Rocky over from Kauai when they had suddenly pulled out of the market in July of 2010. It seemed everyone involved missed Kauai. Abundance of challenging golf courses. Nice surf, of course. Good profit potential as well, due in no small part to how the newest entrant into Kauai radio, the group that had its hands full trying to run the station it bought from the Boudins, had burned more bridges than Saddam’s army.

The buyers had made their first mistake, a potentially fatal blunder, before they even owned the station. The purchaser had settled for a teensy, two year non-compete clause. Savvy buyers and sellers often insert a non-compete clause into a sale agreement. It spreads part of the payment over time, lowers the perceived sales price, and raises the stated cost to operate the station which decreases taxable profit. The taxable sales price attributed to the seller is likewise lowered.

Moreover, the agreement prohibits the seller, obviously experienced in the market, from any participation whatsoever as a competitor within the market. A typical amount of time to preclude a seller from returning to compete against the buyer is five years. Ten is better. The buyer of the Boudin station, a mainland corporation unaccustomed to competition, had settled for a two year clause. Two years had come and gone.

"Here’s one for you." The subject had been noodling Sammy ever since Phil had brought up the three Alou brothers who had played together for the Giants." Name the best sibling combination in pro sports history."

"No question," drawled Johnny Pistola. "Peyton and Eli Manning."

"Here’s a dark horse," Phil tossed this out, even though it wasn’t his first choice. "Paul and Lloyd Waner. Each elected to Cooperstown and between them they had 5,611 hits."

"I go with the Perrys-- Gaylord and Jim. They each won a Cy Young award, and between ’em, won over 600 games," opined Sammy The Seat.

"Then you’ve got the Niekros." Izzy had a point. Phil and Joe Niekro almost mirrored the Perry brothers’ pitching feats.

"Ah, you overlook brother-sister siblings." It was Sammy again. "It’s the Millers."

"The who?"

"Reggie and Cheryl Miller, Mister Pistola. She’s already in the women’s Hall of Fame and he’s a lock for the real Hall. Most 3-pointers in NBA history."

"Am I to suppose," chided Phil, "that none of you has heard of the Williams sisters?"

There had been an accident. The news had thrilled Jewel Goldman. She had inherited him but had never, never been a fan of longtime KFAN news anchor, Will E. Brown. Brown was CBS born and bred, and anybody who had ever spent more than a San Francisco second with him, was mightily made aware of it. Twenty-eight years in the chair. Pulled down $2.8 mil a year, not counting ratings incentives, perks and benefits. Loved women. When they were prone. Hated women. The ones who deigned themselves media executives. Since Jewel had come aboard, sales and news departments had drawn a George H. W. Bush line in the station sand box.

Will E. Brown was San Francisco born and bred. St. Francis Wood. A two comma kid. Seven figures each, Mummy and Daddy pulled down each year-- two comma parents. His parents were his private mint. Plenty of cab money from mom and pops since his kindergarten days. Years slid past, and before he knew it, Brown was one of the few adults in California who had never possessed a valid drivers license.

KFAN TV offices and studios sprawled up and across two floors, high above Sansome in the financial district. Busy traffic in the financial district. Will E. Brown crashed weeknights at his flat on Kearny, an easy enough walk to and from the station, but watch that traffic. Of course, a big-cheese anchor like Will E. Brown needed time to wind down after his 11 o’clock casts. Washington Square was a patch of green along his path home. And Moose’s was open till two. Typically, Brown and two San Francisco Chronicle writer pals closed the joint. In those wee hours Thursday morning, the three would have done well to mind the traffic around the square.

Fanny hustled the steep steps hustling her beer. On this trip, she had hustled a concessionaire to comp her a Sprite. Now, she carried that cup with one hand and balanced her cupcake tray with the other. She leaned in, "feel like a dose of sugar, Sugar?" Vin Hodges gasped like a surfacing carp before his shaking hands took the drink from her.

"Yes fam. Yes man." Damn!

"I saw Al Michaels walking along the mezzanine. He used to be the voice of the Giants, did you know that?"

In fact, Vin Hodges did know that. He also knew that before the Giants, Michaels had called Cincinnati Reds games. But he didn’t know what Kuni Noyori knew: before that, he had been the voice of the old Hawaiian Islanders of the Pacific Coast League. What’s more, while working the islands, Michaels had called play by play for University of Hawaii baseball and football, and more than a few high school football games. Who could have foreseen that his start in the balmy tropics would take him to the "Miracle on Ice?"

Al Michaels had been behind the mic for the 1980 Winter Olympics held in Lake Placid, New York. There, in a medal round elimination match, an unheralded hodge-podge of USA hockey players, stunned the world of sports when it nuked the seasoned, perpetual champion squad, the heavily favored Soviet Union, four goals to three. As time expired, Michaels had exclaimed, "do you believe in miracles? Yes!"

"He was behind the mic," Vin Hodges breathlessly blurted to Fanny, "at Candlestick Park setting up to call game three of the ’89 World Series when the Loma Prieta earthquake rocked all of northern California. Big quake. Big story. Big. So big, that every network and hundreds of stations from around the world broke format to tap into his reporting. He was like, the only anchor anywhere near command central. He was command central. He exclusively detailed the events surrounding the quake to the world for hours, hours, because it took that long for local and national news organizations to scramble to set up. The Series was postponed that year for ten days.

"However, (sly smile and a pro pause here) there was a silver lining that came with that postponement." Vin paused again. "Viewers suddenly found themselves blessed with ten full days without being subjected to the inanities of his color man, Tim McCarver."

Kuni laughed out loud. So did Fanny, then she said, "well, my boss knows Al Michaels from their Cincinnati days. Al high-fived him and told him to send a tray of Anchor Steams up to the booth. Mr. Michaels told my boss that Kuip and Kruk brought a mountain of goodies from Sonoma Cheese Factory, and enough sourdough to feed every lock-up in San Quentin for a week."

Kuip and Kruk, pronounced Kipe and Krook, were Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow, who called the Giants games for KFAN TV. Whenever the Dodgers came north, the former teamate treated Dodgers legendary Vin Scully to arrays of "only in San Francisco," treats. Tonight it was Sonoma. They had lined up North Beach Pizza for Saturday’s game. Sunday, they would hand ’ol Vin an armload of two pound blocks of Ghirardelli chocolate to split among his grandkids. And great-grandkids.

Fanny blinked like Brigitte Bardot, and whacked Vinny on his shoulder as she departed. She had a mind to treat young Vin Hodges to much, much more than a simple Sprite.

Bobby G was after Head. And now, Head headed towards Bobby’s blind side from the head outside the door to his sky box. Head stage-whispered from behind, "Jewel!" Bobby G flinched like a blind gerbil. Head Cheat loved Bobby but had never given a thought to confide in him anything remotely serious. Bobby was a radio guy. Enough said.

Head did say he wanted to know the skinny on Ms. Goldman from back in Bobby G’s days in HiWi. "What’s the skinny on Ms. Goldman from back in your days in HiWi?"

Pause. "Didn’t really hang with her or her crowd back then. Little on the chubby side for me and a bit of a teetotaler, too. Don’t know which is the worse crime. Hooha!"

Head smiled knowingly. Looked as though she had been poured into her Tommy Hilfiger’s and right after she pitched me those displays for my bars, she downed four fingers of Jack Daniel’s before strutting out of here. So, Head took Bobby’s report in stride. Besides, he had instructed his Honolulu media guy who had already begun to work with Boomer Boudin on the Cheaters Hawaii roll-out, to suss out the word on Ms. Goldman. Now he teased Bobby: "How can the hottest radio salesman in all of ’friggin’ Hawaii, not be chummed up to the woman who controlled by far, the largest ad budget in the state?"

"Oh, I got my fair share, I just didn’t hang with her or her crowd."

Bobby G had never sold a radio commercial in Hawaii. He had never sold one anywhere, until Dana Boudin the Money Machine, had him whisked out of Hawaii one boot step ahead of the Kauai police department, and one inch ahead of Jewel’s 5-inch stilettos.

Bobby hadn’t been at all familiar with Jewel Goldman. But his running mate, a guy named Coleman, had become all too familiar with Jewel’s daughter, Julie. Julie Goldman had been trying on Iolani High School graduation gowns when Coleman had been sentenced. It was guilt by association that had led to Bobby’s ninth hour, headlong slide into a window seat aboard a United Airlines overnighter to San Francisco.

"Fair share?" Head Cheat had succeeded in the booze business in no small part, because he kept his "b. s. antenna" raised high into the air.

"Fair share, fair and square. Hooha."

Head Cheat let the issue ride.

Those two, by almost all accounts, couldn’t have know that hours earlier, Jewel Goldman had merrily paid north of $700 for lunch at the Fairmont, atop Nob Hill, with her KFAN general manager and a striking, provocative beauty who looked to be in her late 30s. The four-hour lunch had not been noted in Jewel’s day planner. Indeed, this particular lunch had been secretly scheduled over a long phone call just a few hours earlier... the wee hours of the evening that had become the early morning after Will E. Brown and his two buddies from The Chronicle, had been hit by a bus.

Next Chapter: 8                         The Real Vin