Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Review: If These Walls Could Talk - Detroit Tigers (2014)

By Mario Impemba with Mike Isenberg

Let's start this with a personal observation. I've had the chance to meet a variety of play-by-play announcers over the years, and they have a great many similarities.

They generally have worked their way slowly up through the ranks after dreaming of doing exactly this job when they were children. Therefore, they tend to enjoy just about every minute of the workday, no matter how many curveballs can be thrown (bad teams, technical difficulties, ridiculous travel, etc.)

Radio and television broadcasters also tend to have an outgoing personality. Not many shrinking violets last in the business. They make friends pretty quickly, mostly because they are generally nice people.

This brings us to "If These Walls Could Talk - Detroit Tigers." Mario Impemba is a television announcer for the Tigers, and he's teamed up with writer Mike Isenberg to present some recollections of his career. It's part of a series from Triumph Books designed to offer a backstage look through some of those who are around sports teams.

Impemba certainly follows the pattern described above. He grew up in the Detroit area and was a big Tigers fan. After graduating from Michigan State, Impemba tried his luck at announcing minor league games. He obviously paid his dues - you have to do so at that level - and he bounced through such places as Peoria, Quad Cities and Tucson.

Finally, Impenda got called up to the majors, as he joined the broadcast team of the California Angels in 1995. That's a pretty good job, and he could have been pretty well set working in the Los Angeles market. But when the Tigers called about a television position, Impenda couldn't resist the chance to head home. He's been there since 2002.

As the cover says, this is more or less a collection of stories about Impemba's baseball experiences. It starts with the time he used a roll of toilet paper to help him with a broadcast in the minors, and goes right through the 2013 American League playoffs. Since he's a television announcer, Impemba won't get to actually describe a World Series title for Detroit. But he will call many of the games of such a team and work on the cable pregame and postgame broadcasts in the playoffs.

Also, Impemba has gotten the thrill of seeing some major events. Some involve the Tigers and Angels, including Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown season and some no-hitters, and some don't, such as Cal Ripken's breaking of the consecutive games record. Impemba even called Mariano Rivera's first big league save, although he didn't know it would be the start of a run that surely will put Rivera in the Hall of Fame.

Impemba goes through a variety of other subjects along the way. He writes about managers and players he's known over the years, his workday, his scorebook (don't touch!), working a little with Ernie Harwell, etc. This all goes down rather smoothly and easily. There's no controversy to be found here, and the only reading problem is that a few of the tales are more or less repeated along the way. It's not an indepth story, but this isn't designed to fit that description.

I don't have any connection with the Tigers, and I found "If These Walls Could Talk - Detroit Tigers" to be a pleasant reading experience. Fans of the Old English D, as they say in Detroit, ought to enjoy it.

Three stars

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