Always prepared, smooth and engaging, Staats has been the television voice of the Tampa Bay franchise since its birth in 1998. Now into his 40th season as a broadcaster, Staats is the friendly face and voice on the air, a consummate storyteller who is also savvy enough to know when to keep quiet.
Curt Smith, in his 2005 book “Voices of Summer,” ranked Staats 67th in his list of the 101 greatest baseball announcers. If Smith does a rewrite, there’s a good chance Staats moves up a few notches.
The preparation and determination Staats has displayed throughout his career is magnified in his new book, “Position to Win: A Look at Baseball and Life From the Best Seat in the House” (Advance Ink Publishing; paperback; $20; 274 pages). Collaborating with Staats is award-winning journalist Dave Scheiber, the former St. Petersburg Times writer whose 2008 book he co-authored with NBA referee Bob Delaney (“Covert: My Years Infiltrating the Mob”) is a chilling, riveting piece of journalism.
Staats and Scheiber team up in “Position to Win” and produce a smooth, cohesive and engaging book.
Staats’ philosophy behind the microphone — and in life — is simple, yet effective.
That’s why Staats is not a rah-rah guy like one of his famous broadcasting partners (Harry Caray), but he is definitely not a deadpan, Curt Gowdy type, either.
Anyone who has heard Staats’ call of Evan Longoria’s game-winning homer in the final regular-season game of 2011 — when Tampa Bay overcame a 7-0 deficit to beat the New York Yankees in extra innings and clinch a wild-card berth — is a perfect example. Staats had the presence of mind to make the call, show the proper amount of excitement and then go silent, letting the audience soak in the moment.
“Your enthusiasm will come through, but you should never manufacture it, or it won’t be authentic, and people will know,” Staats writes as he quotes his mentor, legendary Houston broadcaster Gene Elston.
Looking at the cover of “Position to Win,” a reader can see the announcers Staats admires. His bookcase contains biographies of Vin Scully (“Pull Up A Chair”), Mel Allen (“The Voice”), Ernie Harwell and Harry Kalas, to name a few.
That persistence, coupled with the work ethic instilled by his father and the storytelling knack he inherited from his paternal grandfather, made Staats a natural broadcasting baseball on radio and television. Staats did college and minor-league broadcasts before joining his mentor in the booth in 1977 at age 23.
In “Position to Win,” Staats spins stories about his years with the Houston Astros and Elston, his time with Caray doing Chicago Cubs games, and his years partnering with Tony Kubek on Yankees telecasts. One time during the 1990s, he tricked Buck Showalter, doing a dead-on, breathy imitation of Caray over the telephone, and the somber Yankees manager was not amused. He also mentions how Yankees owner George Steinbrenner did not like Kubek’s criticisms during broadcasts, but liked “that Staats kid.”
Staats also writes about his work on ESPN, and goes into great detail about his 18 years calling Devil Rays/Rays games. He said his call of Longoria’s homer in 2011 was “the topper” of his years in Tampa Bay.
In a cut-throat business, Staats has remained humble. While interviewing for a spot in the Cubs’ booth, he was asked whether he had an ego. His answer was instructive.
“Yes, absolutely. Everybody in this room has an ego,” he said. “If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be in this room.
“The question is, what do you do with it? Do you control it — or does it control you?”
Some things in life Staats could not control, like the cancer that took his first wife, Dee, on July 8, 2005. That ended a longtime partnership and shows how despite his sorrow, Staats was able to leave his emotions at the door of the broadcast booth. He tells the story of both of his marriages (his second wife Carla was a longtime family friend), his children and grandchildren with tenderness. It also shows Staats’ warmth when it comes to family, which has now grown to include three grandchildren.
While Staats and Scheiber combined for a near-seamless effort, there were a few glitches. Pitcher Drew Smyly’s name is misspelled as “Smiley,” and former Dodgers pitcher Burt Hooton’s last name was spelled as “Hooten” at least once. It’s also noted that Joe Morgan won three World Series rings during his career, when in fact, it only happened twice (1975 and ’76).
Those are minor points. The major thrust of “Position to Win,” is all about preparation and taking advantage of opportunities.
“The more you remain focused and prepared, the greater chance you’ll have to succeed when your chance comes,” Staats writes. “In baseball, or any endeavor you undertake.”
It’s good advice, and Staats is content to let his readers soak in that final thought.
“Position to Win” is available on Amazon.com; portions of the book benefit Quantum Leap Farm — his wife Carla is a counselor at the Lutz, Florida, facility; and Write Field, a division of the St. Petersburg-based Poynter Institute.