sessions free of charge at the Party Booth
By Zachary Dzurick
Published July 27, 2005
here for an archive of West Life Sports Editor Zachary
Dzurick's "Red Right 88" weekly columns.
is a scene recreated all over Cleveland, a group of friends gathered
to enjoy a Tribe game. But this isn't a smoky bar or cozy living
room with a big screen TV. Their "screen" is an open window to the
real thing, Jacobs Field booth seven.
Metaphorically the booth is perfect as it is the final media booth
in the row and right next to the fans. In a traditionalist setting,
maybe it should not exist but that just adds to the appeal because
the group itself was not supposed to work together.
There is the "sidekick" in a show that doesn't allow sidekicks.
There is the super intern who was forced from the show by the law
of the land. And a producer who couldn't fit on the payroll so he
had to be stashed at a morning show at a sister station until a
job opened up. You are tempted to call the host, the pied piper
of Cleveland but you know he would hate the term. He sees himself
as just "one of us." And don't call him lucky, he planned this.
He knew what job he wanted and he went hard for it.
The main press booth frowns on fan-like behavior. In booth seven
however, the mood lives and dies with the game. Obscenities are
tossed and once even a chair. When the Tribe is in the midst of
a rally, everyone stands. When an Indians hitter clears the fence,
high fives are shared by all. Decorum be damned here, this is the
party booth. The setting for the best sports talk show in Cleveland.
You know that you have arrived when team owner Paul Dolan while
giving a tour of the stadium explains to his guests, "And this is
the party booth."
in black, tanned with gray hair, Kevin Keane is ghost-like. He just
appears. There are stretches where you feel that he doesn't even
know you are in the room and then he is there in your face asking
a question or making a comment. What you hear on the radio is exactly
what you get in person with one notable exception.
"I am a swearing mother______," Keane explains. "But I have never
come close on the air. It is like being around your mom and ladies.
You know it is not appropriate."
Technically the host of WTAM's Sportsline but during baseball season
Keane is the moderator of the biggest group therapy session, Best
Cuts' Extra Innings, in the state of Ohio and as well as 38 states
and half of Canada.
When the game ends, he is the voice of reason or the voice leading
the execution plans. He is the pulse and the heartbeat of the fans.
"It is all about us."
That phrase is Keane's mantra. He says it over and over and he means
Schwab, a 1993 Rocky River High School graduate, is the station's
Indians beat reporter and occasional weekend host. His main job
is to get the sound bites of the players and managers that the station
uses in its 20/20 reports and during its shows. He evolved his way
into the show because he was around. It started with a quick segment
but his chemistry with Keane was quickly apparent. Soon, he stayed
longer and longer. The suits weren't sold on the idea at first and
restrictions were made. But this is Keane's show and when he wants
something he tinkers until he gets it. Schwab would return to the
station to load his quotes and then stick around. Now he remains
in the party booth for the whole show.
"My style is one to one," Keane said. "I really want every listener
to think I am talking to them directly. They were concerned that
part would be lost. So now I just bring him in with Schwaby is back
from the clubhouse. They were worried that it was Best Cuts with
Kevin Keane and it wasn't a team show but we are in the party booth
and it is a team show. With all of us, the fans and not just me
Unseen in the booth but always present is producer Brian Motsay.
The Obi Wan Kenobi of the group, his voice enlightening Keane at
At one time Keane had a talented producer but he moved up the station's
ladder. So the task went to find the right guy to fly the plane,
as Keane refers to the role of a producer. It became readily apparent
the right guy was "Mots." The problem was that Motsay started as
an intern and was then only part time. There were no openings for
a full time position. So Keane went to his bosses and tried to find
a way to get Mots as his producer.
"The only fulltime opening was for the morning show at the Buzzard,"
Keane said. "Mots didn't want to do it but I said it is the only
way. Just wait it out and you will be back."
Keane suffered the next several months while Mots was forced to
work his penance at WMMS.
"It was a nightmare," Keane recalled. "I had a bunch of freaking
hacks running my show."
Eventually one of the fulltime WTAM producers moved on to another
job and Mots was back where he belonged.
"You need a producer you can mind-meld with," Keane said. "Mots
is very good at what he does. I am a tangent type person. He points
me in the right direction. He is an incredible mulit-tasker. He
does outstanding work. It is great to know I can count on him."
years ago, Ryan Pritt spent a day shadowing Keane where Keane then
offered him a high school internship. As fate would have it, the
night before his first day was Keane's annual amateur show. He didn't
like his line-up so he offered Pritt a chance.
"Here he is, a junior in high school, supposed to start as an intern,"
Keane said. "And he is on the air. All cool as a cucumber and relaxed
sipping water and taking calls. It was amazing."
He became Super Intern Ryan, which as all good nicknames do, evolved
to "Soup." Now at the University of Akron, Pritt was forced from
the show for a while.
"He interned for two and half years and then they made us get rid
of him," Keane said.
"Silly child labor laws," Schwaby interjects.
But Keane found a way around that as well.
"He was forced from the show but as soon as he finished his freshman
year at Akron," Keane said. "We refiled the paperwork and now he
is a college intern."
"I never did get any credit for that first internship," Pritt said.
Pritt also is the PA announcer for the Mahoning Valley and the Cleveland
Barons. He is also the best-connected teenager in America. Schwaby
"One day Jim Tressel was on the air at the station and I was like
how did we get Tressel at a time when no one else could," Schwab
said. "Soup says 'I called him on his cell phone.' And so I ask,
how did you get his cell phone. Soup just says, 'From Maurice Clarett.'
And I say 'AND HOW DID YOU GET THAT?' He just says 'I asked him
for it.' How does a kid from Field High School get this connected?"
The topper is that Soup even has a direct line to President Bush's
private sectary. And how did he get that?
"I can't tell you until after Bush leaves office," Soup matter of
factly says. The little brother of the group, Soup is always finding
stories off the Internet or an appropriate stat to add flavor to
"Soup is a great screener," Keane said. "It is rare to get an intern
like him. Often after two days I tell the interns not to come in
anymore. Here you are working for free and I say I don't want you
because you don't have it. Ryan has it. Except now he doesn't work
as much now, he just uses us for a press pass."
The show itself starts several hours before it goes on the air and
lasts sometimes well after the broadcast has stopped. They are a
bunch of sports fan and they behave as sports fan do.
They make fun of the opposing players' looks.
"The Tigers are the ugliest team in the majors," Schwaby shares.
"They suit up trolls."
They play games like the Russell Branyan game. One takes strikeout
swinging, one takes strikeout looking, one takes homerun and anyone
else in the booth gets miscellaneous.
"That person never wins," Keane said.
They root, cheer and grouse. And like any good group of friends,
they save their best barbs for each other.
"Schwaby is probably the most talented person at the station but
he has a focus problem," Keane said. "We joke about his attention
span but when he is focused he is funny as hell."
Keane likes to point out that he is right 99 percent of the time.
To which Schwab replies, "It would seem that way if you choose to
forget every thing you were wrong about."
When there is a road game, you can often find Schwab and Keane watching
the game together.
"We agree on nothing but get along great," Keane said.
Keane, in his own way, has tried to flip the typical radio call-in
concept on its head.
"Every talk show call-in host I have ever talked to says if they
win you don't get many calls," Keane said. "If they lose people
will call in to complain. We have turned that around. Not that people
still don't call in to complain but when they win and things are
going good, we got people who call to talk baseball and say they
had fun at the game tonight. It doesn't have to be based, and this
was really important to me, around that negative energy that so
many people in this town have. They make the choice to have more
fun when they lose so they can complain and continue their bitterness
of the day. I would not do the show if that was what it was. That
is the one real impact we have had, we changed that. The beauty
of baseball is that for six months there is always a game the next
day. It is a soap opera for guys."
Keane and Schwab both believe in the Shapiro plan.
"From the start I thought it could be done," Schwab said. "And I
don't want to look like an idiot."
"The people are pissed off that Dolan won't spend and there is no
evidence of that," Keane said. "He overspent when he took over.
And now three years in a rebuilding program, they are about to enter
August and September with a sniff. If they were f______ up and no
one else brings it up then I will hammer them with it like I did
with Charlie Manuel."
Keane knew Manuel was not the right guy to lead the Indians and
he hammered him nightly despite the fact it caused the Indians at
the time to freeze him out of guests.
"That is the most important part of us," Keane said. "I really mean
it. If there is a justifiable hey they are f______ up. We have 50,000
flame throwing watts to make them uncomfortable. I knew I was right
about Manuel. If you think I am wrong then I will give you the time
to tell me why I am wrong."
It is important to Keane that the show has to be his way.
"I told my boss when he hired me to just leave me alone," Keane
said. "We both know you will can me if the numbers are not there
and you will keep giving me contract extensions if there are. So
let me do it my way."
Keane is striving for something he is not quite sure can be pulled
off. An environment where intelligent people call in order to exchange
"In order for this to work, there has to be an intelligent caller
base," Keane said. "I really want it to be a shared effort and a
way for all of the diverse people to connect with each other. The
Big One has been on top for eight years now. We are on a tear. Why
is it that talk radio is so hot? It is because we all drive our
own cars to work. We stand in an elevator and stare at the numbers.
Normally there is no talking. If you are walking down a street no
one says anything because if they did people would be like you are
a psycho. Think of where we are going as a society."
That is why he sees talk radio as a viable option for effective
"Because of that, if anyone can create an atmosphere and I have
not done it yet, where people really wanted to talk," Keane said.
"In order to generate that, I have to take a lot of the load. The
callers have to be good to get on. You don't want garbage and hopefully
you create enough of an energy. I am certainly no radio star but
it is growing and it's good. Shock jocks have a shelf life because
it is not real. Real has no shelf life. I am seeking real for me
and somehow through the chemistry of all us to evoke that from them.
I will keep a caller for 12 minutes if they are that good. I want
someone who is good to know they can call and get right in and get
a chance to a make their point."
Keane is exactly where he wants to be.
"I got into this business to get paid to watch my teams," Keane
said. "The Indians. The Browns. The Cavs. And the Buckeyes. Even
if I had gotten a job in New York it would have just been a stepping
stone to Cleveland."