Running the Wrigley Scoreboards

I’m always interested in the behind the scenes stuff that goes into a professional baseball game. As a youngster, I used to love when the grounds crew would come out with that fire hose and water the infield dirt just prior to game time. I like to see the players arrive, I like to watch batting practice and so forth.

Today we visit with Max Crawford, the man who runs the electronic scoreboards at Wrigley Field. He is a professional musican by trade, but he also has arguably one of the coolest day-jobs going: he gets paid to watch the Cubs play!

View from the press box

View from the press box Q:  You operate the electronic scoreboards at Wrigley. Where do you sit during the game to do your job?
Max Crawford A:  In the press box, with all the sportswriters, in the top row, to the left side of the big room of the press box, as you face the field. I’m down the hall from the PA booth and the organist, and all the broadcasters.

Q:  You probably get asked this all the time so lets get it out of the way early; how do people get their names on the scoreboard or on the marquee in front of the park?
A:  That is done through the Community Relations Dept. It cost $40, and the money goes to charity.

Q:  Tell us about your typical day. What time do you arrive? What is your game prep routine like?
A:  I get there 3-4 hours before the game, and I go online and find the scores from around the league and schedule for that day, and prepare stats that I will show as people file in before the game. Also, Cubs news and facts, all positive things, no injuries or anything remotely controversial. I download the most current roster and stats for both teams, and make sure there are no surprises. One of our big problems is duplicate numbers. Everything we do runs off of the players’ numbers, and if somebody is just called up and given a random number we have to make sure to find out the correct number that he is wearing that day. Sounds simple, but it’s very important. I also enter the starting lineup for that day, and peruse the media notes for interesting factoids to show to the crowd. There’s also many tedious little computer-y tasks that I won’t bore you with.

Wrigley Field batting practiceAbout an hour before the game I sync up with the centerfield scoreboard person (my boss, Andie Giafaglione) and start showing the commercial animations, starting lineups, first pitches, etc. leading up to the game start. During the game, I watch the ump and there is a box that is connected to the computer that I put balls, strikes, outs, and runs into that shows up on the LED boards. For each play there is a specific code I enter that updates the player’s stats so they are current for the next at-bat. If a player does something good, (i.e. walk, double, HR, etc.), I type that in, so it shows up next to his stats for his next at-bat. It is a lot easier to do than explain!

Q:  Do you run the radar gun too, or is that info provided to you with each pitch?
A:  No, that is run downstairs in the front office by one of our crew, sitting at a computer and watching the game on a direct-feed monitor (no delay). He presses a button at the appropriate time to show the MPH for each pitch, and switches it back to a logo after each pitch. So, it’s kinda half-automatic, half manual. Sometimes I do that job, but not usually.

Q:  I have long wondered how the balls & strikes were posted so quickly on each pitch. Do you run the electronic portion of the famous manual scoreboard?
A:  No, that’s not me, either. I do sit right next to him, though. That job belongs to our esteemed Assistant Head Groundskeeper, Rick Fuhs. He’s been doing it for 25 years, which would explain why he’s so fast. He also knows all the umps and their tendencies and reads their body language and it’s almost telepathic. He’s so fast, his nickname is “Quick Rick”, and the players all know him, and visiting players will ask him for his autograph sometimes. He gets a big kick out of that. Rick also is in charge of the area around home plate, and mows the outfield grass.

Q:  I understand the interpreter for Kosuke also has a media relations position with considerable responsibilities. Do you have other responsibilities too?
A:  I have little or no important responsibilities, other than showing the crowd correct and responsive info about the game. Lately, though, I’ve been editing songs to fit between innings for the Marketing Dept. That’s a lot of fun, but I wouldn’t call it a responsibility.

Q:  Tell me of the coolest unexpected benefit of your job.
A:  #1 is I can’t believe they pay me. I’d do this job for free in a heartbeat. (Don’t tell the Cubs!).
#2 is meeting all the famous former Cubs players (not much interaction with the current team) and the broadcasters is really cool. Vin Scully is awesome, and I love Bob Uecker, even though he works for the Brewers, and the Cubs broadcasters are great to me too. The press box has great food. But the most enjoyable thing is seeing peoples’ face light up when you mention that you work for the Cubs. (Unless they are Sox fans, then it’s more of a polite groan).

Q:  Who was your favorite team growing up?
A:  Well, I grew up in Louisiana, so the closest team geographically was the Astros, so that’s who I got to see live. They had some pretty good teams in the ’70s-Nolan Ryan, Cesar Cedeno. But I wasn’t crazy about the Astros, I was more into the Red Sox of the late ’70s, Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, Yaz. I loved the ’84 Cubs, that’s what turned me into a Cubs fan (front-runner!). But I didn’t really get into the Cubs seriously until I moved here in ’92.

I was brought up to root for the underdog, it was drilled into me by my dad. As a New Orleans Saints fan in the ’70s, I knew about heartbreak and bad teams. The ’70s Reds were great teams, no doubt. But where’s the fun in rooting for that? It’s the very reason don’t understand Yankees fans at all.
Best of Poi Dog Pondering (the Austin Years)Q:  You are also a talented multi-instrumentalist musician, what are your current or latest musical projects?
A:  Poi dog Pondering is my main gig (keyboards & trumpet), with occasional tours with Wilco (in the horn section), and I have a conducting job coming up with a Japanese band called Mono. They are recording a 20-piece string section with Steve Albini, and I will be waving my arms in front of them. I’m really excited about that.

**Big thanks to Max for spending a few minutes with**

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    March 29, 2009  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: feature, interview, Wrigley Field

    4 Responses

    1. Caitlyn Parker - April 1, 2009

      You’re the coolest Uncle Max I have!

    2. Jeff Bjorn - July 17, 2009

      Max … if you ever need a stand-in while you’re touring … I’ll gladly fill in for you at Wrigley! 🙂

    3. Joe - March 30, 2010

      You didn’t ask him the most important question. How did he get that job?

    4. administrator - March 30, 2010

      Joe – well, I don’t think jobs like that are really posted on job boards. I’m just guessing here, but I would guess Max’s celebrity status in the Chicago music community may have put him in the “right” circles to get hired.

      Thanks for reading..

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