Peanut butter and jelly. Batman and Robin. Milk and cookies. Franzke and Andersen. Some pairs are just so naturally good together, it’s hard to imagine things any other way. Of course, that latter duo isn’t known nationwide, but in the South Jersey and Philadelphia areas, the baseball broadcasting team of Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen is considered to be the perfect combination.
Franzke, 43, is a Texas native who majored in broadcast journalism. Andersen, 61, is an athlete from Oregon who pitched for six different Major League Baseball teams. Despite their divergent backgrounds, when they’re side-by-side in the radio booth at a Philadelphia Phillies game, they fit together seamlessly.
The Road to Philadelphia
When it comes to sports broadcasters, Franzke was a bit of a late bloomer. He initially planned on a print journalism career, but during his time at Southern Methodist University, he realized he enjoyed radio work. After college, he secured a job as a talk radio producer, and three years later, when he got disenchanted with typical sports talk, he parlayed that experience into a part-time job with the Texas Rangers. As an avid Rangers fan, it was an opportunity Franzke couldn’t pass up, even though it was only part-time.
“I was kind of like the weekend talk show host,” Franzke said of his first job in MLB-related radio. “I did that for two years.”
For one of those two years, Franzke got a taste of life in a ballpark broadcast booth.
“I worked during the games in the booth with the announcers, counting pitches and tracking out of town scores, things like that,” Franzke said. “Just kind of a gopher.”
As much as he loved working with his hometown team, he aspired to be more than just a gopher. Franzke liked what he saw in the big leagues of broadcasting and he wanted to find a way to make it his full-time gig. The Rangers broadcasters he was working with gave him some key advice.
“It was those guys who said, ‘Look, if you want to try doing baseball, you should probably go to the minor leagues and really learn how to do it. Learn what it’s like to do it every day,’” Franzke recalled.
And so he did. He left his part-time hosting position with the Rangers and dove headfirst into minor league play-by-play, spending three seasons with the single-A Kane County Cougars in Geneva, Illinois. With that experience under his belt, Franzke landed back with the Rangers, this time as a full-time host and a fill-in play-by-play announcer. In 2006, he joined the Phillies for pre- and post-game duties, and in 2007, he became the team’s full-time radio play-by-play guy.
Like Franzke, L.A., as Andersen is known, also worked his way up from the minors. He spent most of the ‘70s honing his game as a relief pitcher, making the slow but steady progression from rookie ball to single-A to double-A to triple-A, with a tantalizing taste of MLB action mixed in here and there. By 1981, Andersen was an MLB regular. He would play 17 seasons in the majors, six of them in Philadelphia, before ending his career with the AA Reading Phillies in 1995.
He, too, received a key piece of advice that ultimately led to his broadcasting career.
“I had a manager who told me when I first started playing, he said, ‘I don’t know which of you guys are gonna make it and which of you aren’t, but for those of you guys that do make it, let me remind you of something. You’re gonna meet the same people on the way down that you met on your way up. How you treat them on your way up is gonna determine how they treat you on your way down.’”
It was advice he obviously took to heart, as Andersen was well-liked enough after his playing days to be offered a coaching position with the Phillies’ minor league affiliate. That later led to a media job, as longtime Phillies player and color commentator Richie “Whitey” Ashburn passed away around the same time that Andersen had decided to seek other opportunities.
“Whitey died at the end of the season in September of ‘97, and I had coached two years in Reading and one year in Scranton, and I just did not want to go back to Scranton,” Andersen said. “Everything about it, it was just not a good situation for me personally. I asked if there was any chance I could go backwards, go back to coaching in AA. That apparently wasn’t a possibility, so it was suggested that since Whitey passed, if I didn’t want to go back to Scranton, maybe I try my hand at broadcasting.”
Andersen, who had pondered the possibility of broadcasting during his years as a player, joined the Phillies television team alongside Harry Kalas.
“I enjoyed doing it and working with Harry,” Andersen said. “That’s where it all started.”
He spent time as a color commentator on both television and the radio before making a permanent move to radio in 2007 to be paired up with Franzke.
“I think they were tired of my act on TV,” Andersen said with a chuckle. “Some of it was self-induced. I was a little wilder, a little more of a free spirit.”
Initially, Andersen wasn’t thrilled with the decision.
“When they first told me I was going to radio, I took it as a demotion,” he said. “I was disappointed. But, having said that, they did say Scott was new, they wanted somebody who would help him feel comfortable, and from what he’s told me, they wanted him paired up with me to try to bring out more of my personality. It was kind of a combination of really those two things. In retrospect, I would not do anything different than what happened.”
Instant Chemistry Leads to a Faithful Following
After 13 years without making the playoffs, 2007 was the season the Phillies turned things around on the field. The team was firing on all cylinders and would go on to secure the first of what would be five straight postseason berths. Coincidentally, things were also clicking in the team’s radio booth. It was the first year of Franzke and Andersen’s partnership, and the chemistry was instant.
“I think it comes across on the air that we get along, that we have fun with each other,” Andersen said.
It doesn’t just come across that Franzke and Andersen get along. They actually do get along. Whether they’re grabbing lunch together before a game, golfing together on road trips, or exchanging text messages with each other during the offseason, Franzke and Andersen have formed a close bond through the years, both in and out of the booth.
“From the start, we created a friendship, and it’s grown from there,” Andersen said. “When you have that rapport with each other, it makes it fun. I think it draws people in to where they feel like they’re just sitting there being part of the conversation.”
Fans can’t get enough of the duo. It seems that every season, a new petition pops up online in an attempt to convince Phillies executives to move Franzke and Andersen to television, where they could follow in the footsteps of the most famous Phillies broadcasting team of Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn.
“People will say, ‘You guys are like Harry and Whitey,’ and I don’t think there’s a bigger honor than that, having your name mentioned with those two, because they were so beloved,” Andersen said. “It’s a great feeling.”
“It’s flattering to hear from people who send you an email or a note or whatever and say how much they enjoy the product, because we are doing this for the fans,” Franzke said. “We’re a certain kind of conduit to the team for a lot of fans. Not everybody gets down to the ballpark every day, so we can bring the ballpark to them. If they enjoy it, then hopefully that means we’re doing our job the right way.”
Despite the pleas from fans to move Franzke and Andersen to TV, neither broadcaster has any interest in a change. They’re both quite content in the radio booth.
“I couldn’t be more blessed to be in the position I’m in,” Andersen said.
He enjoys the freedom that radio broadcasting provides.
“I think it’s tougher to be completely honest on TV,” Andersen explained. “I feel like I can do that a little more on radio. I don’t know why that is, but it just seems to be the case. On TV, you’re dictated a lot more about what you talk about. On radio, I think we have free reign. We don’t have to address every play. We have free reign to talk about what we want. If the game is close, the game takes care of itself. If it’s a blowout, Scott and I have the rapport, we can do our shtick and kind of make it a little more entertaining, and I think that’s a key. To keep people entertained.”
Franzke appreciates his partner’s wit and baseball knowledge, which falls right in line with his own approach to broadcasting.
“I think we both have a pretty similar way of approaching the game,” Franzke said. “We want it to be relaxed when the game calls for it, we want it to be exciting when the game calls for it. I think we both feel the tension of the moment, and we both have a similar sense of humor. We know it’s 162 games and you can’t be serious 100 percent of the time. Who wants to listen to that? There are days in baseball, you understand, that you lose 12-2, and those games call for something else than a 2-1 ballgame in the bottom of the 8th inning. I think he has a real good understanding of that and a real good knack for it.”
Franzke is proud of the overwhelmingly positive reception to his work with Andersen, but he doesn’t try too hard to please everyone.
“I did learn, some years ago, that one of the number one things about being a broadcaster, one of the things Harry used to say is ‘Look, you have to be yourself,’” Franzke said. “And that’s something that somebody also told me my first day on the job in talk radio. You have to be yourself, because you’re on the air way too often to be fake and to be phony. So, I just try to be myself on the air. I know that won’t resonate with everyone, but I’m OK with that. I feel like if I just do my job to the best of my ability, and try to be who I am, and if enough people like it, then I get to keep working here.”
Andersen is in the same boat. He admits he’s been chastised in the past for some of the comments he’s made on-air, but he doesn’t let that stop him from being himself and speaking his mind.
“If I get off the path and start getting upset or coming down on the club, I’ve heard about it. It’s been addressed at times,” he said. “There’s been times where people might think I’m negative, and my response to that is, ‘Let’s not get negativity mixed up with honesty.’ I think there’s a big difference. I can see where some people might take it as negative, but I take it as being honest. The majority of people that I meet, they say they appreciate my honesty.”
Phans at Heart
Media members are typically trained to be unbiased, but sports broadcasting is often the exception, especially when announcers are on a team’s payroll. Although they call games for a number of local radio stations, Franzke and Andersen are Phillies employees and Phillies fans.
“When I was playing, I just wanted to win. I wanted to get the ring. I wanted to get the World Series. And once I retired, I became this huge fan,” Andersen said. “When I’m sitting there watching a game and something bad happens, I know people are sitting at home and they want to throw a shoe through the TV or drink or whatever it is. I feel the same way watching it. I want to do the same thing. I feel the same passion and the same frustration at the same times they do. That’s what I think has given me a rapport with the fans.”
“I’m pretty well all-in,” Franzke said. “This is my tenth year doing this. I’m definitely a Phillies fan, and that happened pretty quick, to be honest with you. This is my whole life, professionally, so I’m pretty invested in it.”
Spending so much time around the team made it easy for Franzke to become such a big fan, despite his upbringing in Texas as a Rangers fan.
“We’ve had a lot of good people here, whether it’s on the field or off,” Franzke said. “There are a lot of good people in the organization, a lot of good people on the field and in the clubhouse. It’s been a great experience in that regard.”
Andersen also values the relationships he has with individuals in the Phillies organization, but that’s not the reason he wants the Phillies to succeed. He simply wants to see the fans rewarded for their unwavering support of the franchise.
“This is not to take anything away from the players that are playing, but they’re gonna move around. They’re gonna do their thing,” he said. “I want the Phillies to win for the fans. People say, ‘Oh, you know, enough of that. You don’t have to kiss their rear ends.’ But I truly feel that way. The fans are always going to be there. The players are going to come and go.”
The 2015 Phillies
A number of players did go this offseason, most notably shortstop Jimmy Rollins, the team’s all-time hits leader. With Rollins’ departure, the Phillies now only have four players remaining from the 2008 World Series team.
“There’s no question they’re going in a new direction and they’re trying to make some changes,” Franzke said. “It’s a team that’s in great transition.”
Former All-Stars like Chase Utley and Ryan Howard will need to have big seasons in order for the Phillies to do well, but there are doubts about their abilities as they get older.
“That doesn’t mean they can’t be productive,” Andersen said. “I don’t think we’re going to see from either of those two guys what we saw five years ago, but you’re not gonna see that from anybody.”
The team’s top starting pitcher, Cole Hamels, is on the trading block, while number two starter Cliff Lee is battling a potentially career-ending elbow issue. With so much uncertainty surrounding the team’s veterans, the consensus is that the Phillies will need young players to pick up the slack.
“Will some of these young players step up? Maybe they will,” Franzke said. “I don’t know if you remember back in 2006, but when they traded Bobby Abreu, all of the sudden, these young players, it’s a different atmosphere in the clubhouse, it’s a different team. Different guys took ownership of it. Different guys got a chance to play and they ran with it. Maybe the timetable will get moved up if some of these younger guys prove that they’re capable of playing in the big leagues.”
Andersen likes what he sees in terms of the clubhouse environment heading into 2015.
“If you look at the Phillies offseason and the players they brought in, a lot of it was bringing in better attitudes,” he said. “Bringing in guys that will fit in, guys that are not selfish. They’re accountable. I think you need that.”
In the past, Andersen felt the attitude in the clubhouse was a problem.
“There’s been players here recently that just refuse to be accountable,” he said. “There have been a couple players here in the last five to six years that were really bad in that respect, and it drove me nuts. I will not mention names, but we’ve had them here.”
Of course, the Phillies have to worry about more than just creating a more positive environment—namely, scoring runs—but revamping the clubhouse culture is a start.
“Good attitudes and personalities don’t win you championships, but I think you get on the right page and you get headed in the right direction,” Andersen said.
Like Andersen, Franzke believes a positive approach is important.
“I know that the guys on the field, they’re not going to go into it thinking, ‘Man, we’re gonna finish last,’ Franzke said. “They won’t do that. They can’t do that.”
Even if a team might not look like a contender on paper, the players need to go into the season with the firm belief they can win.
“You can listen to all the pundits and listen to all the predictions, but that doesn’t matter,” Andersen said. “You still have to come in with the thought process, with the mentality that you’re gonna win the World Series. If you don’t think you’re gonna go to the World Series, than there’s no sense in being here.”
Franzke agrees, pointing to the 1993 Phillies team that Andersen was part of as an example.
“Larry’s reminded me before: the ‘93 Phils were picked to finish last,” Franzke said. “Baseball’s a funny game. It really is. You have to play the games. If guys buy in to what they’re trying to do and take the right approach, who knows what could happen?”
Despite Andersen’s reminders of 1993, Franzke wouldn’t go as far as making a prediction for the 2015 team.
“I’ll leave it with what Harry used to say, which was: ‘I don’t predict ‘em, I just call ‘em.’”