CLEVELAND -- The exploding scoreboard, like the midget, the 1948 flag burial and the curtain call, was, of course, another one of Bill Veeck's ideas. "Why should a scoreboard just stand there doing nothing when it can contribute to the day's enjoyment?" said Veeck, a former Indians owner, in his autobiography Veeck -- As in Wreck. Heck, some of Veeck's grand ideas -- "Disco Demolition Night" and putting players in short pants, for example -- fizzled from the start. Ahh, but his exploding scoreboard continues to be one of baseball's most entertaining sideshows, particularly the high-tech scoreboard in Jacobs Field.
The scoreboard features baseball's largest video screen and is the largest in North America for sports. It's also the widest (149 feet) and one of the most technologically advanced in the Majors. Controlling the board and using its space accordingly is a job that takes about 22 people each game, said Justin White, the Indians' manager of scoreboard production. "We're in a situation where there's 17 inning breaks, 18 with extra innings," White said. "So we need to fill a minimum of a minute and a half during every inning break." White's crew fills the time with multiple video presentations, which include a spelling bee feature used last season that got Tribe players into the act. Just don't expect the players to spell "Sauerbeck" or "Dubois" correctly. "That's an example of an in-game feature," White said. "We come up with a lot of the features during the offseason and a lot of them in-season to entertain fans, really." This offseason, he and his staff have already prepared more spelling bee snippets among other features. "I think we've created eight or 10 of those so far," White said. "Any of the ones that we do, if it's a spelling bee or guessing the year, we try to come up with different versions." One scoreboard feature for '06 that already has several different versions is called "My Hometown." It's a guessing game that includes popups of facts and figures about each Indians player's hometown. "It's more of a graphical feature," White said. "For example, Travis Hafner's from South Dakota; the world's largest buffalo statue is in South Dakota. Just random facts." Scoreboard operators at The Jake are also in charge of the out-of-town scoreboard on the left-field wall, the facial boards down the first- and third-base lines and the two pitch speed boards in the ballpark. During a game, those boards are operated as smoothly as Grady Sizemore's swing. Operations are far from simple, though, because the machines that allow the scoreboards to work have more buttons that an X-Box 360 controller. Yet somebody has to master those buttons. "There's a facial board operator, there's a main board operator, there's a clip server operator to play back all of our features and there's an out-of-town operator for the board on the left field wall," White said.
Complicated, yes. But an Indians game wouldn't be the same without Veeck's vision of lights and sounds after one of Ronnie Belliard's defensive gems or one of Hafner's home run.
: : : This Edition: April 5, 2006 : : :
Kevin Yanik is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.