When Ryan Garko got called into the jungle, he didn't want to roam alone. So Garko brought a few buddies along with him to his in-studio appearance on Jim Rome's nationally syndicated radio show, "The Jungle," on Sept. 7, while the Indians were in the midst of a four-game series in Anaheim. Teammates C.C. Sabathia, Joe Borowski and Ben Francisco joined Garko in taking part in the smack talk and sports takes that characterize Rome's popular program, which airs on nearly 200 stations.
For Garko, though, the invitation to Rome's studio was no standard interview request. He's been one of Rome's "clones" -- i.e. listeners -- since high school. And though he's never quite had the endurance to sit on hold for hours at a time to get his takes on air, he's well-versed in the daily diatribe that is Rome's unique show. "I just like his takes on all sports," Garko said. "Talk radio can be so negative and so into ripping guys up after a bad game. But even off the air, he seemed like a good guy." And good karma is known to come to those who make an appearance on Rome's show. It's known as "Jungle karma," and it paid off for Garko after his first phone-in interview with Rome earlier this year. Garko made his Jungle debut on May 16. The very next night, he homered off Twins ace Johan Santana in a 2-0 Tribe victory. In one of the more humorous moments of the Indians foursome's one-hour, 15-minute appearance on Rome's show, a caller phoned in to ask Garko what's more gratifying -- homering off Santana, or homering off the lesser-known Andy Cavazos. Huh? Well, the caller was former Tribe prospect Keith Ramsey. He was having a little fun with Garko, who once got into a bit of a tiff with Cavazos -- now a pitcher for the Cardinals -- in an Arizona Fall League game a few years back. "The first-ever Fall League brawl," Garko said with a laugh.
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Getting a razzing from his buddy fit in perfectly with Garko's light-hearted stint as a radio star. And Rome sounded amazed to learn just how knowledgeable Garko and Francisco -- both natives of Southern California, where Rome got his start -- are, when it comes to the world of The Jungle. Both Indians players were able to offer critiques of their least favorite callers and e-mailers into the show. "I couldn't believe they knew it that well," Borowski said, shaking his head. Hey, it's all second-hand to Garko, who is a bona fide Rome fanatic. "My brother still can't believe I was on there," Garko said. "We seriously would listen to it every day during the summer. And we watch his TV show [ESPN's 'Rome is Burning']. Even Rome was like, 'Stop acting like you're a fan of me. You're a Major Leaguer, and I'm a radio talk show host!'" The Indians' appearance was such a hit with the clones that perhaps they can become radio hosts, too. At the end of the program, one caller suggested that Rome let Garko fill in as a guest host the next time Rome takes a day off. "I would love to do it," Garko said with a smile. "But I don't think I could talk that long. Maybe if I had a co-host." Or three of them.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.