Tony Schiavone is still best known as the longtime TV host of World Championship Wrestling, but he is busier than ever in his post-ring existence. The sports director of WSB-AM, among other jobs, will return to his baseball play-by-play roots next year as the voice of the new Gwinnett Braves on WDUN-AM, where he also works.
Schiavone, 50, lives in east Cobb County and he and his wife, Lois, are the parents of five children, all Pope High School graduates. They met when he was starting as a minor league broadcaster in the early 1980s, before his wrestling gig.
Staff correspondent Guy Curtright sat down with Schiavone at Turner Field recently to talk about the highs and lows of his broadcast career, his dream growing up and what Gwinnett fans can expect on this broadcasts next season.
GC: It's been more than five years and you've been ultra busy since, but aren't you still recognized most for announcing pro wrestling?
TS: I'll take that to my grave.
GC: How do you feel about that?
TS: I don't have a problem with it. Wrestling can either help or break your career. I think it helped mine. I've been able to survive and move on.
GC: Do you have any wrestling connections anymore?
TS: I still get residuals from a TV episode of "Arli$$" I did and the wrestling movie that I was in. I'm surprised when I find a check in the mailbox.
GC: Weren't you famous - or infamous - for saying that each bout you called was the best ever?
TS: For my credibility sake, I hoped that people had forgotten that.
GC: So what really was the best bout?
TS: The one the producer in my ear told me to say at that time. A lot of the stuff I said was told to me to say. It was all part of the script. I was just the mouthpiece, for better or worse.
GC: How many of the athletes that you encounter want to talk about pro wrestling rather than their own sports?
TS: A lot. I was in Phoenix one time and Charles Barkley came up and introduced himself. He just wanted to talk about wrestling and he still does when I see him. Among baseball players, Sean Casey is a big fan and Johnny Estrada is crazy about it. Roger Clemens is into it as well. But there are a lot of them.
GC: How did you get involved with pro wrestling in the first place?
TS: I was doing baseball in the mid-1980s at Charlotte in the Southern League and it just so happened that the family that owned the team also promoted wrestling. They needed a wrestling announcer part time. I was practically starving back then and needed the money. We had two kids and one on the way. A year later, I was making more doing wrestling part time than I was baseball full time.
GC: So you gave up baseball?
GC: You broadcast Greensboro games in the Class A South Atlantic League for a year and then did the Charlotte games in Class AA for four. Had it always been your dream to do baseball on the radio?
TS: Oh, yeah. That's all I've really wanted to do since I was in the fourth grade. My hometown in Virginia was really small. Less than 1,000 people. There wasn't much going on. I sat on the porch and listened to baseball on the radio all summer.
GC: Who was your favorite announcer back then?
TS: Joe Tait, who worked on the Cleveland Indians broadcasts. I loved him. I also liked Marty Brennaman, who did the Cincinnati Reds games. It wasn't until later that I really became familiar with the Braves announcers. They all do a great job.
GC: What is your baseball style?
TS: I guarantee you one thing, I won't say every game is the best in the history of baseball.
GC: So you won't have a script or a producer talking into ear like with wrestling?
TS: I hope not.
GC: Will you root for the Gwinnett team?
TS: I won't get too excited or be over the top. But I will be a homer, supporting the team. I think that is part of the job in the minors.
GC: Will it be hard doing baseball again after all these years away?
TS: I think I know a lot about the game. Wrestling was a job. Baseball has always been my passion. I follow it religiously.
GC: How to you think the Gwinnett Braves will draw?
TS: I think the stadium will be packed almost every night. There are an awful lot of baseball fans in the north part of the metro area who want to see baseball, but don't like driving into Atlanta.
GC: Do you think that the Gwinnett crowds will hurt Atlanta attendance?
TS: No. In the long run, I think it could actually help. Fans will follow the Gwinnett players to the majors and be even more interested. And there are certainly enough people in the metro area to support both teams.
GC: Don't you have almost as many jobs as there are people in Atlanta?
TS: I do and I hope to get more.
GC: I'm not joking. You are sports director of WSB, also do morning sports for WDUN, work on the Georgia Bulldogs football broadcasts and do play-by-play on WDUN for high school football and baseball. How in the world can you balance all that?
TS: I love a challenge. I like to do things that other people say that I can't. I've always stayed busy and now I don't have as many family responsibilities. My kids are grown. I don't have to do the dad things anymore, which frees up my schedule.
GC: So the timing is right for you to hit the road again as a baseball play-by-play man?
TS: My wife says that this was made to be and I agree. I met her my first year in baseball in 1981. She worked at the radio station in Greensboro. In fact, our honeymoon was a road trip with the team.
GC: And you have stayed married all these years?
TS: Amazing isn't it?
GC: So now she wants you back on the road?
TS: We both think that this was meant to be. We believe that there was some kind of higher power that put me in wrestling so I could make money to get the kids through school, and now that they're out it's time to get back to baseball. Our joke is that it took me one year to get from Class A to AA and 24 years to make it from Class AA to AAA. At this rate, I might make to the majors when I'm in my 70s.