Wheels, Sarge Out of Broadcast Booth

Big changes continue with the Phillies on TV.

Last week they signed a 25-year contract with Comcast SportsNet worth a reported $2.5 billion. Then today the team announced broadcasters Chris Wheeler and Gary Matthews will not return to the TV booth. Multiple sources said Comcast requested the changes during contract negotiations, which Wheeler essentially confirmed in a statement.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege to be a part of the Phillies broadcast team for 37 years,” Wheeler said. “I certainly respect the decision that was made and I look forward to my new role in the Phillies organization.”

Both Wheeler, 68, and Matthews, 63, will remain in the organization in some capacity, although what specific roles are unclear.

Tom McCarthy, who does play-by-play on TV, has four years remaining on his contract. He will return to the TV booth. Gregg Murphy will return as TV’s field reporter. Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen will return and remain in the radio booth.

“That’s where I want to be,” Franzke said. “I like doing what I’m doing.”

Sources said Comcast is looking for one color commentator to replace Wheeler and Matthews. In the past, broadcasters have been Phillies employees, but the new broadcaster will be a Comcast employee.

Comcast also has final say over who it hires, but the Phillies and Comcast just entered a 25-year business partnership, so the Phillies will be consulted on the short list. If they strongly object to a candidate the network will listen.

Comcast is looking at former players, many of them former Phillies who played for the team within the past 20 years. John Kruk, Doug Glanville and Curt Schilling (ESPN) and Dan Plesac and Mitch Williams (MLB Network) work for national networks, but it is unclear if any of them would leave their current jobs and salaries for a regional broadcast.

Ricky Bottalico already works with Comcast on its Phillies pregame and postgame broadcasts, although that does not necessarily mean he is the favorite for the job.

Other former Phillies with broadcast experience either in TV or radio include Jamie Moyer, Brad Lidge, Matt Stairs, Tom Gordon, Chris Coste, Rex Hudler, Paul Byrd and Ron Gant.

More candidates could surface now that word is out about Wheeler and Matthews leaving the booth.

But the news about Wheeler (better known as Wheels) and Matthews (better known as Sarge) stung the remaining broadcasters.

“I’m disappointed,” Franzke said. “They are good friends of mine. They’re good people. They were fun to work with. We had kind of a lively space in the office we shared before games. They added a lot to that dynamic. From that standpoint, personally I’m going to miss being around them day in and day out. I know they’re still going to be with the organization, but we won’t have them with us every single day. And they’re friends. We know what kind of a business we signed up to be in. It’s not always good. Stuff like this hurts.”

The broadcasters’ workroom at Citizens Bank Park was a lively place before and after games with Matthews regularly bringing in snacks and drinks and treats from wherever he happened to be that day and everybody joking and poking fun at one another. Wheeler, who was always copiously prepared for that day’s broadcast, was the dean of the broadcast team. He began his career with the Phillies in 1971 as assistant director of publicity and publication relations before he joined the broadcast crew in 1977.

If anybody ever needed to know something about Phillies history they went to Wheels.

“The room that we had, that office was always filled with life and energy,” McCarthy said. “It was because of both of those guys, as well as everybody else’s personalities. I’m disappointed for Wheels that his TV career is coming to a close in this capacity. I thought that he had gave so much to the organization and the TV and radio audience over the years. He’s always been a huge asset for all of us, just because of his knowledge of the organization and sheer love of the organization and the city itself. And Sarge, you’ll be hard pressed to laugh any more than with him. That’s the part I’m going to miss on the air, just having the sheer entertainment value of his personality.”

Matthews finished his seventh season with the Phillies. He played for the Phillies from 1981-83.

The Phillies issued a statement that said, “As the longest-tenured member of the Phillies broadcasting team, Chris Wheeler will return to his club roots after stepping down from his role as a Phillies broadcaster. With 37 years of broadcasting experience, combined with his front office background where he began his Phillies career, ‘Wheels’ will take on a new role allowing the organization to continue to benefit from his knowledge, experience and dedication to the game. Additionally, Gary Matthews will continue to work with the Phillies bringing his exceptional background as a major league ballplayer, broadcaster and commentator to new roles at the Phillies.”

24 Comments

Glory glory hallelujah! Sarge is gone, Sarge is gone! Don’t get me wrong, nice guy, nice hats but he just did not have the ability to say much other than to comment on what was on the screen, “there”.
I personally was a fan of Wheels but he did tend to go on and on.
Change is good although I would prefer Frantzke on TV rather than McCarthy who simply will not stop talking. Of for Harry who knew when to just let them play.

Agree with everything you said!

I’m glad that both men are still with the team but I will not miss the overkill and yakking from the TV broadcast booth. Too much talk about insignificant things. Overanalyzing and repeating the same things. Whitey and Harry would let you take in the sounds of the game and entertain you along with describing the games with way less chatter. Would John Kruk be interested in being a color commentator for the Phillies? Doug Glanville?

I know I’m in the minority…..But, I’ll miss Wheels. Will NOT miss Sarge!

Win-win. Nice that they weren’t fired outright considering their long service to the team, but hopefully we’ll have betting commentary during the games. Hope they get someone good – I like the suggestion of Kruk!

Oops, “better” commentary

Wasn’t a fan of either Sarge, Wheels or Jim Jackson. Glad Franzke and LA are staying. It will be interesting to see who their replacement(s) are.

For the love of God, what is the love affair with Franzke? He is terrible. He never talks baseball. All he discusses is what they ate last night, how the flight in was, etc. Everything but the game. And all in that snide, condescending tone. I love Larry, but, Scott pulls the worst out in him. Just inane conversation about everything but baseball.
Frankly- the whole broadcast crew needs to be replaced, including the robot McCarthy. “It is Gawn!” Makes my skin crawl.
This is why I invest in the MLB ticket. I always listen to the visiting team feed.

Sorry to see both gentlemen leave. Talk about idle chatter–please shut Tom McCarthy up. The man will not stop talking. Even on the post game interviews with Missanelli, Wheels could not get a word in to comment. I did not appreciate McCarthy interjecting football talk to the point that Wheels had to tell him that it was not the thing to do. (McCarthy also does football play by play for Westward One) I think Gregg Murphy did an outstanding job in the role he was asked to do. I get the feeling Larry Anderson in under the impression we want to her about his private life and it is a sacrifice on his part to do the color commentation. I do not care to hear his insessant comments on the length of games—It is baseball. If you do not like it get another job. Franski feels he is there to feed Larry lines so he can make obnoxious comments. Franski & Anderson feel the game revolves around them. Wheels was always professional and imparted knowledge with his comments. I also would take Wheels as a play by play commentator over T. Mac any day. I like McCarthy in a less talkative version and he also needs to wear hat–if he can find one big enough.

Well said, Carole! Let’s hope Comcast & the Phillies read this blog:)

Get rid of mc carthy he’s worse than wheels & sarge

I am sorry, I forgot to mention Jim Jackson. I think JJ does an excellent job during his 2 inning play by play. I know he is involved with the Flyers but I would love to see his participation expanded either radio or tv duties. He is similar to Wheels in his professionalism and he does know the game of baseball. Sarge was a nice change of pace not as formal but interesting conversation. I will miss Sarge and Wheels.

I guess Christmas was delayed by the polar vortex but it’s a nice present after the fact.

Tom McCarthy is the 2nd worst play by play man in MLB. The Nats announcer is the only one who is more of a clown than “T-Mac.” McCarthy’s fake laugh is, well, fake. And he flat out stinks at his job, talking through 2 or 3 pitches without calling the count. I have listened to Wheeler his whole career and I guess I am used to him because, tho his comments always illustrate the obvious (“What the Phillies want to do is score some runs this inning.”), the listener can tell he loves the Phillies and a homer is better than a Mets’ reject in the broadcast booth.

I’ll miss Wheels and Sarge. I listen to hundreds of games on XM Radio, from all the MLB teams, my view is that overall the Phillies broadcast team, TV and radio, are the best of the 30 teams’ booths. The finest of all is Tom McCarthy. Note to Phils
Management: give Doug Glanville a call.

Oh yeah, I like JJ also. He has a cool voice.

Long overdue…Phillies organization is historically slow to refresh. Scott and Larry are overwhelmingly better for TV and their opinions are their own and not the teams ,like McCarthy. Loved the previous reference to T Macs fake laugh . So true. Still can’t figure how JJ worked his way in to radio booth . He’s as mediocre with the Phil’s as he is with the Flyers.

I like Doug Glanville, but his nasal tone would be too much to take for a baseball game. Why does McCarthy not get a 2 or 3 inning break which essentially would give us a break from constant talk and when on camera his hand gestures. Harry The K. got a 3 inning break–middle innings (4,5,6) and he was enjoyable to hear. Anyone who thinks Wheels was a homer, did not listen very well or does not know the game of baseball.

Sarge is gone. Thank God. Unless someone asked him to comment on something, he was useless.

Sorry to see the Phil’s biggest move was in the booth and not on the field

I agree with Shirley. An unfortunate move that will not increase viewers and may actually send some to the MLB. Concentrate on the product on the field. Baseball is an excellent game to listen to on the radio, but Franzke and Anderson are taking that enjoyment away. Why do I feel like this is a “want to be” comedy team?

Did not Wheels in the beginning, thought he was a true homer to the organization but lately he grew on me. Sarge shocked I did like him thought he had a better prospective than McCarthy and Wheels. speaking of McCarthy I think he is horrible, incessant chatter not shutting up, I too wonder why he gets not three inning break?? What about Harry’s son? still with the Rays? Mitch would be great but would he see this as going backwards in Career?

Best belated Xmas present ever! So it seems we’re stuck with Tmac for 4 more seasons. Perhaps some little bird can whisper in his ear to do the TV play-by-play without describing ever nuance that we actually can see on the screen. The score, the outs, the men on base, even the speed of every pitch is flashed in that rectangle box at the top of the screen. I don’t need Tbag telling me the obvious. Unless, perhaps, he’s getting paid by the spoken word and wants to make more $$$? Perhaps, also, all the minimizing will stop. How many times during a game did Tbag used to say, “just a little bit?” No pitch was plain outside…it was a little bit outside. The team didn’t stink last season. They only stunk up CBP… A LITTLE BIT!
BTW, why did an AP reporter first report this news and not the PHILLIES INSIDER?

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