I hate most baseball podcasts if only because they usually re-hash things you already knew last week or act like fabricated shills for an organization that doesn’t give them one thin red dime for their efforts. The hyper-positivity is nauseating. I stumbled upon this podcast and fell in love instantly because of Ryan and Pete’s grittiness and ability to “tell it like it is” with character, integrity, and a sense of humor. Ladies, Gentlemen, and Non-Binary… I give you…Major League A*Holes.
1) Let’s start at the genesis of the operation. How did you guys meet, and why did you decide to do a baseball podcast?
Ryan: We started working together at a Chicago ad agency in 1998. I walked by Pete’s desk one day when he just blurted out “I can’t take it anymore, I have to go buy some AC/DC!” so I immediately thought we should be friends. We also had a mutual love of sports and started a fantasy hockey league with a spreadsheet and newspapers (pre-internet boom).
We started a fantasy baseball league in 2004 called Burnt Ivy after some fucker poured acid on a portion of the Wrigley Field ivy. My team name was Major League Assholes after President Bush 2 got caught calling a reporter that on a hot mic. We changed the league name to Major League Assholes the next year as it still is today.
In 2010, we got the idea to start an irreverent baseball blog covering Pete’s White Sox and my Tigers & Cubs. Ten years later we got lazy, stopped writing, and started a podcast instead because it was easier.
Pete: So Smitty and I met at work at a marketing agency in Chicago working on print ads for Sears… yes we’re fucking old. I was his manager, and I can tell you that he was a decent employee, now we’ve come full circle and he’s really my manager with our podcasts. (Laughs) We loved to talk about baseball and I don’t remember the exact event, maybe Smitty does, but it went like this. “If Carlos Zambrano ever does this, we will start a baseball blog.” It was something we had thought up because it was such ridiculous behavior. I think we made it ridiculous because we really don’t know anything about doing a baseball blog, so we kind of were like we want to do it, but were kind of nervous. Well, I think a year later Zambrano did said thing, we texted each other, and Major League Assholes was launched. We changed it shortly after to Major League A*Holes so we could have a consistent name on social media and advertise on T-shirts at baseball games.
2) What are your favorite teams and what players did you follow growing up?
Ryan: I grew up in Michigan as a Tigers fan. Mark “The Bird” Fidrych was the first player I remember but he blew out his arm after a year so I couldn’t really follow him. But after that, the ‘84 Tigers were the shit and I got to watch Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker turn double plays for 20 years. By the way, BOTH should be in the fucking Hall of Fame, but I’ll spare you from that long-winded that tangent again…
After Tigers Stadium, Wrigley Field was the first major league ballpark I ever visited back in the mid-‘80s when I was 16. My aunt and uncle had season tickets in the upper deck down the first baseline. And I was hooked. Everything about Wrigley and Chicago, in general, was fucking awesome compared to the boring suburban landscape I was born into in mid-Michigan. From that day forward, my goals were to go to college and then get a job in Chicago. I moved to Chicago after I graduated from Central Michigan University in 1997, got a job, and eventually bought a condo a mile north of Wrigley Field in 2003.
I’d say my first favorite Cubs player was the Shooter, Rod Beck. If anyone tries to tell you Kenny Powers from East Bound & Down wasn’t based on him, they’re full of shit. Dude was fucking legendary — glorious mullet, terrifying fu manchu, sizeable gut, cool nickname, ominous presence on the mound, lived in a Winnebago, got fucked up with fans after games — he personified everything awesome about baseball in my mind.
Pete: Born and raised on Chicago’s Southside, so I was birthed into White Sox-dom. I was even born at a hospital on Chicago’s Southside that was five minutes from Comiskey Park. My entire Italian side of the family grew-up in Bridgeport the neighborhood where the Sox play still to this day. The new stadium is just across the street from the original Comiskey Park. I have a shadowy memory of my first game in the mid-‘70s where Wilbur Wood, Tom Kelley, and Dick Allen signed a ball for me. My favorite teams outside of 2005, are 1983 and 1994 in that order. ‘83 had those sweet jerseys with Luzinski, Kittle, and Baines hitting roof shots. Then you had a coked-up Lamar Hoyt dominating batters, whatever it takes, right? I kid, I kid. So many characters on that team and Tony La Russa brought them together. Hopefully, he has an encore performance left. It was around the same time I was playing little league and was always on the Giants, every year. I loved the uniforms, so I started following the Giants the best I could back then. I was limited to appearances on network TV and newspapers. Not the best way to follow a team, but I did. Will “The Thrill” Clark was my favorite Giant growing-up. He looked like some guy you could hang out with that could crush the baseball. Of course, in the ’90s Barry Bonds became my favorite Giant and my hatred for Dusty Baker began. I was so excited when he ended up with the Cubs. I’m like he’s going to fuck up your pitching staff and fall short every year. Enjoy!
3) Talk a bit about the legendary Game 7 of the 2016 WS–where were you and how did you process it?
Ryan: As the t-shirt says, ‘The best game ever played was on a November Wednesday night in Cleveland.’ I was watching it at my place a mile north of Wrigley Field with a buddy of mine. He panicked and took off after Rajai Davis hit the home run to tie it in the 8th so I was left alone pacing laps around my small condo. The rain delay and isolation certainly didn’t help my fractured mental state. When they finally won it, I freaked out and didn’t know what to do so I just left and started walking down to Wrigley. My street and the entire neighborhood was completely packed with cars honking horns and people going nuts. The cops had built a perimeter around the stadium so I couldn’t get closer than across the street from it, but it was all good. I skipped work the next day and captured a lot of fun photos of the scene.
Pete: Game 7 is the game I wanted to end in a tie or never be played. I’m a White Sox fan watching the Indians play the Cubs. Fuck me. Anyway, I was happier with the outcome because, while the Cubs are intra-city rivals, they are not division foes and I couldn’t wait to see the frat party unfold with all the stupid shit that fan base would do. The average fan knows the ingredients of a can of Bud Light better than the starting line-up. It was also nice to see Jason Heyward earn his $21 million as a public speaker. Although, there have been some recent theories that it never happened or was blown out of proportion… I was watching the game at home with a bourbon. I shit you not, not living on the Southside you could walk into a bar and get a seat with no issues during the Cubs World Series. I went to our local tap house in Lemont, Pollyanna for Game 2, showed up around game time and the place only had two tables occupied, one by Cubs fans. It’s a pretty hard divide in some areas of Chicagoland.
4) What is going on with the trope of a Chicago sports fan either being a cigar-chomping fat ass or a drunk college bro?
Ryan: The former is a Southside stereotype perpetuated by the Super Fans SNL skit, but it’s pretty accurate. The latter is just Wrigleyville. I can’t imagine how much worse it’ll be once the world gets back to normal and the bros come out to party again. But that’s more of an issue outside the ballpark in Wrigleyville, the neighborhood bar scene around the stadium.
Pete: The cigar-chomping fat-asses are the post-50 crowd (shhhhh, I’m getting close). Those are normally tied back to Bears fans too. It’s been a thing here forever. The older crews love to eat a shit-ton of unhealthy food, that’s delicious, and smoke their cigars. Da Bears skit on SNL is dead-on. I have relatives like that. I would say the cigar-chomping fat-ass for baseball favors my beloved White Sox more than the Cubs, but there are a few in every crowd. Drunk college bro is pretty much a Wrigley thing. Millennials with disposable income going to day games during the week. The reason most Sox games are at night is they are the blue-collar team of Chicago, and they’d have even smaller crowds if they played day games. For the Cubs, a tourist attraction for their field, it doesn’t matter. It’s a white-collar team with tons of disposable income. It’s a party, and even though it took 17 years for me to attend my first Cubs game, which I sat behind a post, I can honestly say that a sunny day in the bleachers is a good time.
5) Are the Wrigley bleachers really as bad as everyone says they are? (drunk college kids puking everywhere and pissing on themselves)
Ryan: That’s more reputation than reality. It hasn’t been that bad for close to 15 years now, but it certainly was before ticket prices went thru the roof. No one wants to pay $100 to get into a game just to blackout or get kicked out. Don’t get me wrong, we’re all getting fucked up out there, but it’s not a puke/piss-fest.
Pete: Not anymore, the bleachers have changed throughout the years, it’s kind of funny. Originally, they were the cheapest ticket in the park and were the home of middle-aged Cub fans getting wasted during the day. That was the 60’s through the mid-’80s. Then the Cubs hired Harry Caray away from the White Sox and the frat party began. It was brilliant marketing by the Cubs. That’s one thing they became really good at back then, marketing a shit product, but filling the stands. They sold the beauty of the park along with the party atmosphere… “loveable losers”. Seriously, kudos to them. Especially because back then Wrigleyville was not the thriving bar scene it later turned into in the early 2000s. So yes, the ’90s and a lot of the 2000s the bleachers were a mess. No doubt about it, but then Theo came to town, made the bleachers the best seat in sports, raised the price to $50 a ticket average, and now it’s just fun. Yes, fans can be seen wasted, but that’s on both sides of town.
6) You guys do a segment on your show called “Asshole of the Week.” Who are the biggest assholes in MLB today and why?
Ryan: I’ve got to give that honor to Commissioner Rob Manfred. We just gave him our prestigious Asshole of the Year award for 2020 so he’s the reigning champ. His bad faith negations with the Players Association, leveraging the pandemic to dismantle the minor league system, which put a lot of people out of work just because he could, and his ability to talk out of both sides of his mouth makes him the biggest asshole in MLB today. I seriously question if he even likes baseball.
Pete: I’m giving it to Manfred hands down. I named him, Commissioner Palpatine because of his constant attempts at manipulation of the players and fans. His absolute power clauses in these agreements are so Star Wars prequels it’s not even funny. He only has his own interests and the owners’ interests in mind. He couldn’t care less about the players and fans, and I fear this will lead to a strike in 2022. I hope I’m wrong.
7) What do you see in the future for the podcast?
Ryan: It’s weird because we started the podcast just before COVID hit and it ended up being the perfect hobby to have when you can’t hang out or go to games. We haven’t even gone through a full season yet, but we’ve had so much to talk about starting with the Astros scandal, then all the bullshit negotiations to get the season started, the 60-game sprint, the White Sox rising, the Cubs imploding, the Tigers rebuilding, and the Giants doing whatever the fuck they’re doing.
But to answer your question, I think it might be fun to start doing some interviews to get a little broader perspective so it’s not just Pete and I barking at each other for an hour at a time. I’m also kicking around the idea of adding a 5th team that we start to cover extensively in addition to the Cubs, Sox, Tigers, and Giants. Hell, maybe Pete even has some ideas for the future… Stay tuned, mofos!
Pete: The great thing about Major League A*Holes is Smitty and I don’t take ourselves too seriously and we go with the flow. Sometimes we change the show on the fly because while we always have a preset outline, the conversation takes us in a different direction. I think the future of Major League A*Holes is anyone listening can be promised that we’ll always be trying new segments, we’ve already introduced two new staples this year; “askhole” and bad tweets. Askhole is we each ask either a completely assholish question about each other’s teams and bad tweets started out as Bob’s Bad Tweets dedicated to the disaster known as Bob Nightengale and already morphed into bad tweets by sports media personalities. We’re always going to be trying to make things better and more entertaining for everyone.