Royals’ Denny Matthews on retiring: ‘I really don’t ever think about it’
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As a broadcaster, Denny Matthews truly has touched them all.
Matthews is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, courtesy of the Ford C. Frick Award. He’s in the Royals Hall of Fame. He’s in the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
Matthews, 71, has broadcast no-hitters, George Brett’s 3,000th-hit game, thrilling playoff victories and a World Series championship.
So now, as Matthews enters his 46th season in the Royals’ radio booth, the obvious question is: Why does he keeping coming back?
Matthews clearly has nothing left to prove or accomplish, and by his own admission, he has a plethora of outside interests that would keep him busy in retirement.
"It’s the question I get every year," Matthews told me by phone. "A guy just before Christmas came up to me and asked me if the reason I kept coming back was that I wanted to break Vin Scully’s record.
"I just laughed and told him, ‘Hey, I was 7 years old when Vin started broadcasting with the Dodgers. Seven. Next question."
For the record, no, Matthews has no intention of chasing down Scully’s record, which is at 64 straight years and counting with the same team.
But then again, Matthews doesn’t foresee retirement anytime soon.
"I really don’t ever think about it," he said. "There was one time I thought about the whole retirement thing.
It’s still fun. I love what I do.
"I remember I was on a plane coming back from a West Coast trip and I think I was 45 at the time. I was thinking how great it would be to retire at the age of 50. And I was in a position that I probably could have done it back then.
"But then the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I already have a chance, in a way, to retire each season. I retire for five months every year once the season is over. For those five months when there are no games, I get to do whatever I want, which is pretty much what retirement is."
And Matthews fills his annual retirement with all the things he loves: He watches NHL games almost nightly (he’s a hockey nut), he watches NFL games, he reads, he explores new restaurants regularly, and yes, he even plays a little hockey.
"Well, I don’t get to play as much as I used to," Matthews said. "The rink we had here (in Overland Park) shut down a couple of years ago, so we have no consistent place to play.
"But I stay pretty busy. You have a list of things you have to do and a list of things you want to do, and for these five months, it’s pretty much a list of things I want to do."
What also keeps Matthews coming back to the radio booth is his adjusted schedule. For many years now, Matthews has been allowed to cut back on road trips. He does only about 30-35 road games now in addition to the home games.
"That really cuts down on the grind, as you know," he said. "It’s like one of my brothers always tells me: ‘You got a pretty good gig. Why quit it?’"
There’s another reason Matthews keeps coming back.
"It’s still fun," he said. "I love what I do. There’s nothing better for me to be able to broadcast a game where you have two teams playing excellent baseball and it’s a tight, competitive battle. To me, that’s what it’s all about."
And the Royals provided plenty of such opportunities last season as they not only had their first winning season in 10 years, but also played tightly contested games almost on a nightly basis.
"They didn’t have much offense," Matthews said, "but they had great pitching and defense, and as we all know, that will keep you in games. And it’s sure more interesting for me to be calling competitive games than games when you’re down 9-2 in fourth inning."
Matthews stops short, though, of saying that the Royals’ success in 2013 rejuvenated him to any degree.
"It has nothing to do with wins and losses," he said. "I learned a long time ago that if you define yourself as a broadcaster by the team’s success, well, then you don’t have much going for you."
Besides, Matthews believes his legacy is pretty much set.
So, what is left to dream about?
"I do have one dream left," he said. "I’d like to be in goal for an NHL preseason game for about 10 minutes and actually do a live play-by-play while I’m in goal. That would be pretty neat."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter @jflanagankc or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.