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What Made This Great: NIKE "Stickball" Radio


Nike Stickball Phil Rizzuto
Legendary Yankees short stop Phil Rizzuto

Here's a fun throwback spot! Back when I owned and operated Planet V on Bond St. in New York City, we were fortunate enough to have Wieden & Kennedy's Portland office as a client for my young company. While they were in New York shooting a very memorable TV campaign featuring the Yankees and the Mets playing stickball uptown, we were tasked with creating the radio versions. While it would seem a simple task- we took the "go big or go home" approach to getting the job done.


Setting the Scene


We were fortunate enough to have access to the TV shoot audio, which allowed us to hear the two teams making noise on the streets of NYC,.. but to tell the story as scripted, we needed to create some heavy sound design. Sound effects libraries will only get you so far. The spot required some very specific items: a stickball bat (broomstick), the ball (a particular Spalding rubber ball), a car being hit by the ball, a car alarm going off, and the ball going into the sewer.



Naturally, we ran to do some shopping and got the requisite ball and broomstick. Our studio was on the third floor of the building, and we were still in an analogue world. Portable digital recorders weren't a thing. We ran XLR mic cables out the window down to the street, and recorded tons of sounds of the "bat" hitting the ball, dropping on the street, etc. We were fortunate enough to be next to a parking garage that was happy to set off a car alarm for us to record as well. They also let us (gently) bounce the ball off a car to capture some authentic- but definitely not car damaging- sounds. Thankfully, Bond St. was a very quiet side street back then, so we didn't have any disruptions or distractions.




Capturing a Legend


Legendary Yankees shortstop Phil Rizzuto came in to record his announcer parts. The script called for him to call the stickball game play by play. He, of course, nailed it! It wasn't a very difficult session, and he was delightful to work with. I recall him joking about wanting some Grand Marnier at some point during the session, so we sent someone out to get a bottle. He got a kick out of it, and even pulled out cash to pay for it. Of course we politely declined.



Putting it all Together


Next it was time to marry all the pieces together. We used all of the elements to build the 60 second spot and managed to string together a believable story of two Major League Baseball teams playing a competitive game of stickball on a stoop in New York City.


There is nothing more fun than being given creative freedom and time to create great work for a client, and we were fortunate to be a part of several award winning projects for Wieden and Kennedy.










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