Looking back on Phillies legend Larry Andersen's 'Shallow Thoughts'
Before Larry Andersen joined Scott Franzke in the Phillies radio booth, his 'Shallow Thoughts' television segments were must-see.
Trips down memory lane are always a fun exercise for Philadelphia Phillies fans. The recent start of spring training presents an opportunity to take one before the actual games get serious. Fittingly, the word "serious" definitely doesn't enter the lexicon for longtime Phillies broadcaster Larry Andersen (L.A.) — who burst onto the scene in 1998 after a successful 17-year MLB pitching career and three seasons working as a coach in the Phillies organization.
Known to be an absolute character during his playing days, L.A. seemed to be a natural fit for the booth when he came aboard. This was back in the days when the Phillies split the broadcast, with Andersen working the first three innings on television with Harry Kalas, the middle frames with Chris Wheeler, and then retreating to the radio booth from the seventh inning on.
The passage of a quarter-century has led to me being unable to recall if it started right away or appeared shortly into his stint on the air, but Andersen's "Shallow Thoughts" were an immediate highlight for Phillies fans. An obvious homage/ripoff of Saturday Night Live's utterly bizarre "Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey" — right down to the scrolling signature across the screen — this brief segment during the broadcast was a stark departure from what you'd normally see during a televised baseball game at the time.
During a break in the action, which I remember as being between the first and second batters in the top of the third inning, Harry Kalas would casually ask, "L.A., any shallow thought for the day?" Andersen would then rattle off a statement that might sound profound but was the most ridiculous thing on his mind at the time. I can't say for sure how many were original thoughts and which were gleaned from elsewhere, but several ones have stuck with me years later:
"If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?"
"They say that elephants never forget. What exactly do they have to remember?"
"If Randy Wolf hits a home run, would it be called a Wolfman Jack?" (Wolfman Jack was an old radio DJ that nobody under 50 remembers.)
There were many more shallow thoughts beyond these few, and in fact, I used to keep track of them in a file that now probably exists only on some form of media that I can no longer access. Still, you can find some thanks to Phillies fans with random selective memory like me. Longtime Phillies PR guru Larry Shenk even collected some a few years ago.
In the end, I can't honestly tell you if "Shallow Thoughts" went on for two years, five years, or some other length of time. Maybe another Phillies fan knows the answer or is willing to do some Unsolved Mysteries-level investigating into the matter. It's long gone, whatever the case may be. But it was a memorable quirk of watching Phillies games for a time, and it played at least a small part in helping to ingratiate L.A. with fans who saw him pitch but weren't sure how he'd fare as a broadcaster.
L.A. has been exclusively on the radio alongside Scott Franzke for quite a while — working select games, at that — and so many Phillies fans may never have even heard him on TV. But for those of a certain age, Andersen branching out was a bizarre burst of fresh air after we were accustomed to Harry and Whitey together for so long. And his shallow thoughts can still give us a chuckle even after all these years.