“The studio is buzzing with energy right now,” Adam Jones Show producer “The” Jeremy Conley texted me Wednesday night. “It’s like waiting for the final out of the World Series.”
Later in the evening, Baltimore’s Jonathan Villar (pictured above) smashed the 6,106th blast of the year across Major League Baseball, breaking the combined single-season record set in 2017 – with 18 days remaining on the schedule.
What a year for juiced baseballs. What a year for The Dong Report.
After four hours of radio, most sports talkers close up shop for the day. Felger and Mazz give you The Final Word. Zo and Beetle hit the Takeaways. Toucher & Rich does The Stack. But baseball season with Jones and Christian Arcand often means a five-hour show. And the transition from the penultimate to the final hour of Sports Hub programming is marked by a celebration of all the dingers, taters and big flies of the day.
For those uninitiated, The Dong Report features Jones and Arcand – under the stewardship of longtime “Curator of the Dongs” Conley – raucously traveling game-by-game through the baseball slate in search of circuit clouts. But it’s much more than that.
As Joe Murray would say: “Homers, baby. Homers. But not just homers. Dongs!”
Jones described the genesis of the phenomenon (which began with former co-host Rich Keefe and producer Josh Deering):
“We were all into fantasy baseball. All of us had our Twitter accounts open during the show, and there was this “dong report” account on Twitter (not to be confused with @MLBHR). Whenever there was a home run, it would tweet it out immediately. So we’d all know about it and we’d get excited. So we thought – wouldn’t it be great to recap the home runs like they used to on SportsCenter?”
At its inception, the segment was paired with Keefe’s “Leakage in the Ninth,” a fantasy closer segment inspired by a Bobby Valentine quote about embattled ex-Red Sox fireman Alfredo Aceves.
“I thought we’d do it for a week and get bored of the segment,” Deering reflects. “Then, dongs just took over.”
Years later, the report is thriving as a Jones show and Hub mainstay, with a community of contributors far beyond the reach of the Dorchester studio.
The report begins with Conley, a trained singer, crooning over the fanfare from Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathrusta,” perhaps best known as the theme to 2001: A Space Odyssey or the entrance music for pro wrestling legend Ric Flair.
“Dongs, dongs, dongs…home ruuuuuuuns!”
Last year, Jones and Arcand began a contest to determine who could hold the last note the longest. Wednesday, when Villar hit the record breaker, Arcand also broke the record for the longest note, at 49 seconds.
“That was like Ward/Gatti,” a froggy Arcand remarked, his voice fried.
Per the Curator’s rules, the total amount of home runs for the evening is not to be revealed until the conclusion of the segment. Mike “Sarge” Riley once memorably jumped the gun during a remote broadcast, exclaiming, “We’ve got 28 of these!”
“What?” shrieked exasperated Jones.
Following a stern reprimand, Jones and Sarge commenced the evening’s report, which typically consists of:
– The introduction of the two teams playing the game.
– Conley playing a memorable sound drop (from that night or from a previous show).
– A listing of home runs in that game.
Rinse, repeat. But that’s just the beginning.
Conley supplies the hosts with Dong Facts – unique tidbits associated with the hitters – and certain players merit their own individual drops, like St. Louis’ Paul Goldschmidt (a Dr. Evil “I love gold”), Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr. (the chorus of “Hakuna Matata” from The Lion King), or a personal favorite, anyone named Mitch (Eric Cartman from South Park saying, “Mitch Conner. Just your run-of-the-mill con man. I’ve been moving from town to town, scamming people since I was 15. But I’m tired of running.”).
Games without home runs are marked by an exasperated Sarge drop – “Dong-less!” – unearthed from the very broadcast where he once spoiled the drama.
“Honest mistake,” Riley recalls.
The longest homer of the night is announced with the Long Dong Gong (and plenty of screeching from Jones and Arcand).
When the total has been established, the hosts rack their brains for a Boston sports legend (or obscurity) who shares that same number. Jones tells the story of a particular 34-homer night alongside former co-host Nick Cattles:
“I think I said it was a “Sammy Morris 34.” All of a sudden, all these people started tweeting in, “What about a Paul Pierce 34? A David Ortiz 34?” So, from there, we started doing the numbers every night.”
The exercise can be interrupted by the always welcome “late breaker,” a home run which has occurred in the time since Conley flipped the switch on the segment several minutes earlier. This is also the part of the show that once drove Murray to exclaim, “I want a dong. Give me a dong!”
Then, the proceedings take a break for Arcand to read the headlines as a palate cleanser.
“It’s probably the stupidest half hour in radio,” Jones says. “It’s not for everybody. I love it, but it’s not for everybody.”
For devotees of the segment, 2019 has not only resulted in a record-breaking amount of homers, but a new pinnacle for listener involvement.
All of Your Tweets
“The community is incredible. It really took off this year,” says Conley. “It got a little crazy. It’s completely overwhelming, to be honest.”
Mimicking Jones and Arcand trying to one-up the other with jersey numbers, listeners started relating the Dong Total – through their tweets – to other things in life. The 34th U.S. state. The 34th annual Academy Awards. The 34th episode of the TV show Hannah Montana.
“Jones said ‘Party in the USA’ would be his walk-up song,” says the anonymous contributor of The Hannah Report. “So I knew he was a big Miley fan, and I had recently started re-watching the show On Demand. I’m also a big baseball fan, so I wanted to contribute to The Dong Report.”
Once Jones or Arcand finishes sharing the plot summary from a decade-year old Disney Channel show, Conley pulls up a recording of the ubiquitous elementary school tune, “Fifty Nifty United States,” whereupon listener Pat McMorran’s nightly list of state facts (including the ever-popular weird laws) are read. And feel free to sing along!
Says McMorran: “I think Matt McCarthy started tweeting the presidents last August. Jones seemed to like it…when this year started, I tried to think of something different.”
“When it suddenly got a song, I realized I had unknowingly made a commitment I wasn’t sure how to unwind.” Indeed, when McMorran went on vacation earlier in the summer, the disappointment on behalf of the hosts was palpable.
Says Conley: “This might be the most educational 30 minutes the station has. You get sports history, U.S. history, cultural history like the Academy Awards. Best-selling albums. Plus, it’s the ultimate “remember that guy?”
Take Villar, whose name might get lost in the sands of Baseball Reference, but will remain on the tip of the tongue of Dong Report fans for years to come.
“It’s fitting an Oriole hit (the record breaker), considering they contributed more than any other team to the total,” said Conley, who also kept track of home runs allowed by Baltimore pitchers this season. They plowed past that MLB record a month ago.
“We were actively rooting for Jackie Bradley Jr. to hit it, but it wasn’t meant to be.”
Frankly, it would have been hilarious (Jones’ negative opinion of the streaky Boston outfielder has been strip-mined to humorous effect). And perfect for the Dong Report, a light-hearted segment that might give the “stick to sports” crowd a conniption.
For those of us still awake at 10:50 p.m. who like our main course of sports with a side of laughter, it hits the spot.
From its beginnings with Keefe and Deering, to Conley holding the fort as the Sports Vulture continues to kill off show personnel, the Dong Report hit its stride in 2019.
Says Deering: “I can’t believe it actually became a thing we could do on radio on a nightly basis.”
Sean Sylver can be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub. You can follow him on Twitter @TheSylverFox.