Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Sounds of Baseball

As a change of pace, I am writing about one of the best parts of baseball: the announcers. Maybe it's because no other game translates as well to words or that the pace of the is perfect for analysis and chatter, but there's something soothing about hearing your favorite broadcasters.

Some of the best announcers shine brighter when the game is dull. My favorite in those situations is Bob Uecker. After 40 years, Uecker has developed into a fine play-by-play man, but early in his career he was strictly there for color. He knew the game, but listeners couldn't wait for his next great line. Whether it was tales of his rookie signing bonus (his Dad couldn't afford to pay the Braves much) or his method of catching a knuckler (wait till it stops rolling and pick it up), Uecker was entertaining, even if the Brewers weren't (which was more often than not).

Harry Caray was another original. He had almost the opposite career of Uecker. By all accounts, he was a fine announcer when he started out with the Cardinals. Sports Illustrated (flip to page 82 of the link) once did a story on him complete with a photo of him wearing only polka-dot boxers while announcing a game on a sweltering St. Louis day. By the time he was with the White Sox, it sounded like his famous carousing was beginning to affect his announcing. He frequently would say players' names backwards (Bill Melton would be Llib Notlem), or he would say things like "This game reminds me of a recipe for chicken salad," leaving the listener to figure out what he meant.

It helped that his broadcast partner, Jimmy Piersall, could be equally obtuse ("Ted Kluszewski must weigh 300 pounds without arms") Piersall was the subject of the movie "Fear Strikes Out."' Later, after a strong first few years with the Cubs, Caray jumped the shark. By the end he was a caricature of himself, even when doing his signature rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

Of the present-day announcers, I like the Mets color team of Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling. They both offer sharp analysis and have a goofy sense of humor that keeps them from sounding like know-it-alls. And Hernandez, of all the announcers I have heard, seems most like someone you'd want to have a beer with. His cultural references include mentions of TV and music of the 1960s and 1970s. He really does seem like the guy on "Seinfeld."

Other announcers I enjoyed were Lou Boudreau and Vince Lloyd with the Cubs, Ernie Harwell of the Tigers and Merle Harmon, who was Uecker's early partner.

Who are your favorite announcers? Let's get a discussion going.


  1. Because of MLB.TV, I get to listen to a lot of announcers and announcing teams. But I haven't really heard enough of them often enough to make a determination. I do like Vin Scully, but he seems a bit disassociated at times.

    I agree that Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling are great. I also love when Paul O'Neill or David Cone join Michael Kay for the Yankee games. Especially when it's both of them. Sadly, I don't believe Coney will be doing any games for the Yankees this year. But Al Leiter is a decent addition.

    I can't, however, listen to Sterling and Waldman on the radio for the Yankee games. They kill me. Ugh.

  2. I also have the MLB package. I always find it interesting to hear others. I agree on Scully. Love the voice but sometimes it's like listening to series of unconnected trivia answers. I neglected to mention Mark Grace who adds personality to the Diamondbacks' broadcasts.

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