It’s a good thing Jesus got me first, else baseball would be my religion, and these broadcasters would be my pastors.
In ascending order, the best baseball broadcasters I’ve heard:
- Vin Scully
He’s the old master, the consensus Lord of Baseball Broadcasting, and he deserves it. Ask anyone–and I don’t mean just baseball fans–to close his or her eyes and imagine the sound of a baseball broadcaster, and everyone imagines the voice of Vin Scully, whether he or she knows it or not. Everything Vin says is poetry, school-lesson, sentimental journey, and sermon, all at the same time. The only reason he’s not higher up on my list is that I haven’t seen very many Dodgers games.
- Jon Miller
The dean of ESPN baseball, Miller could make his living on the talk-show circuit if he wanted to. He’s absolutely hilarious on talk shows. He does this impression of Japanese baseball broadcasters doing their best Vin Scully that has me holding my stomach from laughing so hard. I heard him on a national radio talk-show once, and he had the crew laughing so hard you could hear it. He’s great with Joe Morgan, his ESPN broadcasting partner, and he’s even better solo.
- Joe Buck
His father is a broadcasting immortal (in the Hall of Fame), but I honestly remember only a handful of games called by Jack Buck–all of them playoff games or World Series games. Joe is the absolute best of the new-wave, second- and third-generation broadcasters. He’s obviously smarter than anyone else in the stadium, and he manages to be cooler and funnier without alienating his audience. He holds the game at armslength, understanding (and making you understand, too) that it’s just a game, but at the same time believing (and making you believe, too) that baseball’s also something sacred and profound. I love what I do, but if I could trade lives with anyone in the world, I’d choose Joe Buck. Or Julia Stiles, ’cause then I could see myself in my underwear. (stole that joke from yesterday’s Frazz!)
- Skip Carey
The oft-parodied stalwart of the Atlanta Braves’ broadcasts for longer than I can remember, Skip is the son of broadcasting legend Harry Carey and the father of Chip Carey. The entire Braves’ broadcasting team is terrific, but Skip has been the cornerstone and heart of these broadcasts, and he’s terrific. I love it when, in games that are pretty boring because one team is ahead by clearly insurmountable numbers, Carey doesn’t pretend the game’s at all interesting anymore. “Well, it’s better than mowing the lawn,” he’ll say, “so don’t go anywhere!”
- Hank Greenwald
One of the reasons baseball is adrenaline-rush, brain-massage, and lullaby all in one is guys like Hank Greenwald. One of my favorite things to do with a baseball game is just turn it on (on the radio or tv) and take a nap. I did this a lot in college at UH-Hilo, where a local radio station carried the Giants’ games, when Greenwald was the play-by-play guy. The guy could call a game like nobody’s business, could relate a story like your grandpa, and could wax poetic about all the seemingly meaningless things baseball fanatics love to wax poetic about. I wish I had some of those games on tape, just for days when I have time to get in a good forty-minute afternoon snooze.
- Bob Uecker
Baseball fans know better than to fooled by his idiot persona or by those hilarious Lite Beer commercials. It’s true that Uecker batted an even .200 for his career, but he was a catcher, and he caught some of the greatest pitchers the game’s ever seen. There’s a reason you keep a guy out there for all those years even though he’s a lousy hitter; the catcher is the quarterback of the team and usually the smartest guy out there. One of my huge regrets in life is that I don’t live somewhere that broadcasts Brewers games. I’d listen to Uecker broadcast paint drying. Oh, if you don’t know who this guy is, yes you do. He was the guy in Major League who took swigs of whiskey between pitches while broadcasting the games: “Juuuuuuust a bit outside!” In the Lite Beer commercials, he was the “I must be in the FRONT ROW!” guy. He was also on Mr. Belvedere, but you probably don’t remember that.
- Bob Costas
He does a million things, including an HBO show, NBC’s Olympics coverage, and, once upon a time, the original Later show, but everyone knows that what he will eventually do, when he decides to slow down a little, is chuck everything and find a team who’ll take him, and just broadcast Major League Baseball, his first love. Better than anyone else I can think of, Costas understands why I love baseball. His reasons are my reasons. If these guys are the pastors of this religion, Bob Costas is the Pope. Costas and Joe Buck are both from St. Louis and both Cardinals fans (‘though Buck won’t admit it publicly), so it would be just lovely if they’d both settle down there and do games together. I know they’re both play-by-play guys, but that’s okay. The guys in Atlanta take turns doing play-by-play and color commentary, and it works for them.