sport

Going . . . Going . . .

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.

3 Comments

  1. I know you were writing about the “big time” pro baseball broadcasters on national networks, but I gotta throw in my acknowledgement for a noteworthy local effort in the team of Jim Leahy and Pal Eldredge doing University of Hawaii baseball.

    I LOVE those guys! I even have a baseball sitting right here by my computer signed by the two. (It sits right next to a ball Barry Bonds signed back in the middle 80s.)

    I know that they’re not in the same league, but they bring an intimate knowledge of the game that would challenge many; a wit and rapport with each other that allows one to finish the other’s statement, or answer the other’s question before it is asked.

    They have fun with baseball, baseball stories, baseball stats, baseball records. They have fun with the sun setting across Murakami Stadium; fun with the drunken dorm kids sitting on the bluff watching the game; fun with the mynah birds that futilely peck at the astroturf in search of worms; fun with the Manoa mist that bedevils other teams while scarcely warranting notice by Rainbow players; fun with the kids in the stands trying to wrestle a foul ball from the clutches of a (Scroogey) older fan.

    Many fans in the stands bring mini-TVs to the games. They plug in headsets and listen to Jim and Pal play-by-play, only watching the screen when a close play is debated over a replay or two, or three.

    Listening to Pal and Jim call a game is like listening to the great broadcasters of the 60s call a Cincinnatti Reds game via the crystal radio set built from a kit. The TV screen is not necessary to see the game. The game is included in their description of the play.

    The two love the game, and it comes across loud and clear through the TV audio, and I love to hear them talk baseball.

    Amen.

  2. I’m not a fan of Pal the Coach (I’ll tell you about it another time), but yeah. He and Leahey have really gelled well as the years have passed. Leahey’s tendency to overdramatize seems tempered when broadcasting baseball, and the two broadcasters’ voices are very, very comforting when they do baseball together. I think it goes to show you how important a good color-commentator is, because I hate Leahey and Wilson on the basketball games!

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