Thursday, April 5, 2012

Baseball Voices

Baseball is back, and it is a welcome sight...and sound. One reason I look forward to the Boys of Summer are the voices who call the action for the local teams. Since taking over in the middle 90s, Pat Hughes is one of the few broadcasters who Cub fans would sit and listen to read the phone book, and at times that would be more exciting than the play on the field. His signature call to bring fans to the ballpark - "The Chicago Cubs are on the Air" - is spoken with the same excitement and enthusiasm in game 1 as well as 161. And with a fan base for a franchise who has had a good share of fan-friendly announcers, Hughes fits in well with them.

Tonight, while enjoying a free preview of MLB Extra Innings, a package that airs all baseball games and the local broadcasters, I had to decide between a baseball legend of Vin Scully, who broadcasts the Los Angeles Dodgers and broadcasting legend Dick Enberg, the second-year voice of the San Diego Padres. Each have their own style, but Scully's has become unique as he is the broadcast, calling the game solo without hesitation. Enberg has his analyst, and solicits his baseball knowledge. Each have their own following due to their presence on the national stage, but now entertain the local markets on a daily basis.

There are many other announcers that I have listened to over the years. Growing up in Central Iowa I was fortunate to be able to listen to broadcasts of the St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City  Royals and Minnesota Twins. Jack Buck and Mike Shannon were very entertaining working together, but Buck had a very distinctive way to broadcast a game with signiature calls. "Go Crazy," "We'll See You Tomorrow Night," were among the most recent, but Buck was the voice of baseball for the Cardinals. St. Louis fans moved on after his passing, and his partner Mike Shannon, carried on the torch.

Denny Matthews is the long-time voice of the Royals. Perhaps not quite as known on the national stage, Matthews has been with Kansas City since the team was born in 1969. He had a way to say George Brett, U.L. Washington, Steve Balboa, and Willie Wilson like no other. Almost as if they were brought together for a certain purpose. And in 1985 he called a World Series Champion. The Twins had Herb Carneol, and his voice would reverberate throughout the upper Midwest. In Milwaukee is Bob Uecker, and his wit combined with knowledge of baseball has made him very popular among Brewer fans.

I'm fortunate to know one of the voices of the Houston Astros, Brett Dolan, and look forward to his broadcasts when I can have the time on my MLB At Bat app. And there are others that I have enjoyed listening to, but the number of up and coming personalities is becoming fewer.

ESPN decided to go a different route a year ago by replacing a long-time voice of baseball, Jon Miller with Dan Schulman on its Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts. Miller had been with ESPN since it started broadcasting the game nearly 20 years ago. Miller was also the voice of the Giants, and Orioles before that. But Schulman had been doing his share of play by play, but ESPN decided to move him into the national spotlight. Schulman is a broadcaster, but not what I would call a baseball "voice."

Miller was given the opportunity to take the Sunday Night responsibilities on ESPN Radio, but declined. The network gave the job to Jon Sciambi. He had experience with the Atlanta Braves, but better known for his time on ESPN. Again the network decided to promote one of their own.

I don't find what people see in Len Kasper (Chicago Cubs) and some of the other younger broadcasters. Their not baseball voices, but capable broadcasters. Having the MLB At Bat app allows me to listen to the Scully's, Millers and Ueckers, and it is important that I also have that app near my son whenever, so he can appreciate the sound of the game of baseball.

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