Tuesday, April 18, 2006

My best home run call

For three years in the minors and seven in the majors I did baseball play-by-play. Someday I hope to do it again. The staple of a baseball announcer is his home run call. I thought today I’d share my best home run call ever and then tomorrow my worst.

I was broadcasting for the Syracuse Chiefs, the AAA affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. Our station had a weaker signal than my home Wifi transmitter. At night you couldn’t hear it at the ballpark. When people complained I used to say that this was just the flagship station of the “Worldwide Syracuse Chiefs Radio Network”. I would pause for station identification every half hour and make up all this crap about how popular the Chiefs were in Norway and Bhutan.

We had a third baseman named Norm Tonucci. Sweet kid from Connecticut who was on a year long slump. He came to bat once and I said we had many listeners from Borneo because Norm was a folk hero over there. I then created some story that his father had parachuted behind enemy lines in World War II and single handedly saved the country. I said the currency of Borneo is “Tonuches”, that 90% of male babies and 70% of female babies were named Norm. Every time he came to bat I would reprieve this Borneo connection and night after night he would go 0-3, 0-4, 0-8 (doubleheader).

One night we’re in Oklahoma City and Norm hits a triple. When he came to bat the next time up I talked about how excited the people of Borneo were over the triple. The next pitch he just crushed. And this was my home run call:

“Tonucci swings and there’s a long drive to deep left field. Steve Kemp goes back…to the track…to the wall….NO SCHOOL TOMORROW IN BORNEO!”

16 comments:

Beth Ciotta said...

Great story. Love the 'call'. :)

Cyn said...

You make me want to listen to minor league baseball on the radio. The power of a story!

Anonymous said...

Maybe they were busy watching Survivor...

- Allen

Anonymous said...

So, Ken: how would you call Bonds' breaking Ruth's HR record?

"Using The Cream and The Clear...and that's out of here!"

"Bye-bye, Babe; hello, Hammerin' Hank."

Or: maybe just complete silence?

Paul Duca said...

Ken--the story is funny (as usual), but it can't really be true, can it? Wouldn't the people in charge of the team be bothered by your flights of fancy on their air?

Ken Levine said...

The story is ABSOLUTELY true. The management and players loved it for the attention. Norm even agreed to record little inserts for our broadcast saying "Hi, this is Norm Tonucci saying hello to all my fans in Borneo and along the World Wide Syracuse Chiefs Radio Network". I would play this once a game before he came to bat. Word of all this even reached the parent club, Toronto. They found it amusing. For years whenever I would bump into Gord Ash, then the Blue Jay GM, he would always ask how things were in Borneo.

Another guy to ask is my then-partner, Dan Hoard, now the voice of University of Cincinnati football and basketball as well the Pawtucket Paw Sox.

Stephen Benson said...

great stuff, i was a stalwart of the reno silver sox (A, San Diego) for my years up there. i always adored the "worldwide" attitude of the minor league clubs. plus, i got to see a 19 year old benito santiago.

VP19 said...

Harry Kalas: "This ball's outta here!"

Ernie Harwell: "Long gone!"

Charlie Slowes: "Bang, zoom!"

Ken Levine: "No school tomorrow in Borneo!"

Sort of the equivalent of Jerry's line when he learned George had been hired by the Yankees: "Ruth...DiMaggio...Mantle...Costanza?"

John said...

Borneo's just on the other side of Onondaga Lake from the Chiefs' ballpark, isn't it?

mstarr said...

My favorite post so far! I love hockey.

Phil said...

That post made my day and since I do some work at schools in Brunei, Borneo, I'll be keenly looking for Norm Tonucci fans.

Paul Duca said...

Ken...sounds like those people in Syracuse were good sports in more ways than one.

Anonymous said...

Great story. I happened to be searching for ex-baseball players I knew from eastern Connecticut and came across this. The last I knew, Norman was an American Legion baseball coach, coaching my old friend's son

stephanie diggs said...

Does anyone know where Norm Tonucci is now? I knew him when he played BB for the Florence Blue Jays in Florence, SC in the 80s. He was a GREAT guy. My family adopted the BB players each year so we were close to all of them. He played in Florence their last year here I think. Anyway, I tried to find several of them on Facebook but no luck! email me at sleigh1970@aol.com or find me on facebook Thanks, Stephanie

Anonymous said...

Norm Tonucci coaches Niantic American Legion baseball in East Lyme Connecticut. He is one of the smartest baseball guys around the area and a high school legend. Great guuy

DrBOP said...

Reporting in from North of the Border in Kingston Ontario....just wanted to let you know that you had a HUGE following in the Limestone City....well, me and Lucy the dog thought you were more entertaining than ANYTHING else comin' out of Syracuse....and your post allows me a few "told 'ya so's" with some buds who thought I was making it up all these years.....and, OF COURSE we missed the game when Stormin' Norman popped the big one exactly because of the varying signal strength of the station.....THANKS for the memories!