Saturday, October 07, 2006

Ho-leeee cowww!

Thank you, Tigers. No more Yankees. No more Spike Lee in the crowd. No more Donald Trump in his luxury box. No more John Sterling "theeeee Yankeees winnnn!" Unfortunately, I think no more Joe Torre. But he'll probably be happier than T-bag escaping from prison.

I'd hate to be the program director of the YES Network for the next five months. And I'd sure hate to be A-Rod.

Maybe now the Mets can get front page coverage.

******

On Friday night’s AL division playoff game, Jon Miller had longtime Tiger broadcaster, Ernie Harwell come on to do a few innings. It was great to hear his crackling voice and at 88 Ernie was still as sharp as ever. Certainly sharper than analyst, Joe Morgan. But it brought to mind the days when each team had a distinctive announcer. And no one was more distinctive than the Scooter, Phil Rizzuto.

A former player, Rizzuto never really made the transition to broadcaster. And that was his charm. If there was a player’s name he couldn’t pronounce he’d just call him “Huckleberry”. He could never remember my name during the years I was a colleague so he always just called me “Mash”. When scoring a game he would often write WW following a player’s at bat. That meant “wasn’t watching”.

There are many great Phil Rizzuto stories. You probably have some. Here are my two favorites.

The Yankees were playing at Tiger Stadium one night. It was easy to hit home runs down the left field line. It was just a 340 foot chip shot. On the left field wall was a digital clock. A Yankee hit a home run and Rizzuto almost came out of his seat, saying on the air, “Holy cow, what a poke! He had that over the 808 sign!”

And then there was the day where his post game show was interrupted with the bulletin that Pope John Paul I had died after only a month of service. When he got back on the air, the first thing Rizzuto said was, “Wow. News like that could dampen even a Yankee win.”

C’mon, seriously, wouldn’t you rather hear the Scooter than Tim McCarver?

16 comments:

Dave said...

Personally, I'd rather hear screeching metal for three hours than Tim McCarver.

Mike in Seattle said...

This is Phil Rizzuto for the Money Store....

I grew up with Ernie Harwell. Al Kaline was my hero. I tried to copy Dick McAuliffe's weird batting stance and swing, 'cept I was a right handed batter.

During the '68 World Series when there was such a thing as weekday day games we would crowd around the radio as much as the teacher would let us. I think the principal even played it over the PA at lunch.

When I was a little kid I got a transistor radio for a present and I would hide under the covers and listen to Ernie and the Tigers late at night. It was so novel and romantic to hear a game just getting started from the west coast when I was supposed to be fast asleep.

And he was a friendly male presence in my life when I was hiding from the old man trying to avoid the next beating.

People like Ernie, Vin Scully, Harry Caray, Phil, Dave Neihaus, they can make a difference in people's lives.

Bill said...

I'd like to hear a few voices from my childhood again: Big Al Helfer, Dizzy Dean, Peewee Reese, and the Old Scotchman, Gordon McClendon.

zazupitts said...

It takes courage to allow a rough-edged personality take the mike, but the rewards could be great.

When Pee Wee and Diz called a game, they gave the game flavor I could almost taste.

Favorite Pee Wee story he told that I remember: Pee Wee took a throw from the pitcher and thought he nipped a runner after he took a too-long lead off third. The runner dived back late. The newly-minted ump waved his hands indicating 'safe,' but said 'out,' and then told the runner to say on the bag. Pee Wee said, "Are you nuts?! He's out by a mile." The ump shrugged and said, "Yea. You know it, I know it and the runner knows it; but 20,000 people in the stands think he's safe, so he stays."

VP19 said...

Phil Rizzuto wasn't a great play-by-play man by any means, but he was everybody's slightly daffy uncle on the air, and that was his charm. Compare that to John Sterling's Ted Baxter-like pomposity.

A Rizzuto story: In 1982, I was staffing a Yankees series in Boston the day Satchel Paige died, and knowing Phil had faced him, I asked him for some stories about Satch. He said he recalled facing Paige in the thirties, when Phil played for the fabled Bushwicks semipro team that regularly faced Negro Leaguers. By the time Satch played for the St. Louis Browns in the early fifties, Phil said he occasionally bunted against Satch because he knew he couldn't field anymore, although part of him hated to do it.

But distinctive voices like Rizzuto, Ernie Harwell, Harry Kalas, Harry Caray (who, along with Dick Allen, probably saved the White Sox from moving to Seattle in the early seventies) and others are what gives baseball such a presence on the air. It's sad to see that generation being replaced by Sterling-like shills and bland automatons.

I am not Star Jones said...

I am reveling in the Yankees collapse. It is such a nice wake up call to the most arrogant people on Earth -- Yankee Fans.

Mike Barer said...

I am Pissed! So many great Managers in the pool and my Mariners are keep Mike Hargrove!

ChrisO said...

I'm sorry, but puting Rizzuto in the same class as Harwell and Kalas is just wrong. I used to hear him do games when I would visit my in-laws, and I couldn't believe a franchise like the Yankees would tolerate that kind of anouncing. I'm all for charm and quirkiness, but he was just incompetent.

I remember when Tiant had gone to the Yankees and was doing ads for Yankee Franks, where he would take a bite and say "It's great to be with a weiner." (It's funnier if you've ever heard Tiant talk.) When they came back from commercial, Rizzuto says "Yep, Luis's really got those Latins buying those franks."

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot. I had a milk through the nose moment with that 808 sign comment!

Mike Barer said...

Bob Prince was a great announcer for Pittsburgh. I remember listening to Russ Hodges for the Giants.
In Seattle there was also Leo Lassen who was the announcer for the old PCL Seattle Rainiers. Although I never heard him, his legend lives on here.

VP19 said...

To chriso: I certainly wasn't saying Rizzuto was as good an announcer as Harwell or Kalas, only that he shared their distinctiveness.

Gary said...

At this very moment, George Steinbrenner is digging up Billy Martin...

Seattle Baseball Fan said...

Never got to hear Rizzuto, unfortunately, but enjoyed Mel Allen when some Yankees games were on LA Radio as a kid.

And yes - it was great to hear Ernie Harwell. Go Tigers. Take down the A's and go all the way. When Ernie retired, The Seattle Mariners' Rick Rizz went briefly to Detroit. Tough shoes to fill and, unfortunately for us, he came back to Seattle - where he can't even fill his OWN shoes. Maybe a nice guy, but a lackluster broadcaster obsessed with his "home run call."

Other greats - ALL time - Vin Scully. I'd rather listen to him than Charlie Steiner. I'd rather listen to Ross Porter than Charlie Steiner.

Yes - Joe Morgan is slipping a little bit, but I still think he has his moments and is a class guy.

It would be OK if I NEVER again heard Tim McCarver, or Bob (gee if only I really WAS funny) Costas.

JET said...

We cut off the tv and just listened to Ernie call the game last Friday. His voice reminded me of everything I loved growing up listening to baseball. I wish major league baseball would find more of us true fans of baseball to become announcers because when you truly love the game it shows.
Btw, I loved "MASH" growing up.

NY Expat said...

No Ralph Kiner?

Seriously, though, I always remember Rizutto saying "deuces wild" whenever it was a 2-2 count with 2 outs, followed by saying to Bill White "Boy, I'd sure like to be playing poker right now, huh, Bill?"

I almost had a chance once to ask Bill White if he ever wanted to choke Rizutto, just once.

Then there was the "Holy Cow!" on a Mattingly blast that was caught by the second baseman, just beyond the infield dirt.

God bless him.

flem snopes said...

Holy Cow!

15 comments about baseball announcers and no one mentions Red Barber?

Harwell, Allen, Caray, Dean... my youth!