Wednesday, April 20, 2022

EP271: Baseball on the radio


Baseball is a sport made for radio. A good announcer can fill the down time with spellbinding stories and humor. Ken salutes the best — past and present and states the case for why radio still is the best way to follow baseball.

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19 comments :

slgc said...

You'll appreciate this - after Monday's rainout, the Mets and Giants played a doubleheader Tuesday on a cold, raw day. When the radio broadcast began, Howie Rose said, "Welcome to Citi Field on a beautiful November day!"

slgc said...

P.S. In Mr. Saturday Night on Broadway, Billy Crystal's character has a bit about appearing on the Ed Sullivan show after the Beatles :)

Paul Beckfield said...

Living in Wisconsin I was a big fan of Bob Uecker. Many years ago there was a rain delay and he was riffing about attending Prince Charles and Lady Di's wedding. Completely deadpan. I was laughing so much I nearly drove off the road.

blinky said...

Possible Friday question for you.
We’ve been looking for some good comedy since it doesn’t seem to exist on network TV anymore and we rediscovered “my name is Earl“. I forgot how funny it was and clever. And actually kind of good hearted and sweet in a way. Deals with a bunch of weirdos and losers but not in a mean way.
But I was wondering what you thought of the premise which essentially gives them freedom to come up with any kind of a situation every week. Earl has a list of all the bad things he did and now he’s going to make good on them. As a writer does this give you unlimited freedom to come up with ideas? Sounds like a great situation for creativity. What would you call a show promise like this?

Tom said...

No coincidence that the decline of baseball's popularity started at the same time TV came along. The radio announcers (even the sleep-inducing Bob Elson, whom I was saddled with in Chicago) could fill in the gaps that became obvious on TV. Thank God for Harry Caray and Jimmy Piersall in the mid-late 70s.

Jeff Boice said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrick said...

Friday Question:

Why are 95% of network TV dramas these days medical or police dramas but there are almost ZERO on any premium cable/streaming service? Is it because those genres are easier to milk 24 episodes a season out of? Could you imagine if House was on HBO Max? That would have been killer.

D. McEwan said...

My senior year in high school I played the lead in our drama department's production of The Importance of Being Earnest.

I walked out on stage one performance and there was my dad, seated front and center in the front row, and there was the rectangular bulge of his transistor radio in his breast pocket, and there was the cord sneaking up his Shirt, and into the earpiece in his ear, over which he was listening to Vin Scully describe a baseball game instead of listening to me, his first-born son, performing Oscar Wilde!

Is it any wonder I hate baseball and hate Vin Scully? I had to compete with Scully for my dad's attention for 18 years, and always lost. (And Dad lost that radio when I got home, took it from him, called him out for listening to Scully instead of me during the play, dropped the radio on the floor and SMASHED IT with my foot right in front of him! He was so ashamed to have been caught - NOT to have done it, but just to have been caught- he didn't even object to my smashing his radio. He never pulled that crap on me again!)

I tried reading Stephen King's THE GIRL WHO LOVED TOM GORDON, but midway through he had two pages of transcribed baseball radio play-by-play. I realized I was reading what I would never listen to on the radio, and stopped reading that book, and never returned to it.

Sorry. I usually just skip your baseball posts and do not comment on them, but "Baseball is a Game Made For Radio" is a real trigger for me.

Jeff Boice said...

Thanks. I liked the audio from the M's game- baseball is the only major sport where the announcers can riff on Ed Sullivan during the action. Which is why baseball on the radio was so memorable.

The Nationals have Charlie Slowes, who has been with the team since they came to DC. From the beginning after a Nats win he would go "and a curly W goes in the books". 15 seasons late, after the last out of the 2019 World Series, he shouted "And a World Series Game 7 Winning Curly W is in the books!" It felt like the culmination of a long journey.

I had a coworker who grew up in the Fifties listening to baseball on all those flamethrower stations. He told me the best broadcasting team he ever heard was Harry Caray-Joe Garagiola on KMOX in the late Fifties. And Bob Prince on KDKA was the wildest.

Cheryl Marks said...

Dave Niehaus is revered in Seattle because he truly cared about the fans unlike some of the owwners, probably the most notorious was the one whose sole intention was to move the team to Tampa Bay. Every once in a while Dave would mention you Ken - fondly, I might add.

I never heard Red Barber call a game, but he had a weekly broadcast on NPR's Morning Edition. He'd share a story or provide his take on what was currently going on in the sport. A treasure to be sure.

Stu R said...

Great podcast. Loved hearing all those names from the past. Agree about Harry Carray. I grew up in Orange County in the 70s so baseball on the radio was it. Both teams televised about 25 games each, usually on the weekend, so I would listen to Vin and Jerry and also Dick Enberg and Don Drysdale. So baseball on radio is my preference. I do agree that Jon Miller and Dave Fleming are good but my favorites are Howie Rose and Wayne Randazzo of the Mets. Howie is old school and and Wayne is new school and they are great together. Also, have you thought about broadcasting baseball again on a limited basis? So many teams broadcasters take breaks it would be great if you would do that.

Unknown said...

I literally grew up listening to baseball on a little transistor radio under my pillow at night.Living 90-minutes from St.Louis, I was and still am an Astros fan, so I had to rely first on WWL out of New Orleans and then WOAI from San Antonio to hear Harry Kalas and Lowell Paas call the action when I could get a clear signal. The signals were more reliable on a car radio. In 1977 I got a job at our local radio station, which was a Cardinal affiliate, so I got paid to babysit baseball broadcasts. Not a bad gig for a baseball fan working his way through college. Even when Houston had no clear channel affiliate, I'd listen to their games with Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Chicago and St. Louis. Once in a while, I could even pull in a Mets game. Although I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to the American League, I remember getting broadcasts from Kansas City, Minnesota, Detroit, Cleveland and Texas.

Brian Phillips said...

Thanks for the baseball episode!

For the lighter side of broadcasting, listen to these three examples from Halsey Hall and Herb Carneal, who worked for the Minnesota Twins. They are interspersed and end at 14:04, although the whole set of bloopers is funny, if that is what you like to listen to. Hall had a a great laugh!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAfu09o4-v4&t=660s

Jahn Ghalt said...




Nice job with this podcast. I'm only familiar with local radio - being too far flung in a fly by state to have have received those "blowtorch radio stations" "back in the day".

Loved the Harry Caray story - what a showman - I only knew him from WGN Cubs broadcasts - and not much of that. It appears that he never formally retired from broadcasting - rather the Reaper took care of that.

I regret not catching more from Dave Niehaus - loved that he used old-school baseball lingo - Texas Leaguer, can-of-corn (one of those falls in for a single).

I wish TV and Radio were synchronized better. Mariners with Rick Rizzs would be a nice alternative. Makes me think - with a little effort could record off the AM - to play back with DVR.

Funny how 'everybody' (those who REMEMBER him) tried to "do" Ed Sullivan. Ken did him, and Rick HAD to follow. Pretty cool "research guy" who figured out who FOLLOWED the Beatles the first time.

(you could do a few more of those radio clips. Ken)

DyHrdMET said...

I grew up listening to baseball (as well as the other major sports) on the radio. It's an art form to describe with great detail and accuracy action as it unfolds, weaving in and out of stories as time and action permits, and having to stay on top of the action (as opposed to having time for rewrites).

What always amazed me is how many former players got into play-by-play in baseball (when compared to other sports), especially on the radio, given that playing, analyzing and describing are different skill sets.

Bronson said...

Hi Ken. Many people don't like to hear the sound of their own voice. Was that a problem for you as you developed your "on air voice?"

JoeyH said...

I miss Jack Buck.

Jim Amato said...

As a former producer on the radio games for the Pittsburgh Pirates I'd like to suggest Greg Brown as one of the best announcers out there. He brings enthusiasm, a vast knowledge of the Buccos, and a deep love for the team and the game of baseball. He also has some of the best home run calls out there.

Speaking of the flagship stations in Pittsburgh, the games are back on KDKA, but with a twist. Night games are on KDKA-FM and all day games are on KDKA-AM, which is the not only the World's First Commercial Radio Station, but the first station ever to broadcast a baseball game in 1921.

Rob Mesite said...

Several weeks late with my comment, but I must put in a plug for Charlie Slowes and Dave J√§egler of the Nats. Both are very good to excellent at play by play, but in a dog of a game (and we’ve had some since winning the WS in ‘19), they are wonderful. They have some great bits (ringing a bell aka the National Spelling Bee after a name is spelled, for example lie) or referring to the “interns”, aka Charlie and Dave, when there’s a factual question about anything germane to the game, they entertain as well as inform. Perhaps they are an acquired taste, but in the DMV, they are ;over.
Before the Nats came to town, I listened to Orioles games with Jon Miller and Joe Angel, who were superb together. I thoroughly enjoyed your year with the team, and you are SO right about Chuck Thompson.class personified.