July 2, 2010
Top 10 Week
MLB Radio Broadcasters
Scott McCauley has been broadcasting minor-league games since 2000 and is currently with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians of the International League after previous stints with low-A South Bend and Double-A Akron.
For me, nothing passes the time like turning my radio dial to a baseball game. A ballgame can blend into the background while you go about your daily routine or weekend chores. A baseball game will melt away the miles on a road trip or a 30-minute drive across town. The miles on my car have added up over the years, and I've always done my best to find a game. To me, it didn’t matter if it was the Dayton Dragons or the Chicago Cubs; just give me a game and I will be content. Nowadays I just dial up my MLB app and plug the phone into my car radio and I will find myself in Southern California or Fenway Park. With every team at my disposal, the question is which broadcasters do I enjoy the most?
I reached out to several colleagues and asked for their favorite major-league announcers. I found a majority of minor-league announcers do not listen to others due to the fear of losing their own style. It is a valid point, but I have been listening to games since I was a kid and I am not about to stop now. So who are the best in the business? What makes them the best of the best? Ultimately the choice is up the fans. Late Hall of Famer Ernie Harwell said that after four or five years the fans are likely to accept you whether you are good or bad. You are their announcer and the voice of their team. Here are my favorites:
11. (Homer Pick) Scott Franzke, Philadelphia Phillies
Scott and I worked together in the Midwest League in 2000 and 2001. He was with the Kane County Cougars and I was the voice of the South Bend Silverhawks. Nine years later he has a World Series ring and I just had a direct phone line hooked up at my cubicle. He went from the buses of A-ball to the Texas Rangers and then the Phillies. Franzke made a few breaks along the way, and his enthusiasm and style will keep him in the City of Brotherly Love for a while.
10. Tom Hamilton, Cleveland Indians
You should know that as a kid I laid in my bed at night listening to Joe Tait and Herb Score. I grew up an Indians fan, and I can’t get enough of Tom’s “A swing and a drive… a-waaaay back…gone.” Even an Indians home run when they are down by five runs can sound like a game changer from Hamilton. A quality I like about him is he tells you like it is when things are going great and, more importantly, when they are going bad. I believe it is important for a broadcaster to let you know when a player is struggling and not sugarcoat a slump. It happens to every player and adds to the game when you hear Tom say, “Boy, he needed that hit” because Jhonny Peralta was three for his last 36.
9. Joe Castiglione, Boston Red Sox
I know ESPN’s Dave O’Brien is in the booth, but I’ll take Castiglione’s voice any day of the week. What is unique about Joe is he’s been in the booth since 1983 and didn’t get the lead announcer title for several years. My guess is unless you live in Boston, he is an acquired taste. I like the style and distinct sound. Plus, he constantly refers to David Ortiz as “Big Papi.”
8. Howie Rose, New York Mets
On Wednesday night I was driving back from Columbus to Indianapolis and tuned into the final innings of the Mets' one-run win over the Marlins. Howie was solid as an analyst questioning bullpen moves and even went into the Marlins' radio booth between innings to get an answer of why they thought Jorge Cantu did not pinch-hit late. How great is that? He simply got up, walked to the next booth and tried to find information for the Mets' fans. Mets fans and New York baseball fans are lucky to at least have one solid guy in the radio booth. Some of the best advice I ever received was from Howie’s partner, Wayne Hagin. Prior to my first year as announcer, I traveled to Tucson to watch the Arizona Diamondbacks in spring training and get to know their minor-league guys. One night, the D'backs were playing the Rockies and I was allowed into the Colorado booth. I stood by behind Wayne and Jeff Kingery, watching the way they handled a broadcast. We would talk in between innings and I asked the ultra in-depth question of what is the one bit of advice you can give me on being a broadcaster. Binoculars. What? Binoculars are the No. 1 thing you will need in a booth and he gives me a wink. The first thing I did when I got back to South Bend was drop $125 of the baseball team’s money on a serious pair of binoculars. You know what? Wayne was right. I still have the same pair and use them all the time. Every once in a while I’ll actually use them to see who is warming up in the bullpen.
7. John Rooney, St. Louis Cardinals
Too high? Six years ago he would not have made this list because he was working for the Chicago White Sox Homer Radio Network. I have always liked his style and the stats that he uses. Just the other afternoon I was listening and he did not give batting average, but listed home runs and runs batted in. I like John now that his is out of Chicago (told you I grew up an Indians' fan), and I really enjoy listening to him call Cardinals games. It’s much easier for me to hear “it’s a goner” after a Pujols home run rather than a Big Hurt blast off of Chad Ogea.
6. Pat Hughes, Chicago Cubs
The job he does with his partner, Ron Santo, makes for great radio. Santo is the cheerleader and Hughes is the straight man in the nine-inning drama that is Cubs baseball. Hughes is excellent with description, and I will tune into a Cubs call as often as I can.
5. Bob Uecker, Milwaukee Brewers
Get well soon Ueck; baseball fans across the world are missing your calls. Simply put, he's one of the best and most entertaining announcers in the business. What more can you say?
4. Jon Miller, San Francisco Giants
I like his style and way he sounds on the radio. You really get his personality during a radio call more than you do on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. He nails all of the big moments and does a tremendous job of building up to the moment. Let’s be honest, all of the top five are legends of the booth.
3. Dave Niehaus, Seattle Mariners
“Get out the rye bread and mustard, Grandma, it’s grand salami time!” Awesome.
2. Marty Brennaman, Cincinnati Reds
Brennaman is so much fun to listen to, and at times he can make you a little uncomfortable. If a player dogs it to first base, you better believe that Marty will air him out. He pulls no punches, and he will even get a dig in from time to time when talking with Hall of Fame writer Hal McCoy. (On a side note, I notice the established broadcasters are quick to criticize or challenge a decision during the game. They don’t make them like they used to. More than a few newcomers call it straight down the middle. Can’t blame them for that; it’s the job of a lifetime and you do what you can to keep it. I hope the fans don’t suffer from that thinking.) Reds fans love Marty for his honesty, and I’m lucky I live in a place where I can to have 700 WLW on my radio preset.
1. Vin Scully, Los Angeles Dodgers
Still the best, even today.