May 14, 2011
Duane Kuiper Talks Home Run Trots
How does the man who holds the dubious record for longest career with only one home run handle it? For San Francisco Giants play-by-play announcer Duane Kuiper, who hit only one home run in his 3,754 plate appearance-career, it's with grace and good nature.
"I was never a home run hitter. I hit a few in high school, in junior college probably about 6 in two years..."
The second-baseman, who might be said to fit the David Eckstein or Nick Punto mold if he were playing today, kept his spot in the big leagues for 12 seasons (first with the Indians and later with the Giants) thanks, almost exclusively, to his glove. Shortly after being called up in 1975, Kuiper had his own "Willie Mays Hayes moment". Cleveland player-manager Frank Robinson - he of the 586 career home runs - called Kuiper into his office. "I got called into the manager's office by Frank Robinson and he said 'If you hit the ball in the air, you're not going to play.' And playing was probably more important than anything else. So I didn't hit the ball in he air, or I didn't try to. Consequently, it kind of affected the power that I didn't have."
The lone home run came for Kuiper in late August 1977, off of White Sox pitcher Steve Stone. He had gone more than 1500 plate appearances without a home run up to that point, but you would never know it from the home run itself - a line drive to right that would've been gone in any ballpark in the league - or from his trot.
For Tater Trot Tracker aficionados, the trot took Kuiper exacty 19.1 seconds to complete. ("I knew that it wasn't going to be a real slow trot. And I did want it to be a trot where I acted like I'd done it before.") The trot wasn't all business. Eventually, the excitement of the moment took him over. "It looked like a slow pitch softball home run, where everybody came out. The closer I got to [third base coach Joe Nossek] and the closer I got to my teammates ... the more excited I got."
Kuiper began broadcasting shortly after his retirement, and has been working for the Giants for the last 25 years. For someone who was only able to create one special moment for himself by way of the long ball, he's been a part of many, many more as a broadcaster.
"It's just much more fun being able to call the play as its actually happening … I got to call almost all of Bonds' home runs in a Giants uniform and every one of them was fun to call." There is no doubt that Kuiper appreciates the position he enjoys today. "A lot of people say the triple is the most exciting play in baseball. but, for a broadcaster, nothing beats a home run."
As a man who only got to run out one, but has seen thousands, who does Kuiper think had the best home run trot? "Best home run trot that I've ever seen was Matt Williams. … It was fairly quick, it was professional, it was matter of fact, and it had 'I have done this many times' written all over it... I thought he did it right."
Take it from a man who knows how to appreciate a good trot. If you want to show the world what a home run trot should look like, you can't go wrong watching old video of Matt Williams and taking a lesson from him. Kuiper, meanwhile, will be more than happy to be making the call from the booth.