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July 23, 2012

Pebble Hunting

30 Teams, 30 Home Run Calls

by Sam Miller

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Every so often you’ll hear some stupid fact about genetic similarities between humans and, like, pigs. Did you know that humans and pigs share 90 percent of DNA, according to unreliable sources on the Internet? See, you just heard a stupid fact about genetic similarities between humans and pigs. It happens every so often, if you hang around me.

Broadcasters are like that. They all share most of the same DNA. They say mostly the same words, and they say them with mostly the same inflection, and they know mostly the same things. It’s those few percent that differ that separate them, and those few percent that differ make a very big difference.

One way that DNA splits is in home run calls. Each broadcaster has his own home run call, and even the ones who don’t have a specific call that they’ve honed over time do tend to have patterns. The home run calls show far, far more variety than groundout-to-second calls, and time-for-a-pitching-change calls, and Aflac-trivia calls.

Okay, then, let’s look at home run calls. What follow are 30 calls, one for each team's TV broadcast team. Attached to each are:

  • Category. There are six categories. They are Shouters, Homers, Downplayers, Catchphrasers, Growlers, and Moderates. Shouters shout. Downplayers stay calm. Homers have calls that are not just excited but unthinkable from anybody but a home-team broadcaster. Catchphrasers say the same thing every time, and it is either unique or said in a unique way. Growlers are notable for adding a little rumble or rev to their voices. Moderates are hard to say much about.  
  • Time to acknowledgment is the time it takes from contact for it to become clear that this is likely going to be a home run. This is extremely subjective. Extremely. It is basically the moment I identified a significant lift in the voice.
  • Volume. Oh, man, more subjectivity.
  • Moment of glory: The words that come out of each announcer's mouth at the home run’s climactic breach of the wall.
  • And notes, where relevant.

Note: I wanted these home runs to have consistent significance, so all home runs came with a two-run margin or less, in the seventh inning or earlier. If I misidentified any of these broadcasters, or picked an unrepresentative call, email or let me know in the comments. I did listen to multiple calls for each, but mistakes slip in. 

Victor Rojas (Angels)
Catchphraser

Time to acknowledgment: 0.9 seconds
Volume: 9
Key phrase: Big fly!
Notes: Rojas loves home runs. He might love home runs more than anybody on this list. He knows home runs are very fun, that they are the reason we’re all here in the first place, and he has fun with them. He calls them Oppo Tacos, which doesn’t make any literal sense or figurative sense but if you just think home runs are fun and we’re all having fun here then it makes its own kind of sense. He also calls them three-run Jimmy Jacks. Those are specific home runs, though. The standard home run is just this: Big Fly!

Glen Kuiper (A’s)
Catchphraser

Time to acknowledgment: 1.2 seconds
Volume: 8
Key phrase: That baby is gone!

Bill Brown (Astros)
Downplayer

Time to acknowledgment: 4.4 seconds
Volume: 7
Key phrase: ...gives it a looong ride.

Buck Martinez (Blue Jays)
Growler

Time to acknowledgment: 2.1 seconds
Volume: 4
Key phrase: Home run. 
Notes: Commenter notes that "Buck Martinez frequently uses 'And you can forget about this one... HOME RUN!'"

Chip Caray (Braves)
Growler

Time to acknowledgment: 4.5 seconds
Volume: 8
Key phrase: Gone!
Notes: Subtle growl on "Pagan." 

Brian Anderson (Brewers)
Moderate

Time to acknowledgment: 3.9 seconds
Volume: 7
Key phrase: There she goes!
Notes: The only announcer to give the baseball a gender. 

Dan McLaughlin (Cardinals)
Shouter

Time to acknowledgment: 3.6
Volume: 8
Key phrase: To the track, to the wall, it’s gone!

Len Kasper (Cubs)
Moderate

Time to acknowledgment: 2.4 seconds
Volume: 6
Key phrase: It’s gone.
Notes: By far the most common phrase is "it's gone" or a variation of "it's gone." Fourteen of our announcers use "it's gone." I believe five say the words "home run" in the main portion of their call. 

Greg Schulte (Diamondbacks)
Downplayer

Time to acknowledgment: 4.6 seconds
Volume: 5
Key phrase: It is gone.

Vin Scully (Dodgers)
Downplayer

Time to acknowledgment: 3.9 seconds
Volume: 3
Key phrase: Home run.
Notes: I believe the reason Vin Scully is so beloved is that he is delighted by baseball but does not believe it actually matters or that he should pretend it actually matters for the sake of theater. He just describes the home run, with some texture to his voice but without knocking over any furniture. 

Duane Kuiper (Giants)
Homer

Time to acknowledgment: 2.8 seconds
Volume: 10
Key phrase: Ooooutta heeere!
Notes: Kuiper isn’t much of a homer the rest of the time. He’s actually laid back, almost laconic, but then a ball gets on one of those promising parabolas and Kuiper comes alive with the most explosive home run call in the sport. The subtext here is obvious, and it goes like this: “When I hit a home run it was a very big deal. When anybody hits a home run, then, it is a very big deal. I hope somebody got it on tape." 

Matt Underwood (Indians)
Shouter

Time to acknowledgment: 0.2 seconds
Volume: 9
Key phrase: Gooooooooooooone
Notes: There are announcers who are afraid of starting a home run call and having it turn out to be a routine fly ball. Matt Underwood is not. Underwood actually has a catch phrase, one that he does not use every time but that he does use some of the time: "Gone to Souvenir City." Really!

Dave Sims (Mariners)
Growler

Time to acknowledgment: 3.5 seconds
Volume: 6
Key phrase: It’s gawn!
Notes: Turns “drive” into a growl. Also “got,” and a little bit to “carry.” And “gone” becomes “gawn.” I love the growlers. 

Rich Waltz (Marlins)
Growler

Time to acknowledgment: 3.1 seconds
Volume: 5
Key phrase: Outta here.
Notes: Growl on “look” and “go.” Love the growlers. 

Gary Cohen (Mets)
Shouter

Time to acknowledgment: 1.2 seconds
Volume: 8
Key phrase: It’s outta here. 
Notes: Cohen transitions from from normal speaking voice to home run banana-going very quickly. It almost sounds like he has been interrupted in the booth by an unstable man with a much higher voice. 

Bob Carpenter (Nationals)
Catchphraser

Time to acknowledgment: 1.1 seconds
Volume: 5
Key phrase: See. You. Later!
Notes: The execution of this one is strong, and he sells it well. It makes me a little uncomfortable by invoking Jack Buck's famous "See you tomorrow night" call. "See ya later" wouldn't make me feel this way, but the punctuation of the catchphrase gives each home run a sense of finality, as though it is a walk-off. This is a very picky criticism of it, though. 

Gary Thorne (Orioles)
Catchphraser

Time to acknowledgment: 0.9 seconds
Volume: 4
Key phrase: Goodbye: home run!

Dick Enberg (Padres)
Catchphraser

Time to acknowledgment: 3.5 seconds
Volume: 6
Key phrase: Alonso will touch ‘em all.

Tom McCarthy (Phillies)
Moderate

Acknowledgment: 4.5 seconds
Volume: 7
Key phrase: Gone!
Notes: The volume on gone nearly pushes him to shouter, or homer. 

Tim Neverett (Pirates)
Downplayer

Time to acknowledgment: 5.0 seconds
Volume: 2
Key phrase: It’s gone. 
Notes: Commenter suggests Neverett is, in other instances, a shouter.

Dave Barnett (Rangers)
Downplayer

Time to acknowledgment: 5.4 seconds
Volume: 3
Key phrase: ...sail out of here.
Notes: Probably no announcer takes longer to say the first word after a home run is struck. This works (in my opinion), because it lets the hum of the crowd grow. To the viewer, then, the home run is not birthed in one split-second, but becomes evident over the course of a few moments, covering various terrains: surprise, then optimism, then anticipation, then reality. Like love! Dave Barnett uses each home run to tell us a tiny story about love and happiness.  Or possibly Barnett just doesn’t want anybody to know a home run was hit. 

DeWayne Staats (Rays)
Moderate

Time to acknowledgment: 5.3 seconds
Volume: 5
Key phrase: Gone. A home run. 

Thom Brennaman (Reds)
Homer

Time to acknowledgment: 4.0 seconds
Volume: 4
Key phrase: And this baby will fly a long way, brother.
Notes: While he is saying this, Chris Welsh is moaning “ohhh baby.” Also, Thom Brennaman does not have a brother.

Don Orsillo (Red Sox)
Downplayer

Time to acknowledgment: 1.3 seconds
Volume: 2
Key phrase: That ball is gone. 

Drew Goodman (Rockies)
Moderate

Time to acknowledgment: 4.7 seconds
Volume: 5
Key phrase: See ya later.
Notes: Goodman varies his call more than anybody I heard. He often says things that sound like they would be catchphrases, but then doesn’t return to them. And he says a lot of exclamatory things that are specific to the situation. “Take a good look, you won’t see it for long,” he hollered during a Wilin Rosario home run. “Home run drought over!” when Carlos Gonzalez went yard. “One by one, long ball by long ball,” when Tyler Colvin hit a solo shot. Home run calls are not, to Goodman, something that can be practiced, but only lived.

Steve Physioc (Royals)
Moderate

Acknowledgment: 1.6 seconds
Volume: 7
Key phrase: That baby’s gone. 

Mario Impemba (Tigers)
Downplayer

Time to acknowledgment: 5.4 seconds
Volume: 3
Key phrase: Gone, a home run. 

Dick Bremer (Twins)
Moderate

Time to acknowledgment: 1.9 seconds
Volume: 6
Key phrase: Up. Back. And gone. 
Notes: Up. Back. And gone is not a catchphrase, but it has a nice meter and a lot of strong consonants. 

Hawk Harrelson (White Sox)
Homer

Time to acknowledgment: 1.2 seconds
Volume: 8
Key phrase: ...ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooard yeeeeeeeeee yes
Notes: Every day, Hawk Harrelson calls his bookie. He bets every dollar he has, the life of one of his six children, and possession of his soul, on the White Sox to win. When you hear Hawk Harrelson screaming at the ball to “stay fair, stay fair” you are hearing the desperate negotiation between a degenerate and his God. 

Michael Kay (Yankees)
Catchphraser

Time to acknowledgment: 6.8 seconds
Volume: 5
Key phrase: Sssssee ya!
Notes: The extra "s" on See Ya turns this into a catch phrase. 

And, as a bonus, we have this terrifically bad home run call: a guy's Twitter name.

Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

35 comments have been left for this article.

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