August 6, 2014
The Lineup Card
8 of Our Favorite Broadcasters (Non-Vin Scully Edition)
1. Herb Score
I didn't think of it in those terms back then, but now I realize that when my mind goes into the Herb Score audio vault, it's not to some classic call of his, but to the gentle cadence that built to a frenzy any time that Brook Jacoby fielded a ground ball and then came back down and chuckled when Manny Ramirez did something silly. Maybe Score wasn't the only broadcaster in history who made the game of baseball seem magical, but you know what? He was the one who made it seem magical to 8-year-old me, and for that I am a grateful man. Herb's final call was the last at-bat of the 1997 World Series, the one where Edgar Renteria singled in Craig Counsell and broke the collective heart of Cleveland. I'm not sure what was the bigger loss that day, the Indians losing in the World Series or the fact that Herb turned off his microphone after that. He passed away in 2008, so I have to hope that heaven is up to date on its BP subscription so that Herb might know what he meant to me. —Russell A. Carleton
2. Dewayne Staats
3. Duane Kuiper
If broadcasters were evaluated by tools, Kuiper's voice and humor would rank between 75-80 on my scale. Most couldn't pick Kuiper's voice out of an audible lineup the way Vin Scully's would immediately jump out, but the effortlessness with which the former second baseman raises it in big moments sets him apart. Meanwhile, his humor—which often comes out when the camera/production crew notices overzealous or otherwise funny fans in the crowd, and is aided by Krukow's jokes—keeps any game, even one in which the Giants are losing by 12 runs, entertaining.
Scully's ability to fly solo, to both eloquently describe a game and flower it with stories and observations, puts him in a league of his own. But when it comes to two-man teams, Kruk and Kuip are the class of the league. As the play-by-play man, Kuiper does an outstanding job of both leaving his calls of memorable moments—from Matt Cain's perfect game to Madison Bumgarner's second grand slam of 2014—inextricably linked from the events themselves, and of giving his partner room to flavor the telecast in ways that give it broader appeal. Outside of Scully, there's no one I'd rather listen to while watching a game today. —Daniel Rathman
4. Dave Flemming
This isn't why I love Dave Flemming as an announcer, but it includes a lot of what I love about Dave Flemming as an announcer. Flemming joined the crew--along with Miller, he works with the usual television guys, Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow--in 2004. Those other three are all big personalities; Miller is a broadcasting icon and Krukow and Kuiper carry on like the two best friends who show up to summer camp together and instantly have a leg up on everybody else. Flemming was just 28, and looked two-thirds of that. At first you might have thought he was a bit shy among them, but from the start--and as he got more comfortable--he never tried to force his way up to their theatrics. He found a spot as the straight man, the calm voice of bemusement in the middle of their three routines. He would tell his own jokes (and they were funny; he's as witty the other three), but they were slipped in furtively, like a $20 that your mom might slip into your coat pocket before you leave for prom. For that, the payoff was always better, the moment two pitches later (or a month later) when you realize you'd been had.
Of course, that's not enough to carry a broadcast. You need to be able to see the game, and at this Flemming excels, too. He speaks clearly, charts player movement with efficient, specific descriptions, uses a wide range of data (particularly to assess defense), and takes the time to explain some of the advanced metrics to Miller (who, I'm sure, doesn't need the explanation, but stands in for the listening masses). He doesn't put on a saccharine or bombastic or folksy radio voice; he just speaks. Sometimes people ask me my favorite sports podcast, and I realized recently that it's the three-hour podcast Flemming and Miller do every day while watching the Giants play.
He's still young. You watch a game, and it occurs to you that every element of that game will be gone before you're done with this sport: The players will retire, the managers will grow old and fade away, the parks will be torn down and rebuilt, the commercials for cell phones will be replaced by commercials for Brawndo. But Flemming might very well be there for 40 more years. It's incredibly reassuring. —Sam Miller
5. Mike Krukow
He also earns bonus points for having a devastating sinker/splitter on the original RBI Baseball video game, a pitch that still gives me the occasional nightmare. —Doug Thorburn
6. Jon Miller
Years later, Miller’s contract wasn’t renewed by then-new owner Peter Angelos. Angelos spat out some bunk about Miller not supporting the team enough, not being a big enough cheerleader, but Miller was never about that. He was about the game and reporting the game and telling stories that even as a kid I remember being charmed by. And his voice, well his voice is a classic deep radio voice that rises as the tension of the game dictates, but more than that, his voice is the voice of my childhood. He’ll always be the one I listened to walking home from school on Opening Day in April of pick your year. He’ll always be the one on in the background of weekend day games while my friends and I held our own baseball card conventions on the living room floor. He’ll always be the one voice cascading through the concourse at old Memorial Stadium, or heck, wafting out of houses as I walked through the neighborhoods of North Baltimore on the way to the game. No offense to Mr. Scully, but there’s outstanding announcers who make you love and appreciate the game even more than you thought you could, and then there’s the voice that makes you 10 years old again. Jon Miller. He’ll always be the one. —Matthew Kory
7. Neil Solondz
Solondz is now with the Rays, I believe as their postgame ringmaster. Broadcasters are angling for callups, too, and he earned one. Solondz worked extremely hard, even for a minor-league broadcaster. Not only did he make all those grueling overnight bus trips to Toledo, Scranton, and all those other International League towns; not only did he call all the road games solo, with no color guy to fill pauses; he also did the Bulls' daily game notes as the team's de facto PR man. In the untelevised minors, we bond with our teams through the voices of their radio broadcasters. Solondz is gone, but I still hear him when I watch the Bulls play. —Adam Sobsey
8. Pat Hughes
He’s not a legend quite yet for reasons that escape me. Perhaps the radio game is from a bygone era and his contributions to baseball broadcasting on the whole are blurred by how old-timey radio baseball broadcasts feel. Even so, there’s a large segment of fans who identify Pat Hughes as the voice of baseball. With his ability and deep understanding of broadcasting, Hughes has become a beloved figure worthy of praise and admiration. —Mauricio Rubio