This morning, tobynotjason's excellent analysis of Frankie L's Sunday performance acidly observed that Bert Blyleven is often "talking just to hear himself," a charge that can probably be made against most baseball announcers. In the comments, cmathewson added this funny take on King Curve:
Bert has a stock of about seven phrases:
“He left a pitch up, and the hitter took advantage of it.”
“He just dropped the barrel of the bat.”
“He’s not working out front and establishing that good downward plane.”
“That would have been an out in Oakland.”
“He’s thrown 100 pitches and he didn’t blow up.”
“…Inner half/outer half…”
“_ till my birthday.”
Dick has about two stock phrases:
“He could be bunting here.”
“Great block by (catcher) ____”
Some games, it seems like those are the only things they say. Otherwise, it’s just giving the count and playing the trivia games.
I could add more to this (that "great block" line gets trotted out even if the catcher totally misses the pitch and the ball hits him square in the nuts), but I thought it'd be worth a separate post to maybe get people commenting on their own favorite/least favorite Bert/Dick-isms, or their take on other teams' analysts or on commentators in general.
Personally, I'd agree that Bert talks to hear himself. But I enjoy hearing him maybe 75% as much as he does. He's like a 13-year-old watching the game with you, and who doesn't enjoy taking a kid to the game? (Dan Gladden is like a permanent 19-year-old, all sarcasm and anti-authority-attitude -- and I enjoy that, too.)
What do different people want from broadcasters? I'll make a confession, here -- I only started following baseball in 2000 when I moved to St. Paul from Oregon. A book I'd read on "how to make friends in your new city" listed a bunch of things I didn't want to try and one I was willing to give a shot: "root for the home team." As an Oregonian I'd never abandon the Blazers, but I had no baseball loyalty, so I was happy to start watching the Twins. Blyleven's comments -- which now seem very repetitive and simplistic to me -- taught me a lot about the game. Just the basics, like how runners are going on a full-count 2-out pitch. What the different pitches were. (I had "slider" and "curve" mixed up for a long time -- a playground slide is vertical, not horizontal. Of course a baseball "slide" into the bag is horizontal.)
Everybody has to learn from the beginning, so Bert's "Baseball For Dummies" approach worked wonders for me. I wouldn't necessarily want him off the air just because I know a little more now. There are people tuning in now who are as newbie as I was ten years ago. (I enjoy watching games with my girlfriend's kids and pointing out obvious things to them, just as I enjoy watching games with experts who point things out to me.)
Also, there's something about the laid-back, non-expert voice of baseball commentators -- especially on radio -- that is almost part of the lure and lore of the game. Imagine lazy summer barbecues. A few years ago I made a camping trip back in Oregon (I love it here, but the scenery is, well, "sedate") and heard Jon Miller calling a Giants game on my weenie battery-powered ancient Walkman radio. Picture it: deep in the high desert mountains, the most sparsely populated region in America, fiddling around with the dial and catching mostly static. Then, by the odd miracle of AM radio's funky bouncing signals, a crystal-clear broadcast from San Francisco, 600-odd miles away. I sat in front of my fire and listened to the whole game. Not that I cared who won or lost. But Miller's sedate voice had the sense of timelessness you want from a camping trip, and maybe what you want from baseball. In the morning, the same spot on the dial had two other stations noisily canceling out each others' signals -- funky AM bouncing again.
So -- maybe I'm a homer, but I like the Twins' broadcasters, both radio and TV. Because what I want isn't expert analysis -- I can get that on the 'puter from places like here -- but a kind of familiarity. Like family members you don't despise. Especially in the dull games -- and part of the charm of baseball is that a lot of it is deadly dull. (Players in a blowout aren't feeling their manhood threatened, they're just goofing around and waiting for tomorrow.) I miss the old Herb Carneal/John Gordon conversations in repetitive middle innings that went like this:
"Herb, who was the last left-handed pinch hitter from Bumblesnatch, Arkansas that bounced into an unassisted double-play on their second major-league at-bat on a Tuesday in a ten-run game against a knuckleball pitcher whose name started with "Q" and had six toes on his plant foot?"
"Well, John, the last one I remember was Spanky McStanky back in 1952 -- . . ."
"No, that was '53."
"Oh, you're right, you're right! Yes, I think he was sent down after the game. You see, he was strictly a fastball hitter, and -- ground ball to Johnson, tries to make the turn at second, but a hard slide severs his spinal column -- McStanky always did have a hard time listening to his coaches when they told him . . ."
You know what I mean. Alas, Internet stats have almost killed that sort of thing. But there are still inspired moments. I was listening to the Twins get killed on Jackie Robinson Day, and Kris Atteberry mentioned two Royals relievers getting up in the bullpen. After a pregnant pause, he added, "you're wondering how I know which pitchers are warming when they're all wearing #42. I don't. I made it up. Sounded good, though, didn't it?" That got Atteberry my vote for next year.
So what do other people want from broadcasters? (I just don't want aggressive blowhards.) Is there a good mix of simplicity and perception out there? (I'd say ESPN's Miller/Morgan team was my favorite.) And what are other people's favorite memories, or favorite broadcasters? (Harry Carey drunk moments are perfectly acceptable.) I'd be interested to read what other people's opinions/stories are, if anyone is interested in posting them . . .