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Remembering Herb

Today is April Fool's Day, and it's also the first anniversary of an event that I still wish had been an April Fool's joke: the passing of Twins radio announcer Herb Carneal.

Below is what I wrote to mark the occasion last year - and I think it still holds up this time around, as we take another year to remember the great play-by-play man.

Herb has been broadcasting baseball for over a half-century - to give you some idea of his longevity, his first announcing gig was for WIBG in Philadelphia, doing Philadelphia A's games. After three years of doing both that job and Phillies games for WFIL, he moved on to Baltimore, where he teamed with the great Ernie Harwell for five years before coming to Minneapolis in 1962 as the voice of the Twins for WCCO Radio.

It's hard not to over-memorialize a guy like Herb, whose voice has been such a big part of so many people's lives. On summer Saturday afternoons and on crisp autumn evenings and on rainy spring Sundays, Herb's voice came into our homes and told us how our beloved Twins were doing. Even as he got older and started doing only a couple of innings of each home game, it still didn't feel like baseball season until we heard Carneal's voice saying "And a strike... nothing and one. Two outs here in the top of the second, no score... and the pitch..."

I remember a great story about someone else affected by Carneal, as told by Jim Thielman, author of Cool of the Evening: The 1965 Minnesota Twins.

Bob San has [an antecdote about Carneal]. After arriving in the U.S. from China at age 16 he found himself working as a janitor at the University of Minnesota while he put himself through college. San has been known to attend dozens of Twins games a season, but he reached college without ever seeing a baseball game.

Night time janitorial work at the U was boring, but a radio was always on. San’s American buddies listened to baseball. Carneal painted pictures as San mopped floors. One day San decided to catch a bus to Metropolitan Stadium to see what this game was all about.

"It was just like Herb Carneal described it," San recalls. "Herb would talk about the 6-4-3 double play. And there it was. I understood everything perfectly.

"It was a revelation. Like religion.

"Herb Carneal taught me baseball."

That's kind of how we all felt. As San said: Herb Carneal taught us baseball. And baseball - Twins baseball - will be worse without Carneal to tell us about it.

RIP Herb Carneal. 1923-2007.