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The Voices of Major League Baseball – Part 1

America’s favorite pastime has returned, and with it comes hope for ratings and revenue increases for radio stations across the nation. With thirty brands dedicating countless hours of programming one-hundred and sixty two times per season and beyond should the local team advance to the post-season, baseball is an important part of every local rights holder’s business strategy.

In this day and age where people are constantly on the go, and everything moves at the speed of sound, baseball on the radio remains a connection to simpler times. It’s a soothing comfortable listen which allows us to relax, unwind, and escape the chaos of our daily lives, and embrace the inner kid in all of us. Unlike television, baseball’s radio announcers are expected to be descriptive, passionate, and masterful storytellers, capable of mentally moving the audience from their office, car, couch or front yard to the inside of a stadium. Listeners depend on the voice of each broadcaster to help them visualize the last pitch, hear the crack of the bat, smell the hot dogs, taste the beer, and feel the energy of thousands of fans who share the same unwavering enthusiasm for the hometown team.

While the game on the field requires exceptional skill, so too does broadcasting it. Whether it’s the preparation, travel, relationship building and ability to capture big moments or the simpler task of being a calming voice during a time of uncertainty or frustration, fans treat the baseball broadcaster on the radio as a companion or close member of the family. Each moment and experience becomes part of a listener’s life, and many of those stories get passed on from generation to generation. It’s why the game of baseball continues to carry extra special meaning to those who consume it on the radio.

Since we don’t get an opportunity often to enjoy the work of out of market broadcast crews, and it’s difficult to form a bond with a city you have no personal history with, I thought I’d call upon a different sports media member from all 30 cities to explain what makes their local radio broadcast teams unique, special, and an important part of their communities and radio station’s success. These media folks hear these broadcasters on a daily or nightly basis and have as strong of a read on their local broadcasters as anyone around.

Radio has some incredible storytellers selling the game of baseball and all that is associated with it on its airwaves, and as the next six months become a larger focus for our brands, it felt like the perfect time to pay tribute to the men and women we depend on to further the connection with our audiences and help our stations ascend to greater heights. With that in mind, let me introduce you to the voices of Major League Baseball. This is Part 1 of a three part series.

Arizona DiamondbacksGreg Schulte and Tom Candiotti – as told by Mike Ferrin:

The voice of baseball in The Valley is  “The Gubnuh” Greg Schulte. He’s been with the Dbacks since day one (this is his 20th Opening Day) and before that he spent 15+ years doing ASU baseball, which means that any big moment in “Valley Baseball” since Barry Bonds was a Sun Devil, Greg has had a hand in sharing.

What makes Greg great is that he has terrific energy. He knows how to let the game breathe without it getting stagnant. Even in a 69 win season a year ago, you couldn’t tell the year was bad by listening to him on the radio. That’s a most spectacular trait in an announcer. There are no down days for him on the air, and as a listener I really appreciate that. He has a keen sense of not just Dbacks history but baseball history and how it relates to today. And, most importantly, he’s at his best in the biggest moments. He’s been on the call for nearly every one of them in franchise history.

Working alongside Greg is Dbacks analyst Tom Candiotti. In my mind, he’s an elite level baseball analyst. As someone who works with a lot of former players in his “other job” with SiriusXM, I love guys who prepare, and Tom is a prep monster. He breaks down each starter from data (Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball), talks to coaches, and as a result of spending time in the Cleveland front office, he’s a wealth of information, ideas, and opinions and understands how to evaluate players. He’s also very good at explaining things in simple terms for the audience to understand.

Additionally, Tom is current. He understands how the game has evolved, and has high school aged sons who are outstanding baseball players so he can relate to what’s important to a younger audience. And, he loves to joke around. He is a great practical joker and storyteller, and knows how to balance breaking down the game and keeping it fun and entertaining.

It’s an outstanding combination that lets the audience laugh and learn at the same time.

Atlanta BravesJim Powell and Don Sutton – as told by John Kincade.

The south is still known as “Braves Country”. They not only have the largest franchise footprint in baseball but the largest affiliate radio network in pro sports. Jim Powell and Don Sutton bring the action to Braves fans all over the Southeast in what honestly seems like a conversation as opposed to play by play.

Powell is an Atlanta native that came to the Braves from the Brewers. From the moment he arrived his passion for the Braves and their history was apparent. It makes conversations of the Braves glory days and his childhood seamless for the listener. Don Sutton is familiar to Americans from the old TBS TV Broadcasts. His ability to tell a story of historical significance or his sharing of baseball knowledge within the play by play experience is unmatched.

The Braves broadcasts are also bolstered by fan favorite from the 90’s Mark Lemke and their pre and post-game host on The Fan Ben Ingram. Our local shows lean on their expertise as the flagship, and the Braves are great at granting us access to their facility and talents!

Baltimore OriolesJoe Angel and Jim Hunter – as told by Terry Ford.

What makes Orioles play by play man Joe Angel unique among local Major League Baseball announcers, besides the fact that he played high school football with O. J. Simpson, is that he brings humor to the broadcast in a lighthearted manner. In an era where some play-by-play guys are hesitant or unwilling to say anything that could paint the home team in a negative light, Joe calls it like he sees it. Fans can tell that Joe is the hometown announcer for Orioles baseball but he is very objective with his game call. He’s known for his signature calls such as “Hasta La Vista Baby” when the O’s hit a home run. If the Orioles win, he’ll yell, “And the Orioles are in the Win Column!”. If they lose, he follows it up with “And the Orioles are in the loss column”. He’s also known after a victory or loss to give out “The Lovely Totals” or “The Not So Lovely Totals”.

Working on Orioles broadcasts with Joe is Jim Hunter. The best way to describe Jim is he’s the ultimate pro. Hunter called the CBS Radio Game of the Week for 14 years, and has been part of the Birds broadcast team for 19 years. Besides announcing on the radio, Jim has also done play by play and studio work on television for the Orioles regional network, The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. He isn’t as colorful as Joe, but he’s excellent at presenting keen insight and painting the picture of the game for the listener. He’s a straightforward broadcaster who plays perfectly off of Joe.

In a nutshell, Joe and Jim are a formidable team with a passion for the home team, a mixture of style and substance, and a professionalism that makes them easy to follow and respect. If baseball fans have an interest in hearing what makes the Orioles broadcast a fun listen, I invite them to take a listen on 105.7 The Fan.

Boston Red SoxJoe Castiglione and Tim Neverett – as told by Patrick O’Day.

Boston Red Sox baseball on the radio is like the soundtrack of summer in the New England region. The broadcast is led by Joe Castiglione who is entering his 35th season of calling Red Sox games on the radio, and was a first-ballot inductee into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2014.

Listening to Joe is like sitting down with your uncle or grandfather who always has a good story to tell. Fans gravitate towards him because he’s been a fixture on Red Sox broadcasts for such a long time that he’s viewed as part broadcaster and part team historian. He can instantly recall minute details from a mid-season game from years ago and add a story to go along with it. Joe has an ability to share interesting factoids about anyone in either dugout, and when you listen to him, you’ll always learn something new.

Joe’s partner is Tim Neverett, and his specialty is being able to break down and explain situational baseball. Tim describes the field and what is happening and talks about it in such a way that fans and listeners can envision the situation and learn about why teams do the things the way they do. From employing shifts to catcher positioning and pitch-framing, there’s not a game situation that could pop up that Tim wouldn’t be prepared for and able to analyze and relate to the audience.

Together, Joe and Tim each bring a unique voice and style to the broadcast. I think fans enjoy the sense of realness and sincerity that comes through on the air, and having two guys who are as plugged into an organization as Joe and Tim are, is a big part of WEEI’s success. The mix of familiarity when you hear Red Sox baseball on the radio, coupled with informative announcers, turns listeners from casual baseball fans into avid listeners.

Chicago CubsPat Hughes and Ron Coomer – as told by Mitch Rosen.

Baseball on the radio is like a great friendship, or a terrific book you cannot put down. The intimacy of the game on the radio is like no other sport or relationship listeners have with the medium. With most of the season taking place during the summertime months, I truly believe baseball on the radio brings the listener back to his or her youth and memories of going to games or listening to games.

What makes a Cubs game special is that play by play announcer Pat Hughes truly paints a picture to people listening on traditional radio’s, car radio’s, or mobile/digital devices. One can close their eyes and truly imagine themselves at Wrigley Field or other stadiums when the Cubs are on the road. To personally witness a World Series broadcast (2 feet from Pat and Ron) last year on the radio was a career highlight. I saw the emotion on Pat’s face, and the tears pouring out of our Cubs analyst Ron Coomer’s eyes and it’s a sight I will never forget, nor will the close to 1 million people who were listening. I really believe that Pat’s call when he said and I’m paraphrasing, “you will remember where you were when you heard The Cubs have won The World Series” says it all.

Baseball on the radio and consumers become friends thru good and bad times, meaning winning or losing seasons. There is nothing like it. The hometown call has a special importance to fans of a local team, and we’re lucky to have Pat and Ron capturing every moment of the defending world champion Chicago Cubs.

Chicago White SoxEd Farmer and Darrin Jackson – as told by Dave Zaslowsky.

The White Sox broadcast features Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson, two former Sox players who have become as much a part of the lives of White Sox radio listeners as deep dish pizza, The John Hancock Building and 16 inch softball! This is Farmer’s 25th season behind the mic, and his 8th with Jackson who has been a member of the Chicago White Sox Radio Network for 17 years.

Sox games are heard on flagship station WLS AM-890, and what resonates with me most is the passion and comfort Sox fans feel for the broadcast. The core of Sox radio listeners are blue collar and Ed and DJ fit right in when telling stories from when they played for the team. They also have a unique ability to make everyone feel like family. In today’s radio world, a lot of broadcasters don’t stay too long in one spot, but that’s not the case with Ed and DJ.

Ed grew up on the south side of Chicago and often tells the story of how his mom took him to old Comiskey Park when he was a child and how he couldn’t believe “They played baseball in this building”. He promised that he’d one day play for the White Sox, and everyone who has listened to more than one Sox game on the radio knows that story.

DJ brings a wealth of baseball knowledge to the booth and a direct tie to some of the most beloved former Sox players having been teammates with Frank Thomas, Tim Raines, Jack McDowell, Paul Konerko and Ozzie Guillen. Every play on the field, every question from Ed, and even the foul balls that make their way into the booth are handled the way Sox fans expect – with excellence.

The White Sox are currently rebuilding and relying on younger players to mature and develop to help them enjoy brighter days. Whether they win or lose though, fans will get to know this team as if they were being introduced to new family members, by old family members, and that’s what makes Ed and DJ an incredible listen!

Cincinnati RedsMarty Brennaman and Jeff Brantley – as told by Mo Egger.

Few things are as unique to broadcasting in Cincinnati as a Reds game on the radio. This is a city with great baseball and broadcasting heritage, and listeners here demand that if the team isn’t very good, the broadcast better be. Which, for the last 43 years, it has been.

The voice of the Reds since 1974 has been Marty Brennaman, a Ford Frick Award winner. I’d argue that with the retirement of Vin Scully, he’s baseball’s greatest active radio broadcaster. Marty is able to do something increasingly rare in his profession – balance detailed play-by-play with great storytelling while not necessarily being a mouthpiece for the team. When circumstances demand that he be critical, Marty is sharp and pointed with his criticism, at times to the dismay of some listeners. But there’s no one in our market who speaks with the authority that he does, and no one can make the critical moments of a mid-May game between two bad teams sound like they’re deciding a big playoff game in October.

His partner on most broadcasts – and the Reds do employ a number of different announcers – is former big league pitcher Jeff Brantley. Jeff’s country drawl and laid-back demeanor compliment Marty and few things sound like a lazy summer afternoon on the patio more than the innings that Jeff handles play-by-play. But few are as astute in their analysis of the game, especially when it comes to pitching.

I don’t know that a Reds broadcast would work in New York, or Los Angeles. Marty himself has said that. There’s something uniquely Midwestern about a Cincinnati Reds broadcast, and while I work for a cluster of radio stations that employs some of the best personalities in the business and has the rights to every Cincinnati sports property, Reds broadcasts with Marty and Jeff behind the microphones are – in my opinion, at least – our most important asset. I highly recommend giving them a listen sometime.

Cleveland IndiansTom Hamilton and Jim Rosenhaus – as told by Nick Camino.

In the past 25 years of Cleveland Indians baseball, there may not be a name more synonymous with the Tribe than radio play-by-play man Tom Hamilton, appropriately referred to as “The Voice of the Tribe.” From his exciting calls, to his knowledge of the game, as well as the respect he has gained from players in the clubhouse and countless managers, Hamilton is a hometown fan’s dream.

“Hammy” as he is affectionately called, isn’t afraid to share his opinion even if he has to be critical of the Tribe. In my mind, Hamilton is the best in baseball and Cleveland is fortunate to have him.

Hamilton’s partner, Jim Rosenhaus spent years calling games at Triple-A for the Buffalo Bisons, and all of his hard work has certainly paid off, teaming up with Hamilton in 2012 full-time after the retirement of Mike Hegan. Since then, fans have warmed up to Rosenhaus who has a great feel for the game and is quick with analysis whenever the time feels appropriate to add it.

Similar to Hamilton, Rosenhaus works tirelessly hitting both the home and visiting clubhouses getting to know the ins and outs of not only the Indians but their respective opponents. “Rosey” as many fans call him, has quickly become a valuable asset to Indians broadcasts and his hard work and dedication to Tribe baseball and helping run the entire Cleveland Indians Radio Network is something that has paid great dividends for both listeners and the club.

Colorado RockiesJerry Schemmel and Jack Corrigan – as told by Brandon Krisztal.

Jack Corrigan and Jerry Schemmel form the classic baseball radio play-by-play team. Jack’s been calling baseball for the better part of 30 years, first on television in Cleveland and now in Denver for nearly 20 years. Jerry joined the broadcast in 2010 (after two decades of calling NBA games in Minnesota and Denver) and the two displayed instant chemistry.

The easiest way to describe their call is informed and easy-going, but not flashy or over-the-top. They certainly can elevate their emotional level when the game dictates but they never make the game about them. When I say classic baseball style, maybe it’s their midwestern roots that help shape their easy-going style, but both Jack and Jerry sound how you’d expect a guy from Cleveland (where Jack grew up) and a guy from Kansas (where Jerry is from) to sound.

While catchphrases may not be everyone’s cup of tea, Jack has one of the best I’ve ever heard. When a Rockies player hits a home run, Jack, exclaims “touch-em-all-time!” I’ve always appreciated how understated but appropriate and cool that call is. It’s simple but certainly conveys exactly what it needs to be.

Playing sports at a high level is certainly no requirement to calling a good game in any sport, but both Jack and Jerry played college sports (Jack played football at Cornell, and went to training camp with The Dallas Cowboys, and Jerry played baseball at Washburn University and Coached there as well) and that can only help inform their call. They have an understanding of mindset and competition that not every play-by-play duo has.

Understandably, you may not have caught a Rockies game, but, if you’re within 1,000 miles of Denver, driving on a summer night, there’s a good chance you can pick up a Rockies game loud and clear on 850 KOA-AM, one of the strongest signals in the country. I urge you to tune in for a few innings, and check out Jack and Jerry, because their call will take you back to a time when the world was a simpler place and the only way you could really enjoy a baseball game was by listening.

Detroit TigersDan Dickerson and Jim Price – as told by Jamie Samuelsen.

Dan was raised listening to Ernie Harwell call Tigers games, and Jim played for the legendary (at least in Detroit) 1968 Tigers. So they are both Michigan and Detroit through and through which matters in Detroit about as much as it matters in any market in baseball. Listeners know how much these guys care about the team and it shows in both success and struggle.

Dan has fully embraced sabermetrics, and while he doesn’t go on and on with advanced stats, he’s more than willing to drop in a few numbers and stats that will further a conversation. His preparation is meticulous and it shows in his performance. He’s also outstanding at identifying pitch location and movement which leads to terrific discussions in game with Price, a former catcher.

Jim is a classic folksy color man. He’s a former big leaguer who played on the 68 Tigers, and remains good friends with Al Kaline, and makes sure that you know that. He’s done a great job in recent years looking at the Tigers through a more a critical lens. The Tigers have a massive payroll and have struggled at times, and Price is more than willing to point out poor execution, poor effort or a disappointing approach at the plate. He also has a few catch phrases (“art of pitching”, “yellowhammer” and “nice area”) that he now says with a bit of a wink to the listeners – knowing that they’re listening for them.

Together Dan and Jim are comfortable which is the goal of every MLB broadcast. They both worked with – and received the blessing from – the late, great Harwell who was royalty in Detroit. After more than a decade together, they represent the sound of summer on the radio in Detroit.

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