We’ve reached the final stage of our three part series featuring the men and women who broadcast baseball games on the radio across the nation. If you haven’t read part 1 click here. To read part two go here.
Radio has some amazing storytellers gracing its airwaves and selling the game of baseball and all that is associated with it. During the next six months local audiences will be treated to a heavy dose of our baseball announcers, and with these radio professionals serving in critical roles to help our radio stations enjoy strong ratings and revenue success, it felt like the right time to recognize them for the countless contributions they make to our radio stations.
On that note, let me introduce you to the voices of Major League Baseball. This is the final part of our three part series.
Philadelphia Phillies – Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen – as told by Spike Eskin.
Baseball on the radio is an amazing thing. There is something about the space, the pacing, and just the sound itself that people love listening to. Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen have taken that special thing and perfected it on their Phillies broadcasts.
People love Scott and Larry because they’re real, funny, interesting, passionate, and they know what they’re talking about. Like many of the great ones, and a lot like the beloved team of Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn, when you’re listening to Franzke and L.A., you’re not just hearing what’s going on during the Phillies game, but you’re hearing their own little show within the play by play broadcast itself. They’re genuinely entertaining.
Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen, along with Jim Jackson (pregame, postgame, middle three innings), help SportsRadio 94WIP capitalize on the city’s passion for baseball with a truly special broadcast.
Pittsburgh Pirates – Greg Brown, Bob Walk, Joe Block, Steve Blass, and John Wehner – as told by Colin Dunlap.
Pittsburgh is the most provincial town that I’ve ever experienced, and I’m from here. Greg Brown, especially, understands as much. Greg went through the 20 years of losing with the fanbase, and now with a resurgence taking place, does a great job of playing up the winning. He is simply a regular man who most Pittsburghers identify with, and behind Andrew McCutchen, is probably the most recognizable figure in the organization.
Block is entering his second season, and his style of blending advanced stats with an old school wit has drawn many in, including myself.
Walk presents himself the same way he did as a pitcher, no-nonsense, to the point, and unafraid of shying away from emotion.
Blass is a folk hero in Pittsburgh, and a link to glory days for the old-timers. He plays it perfectly, knowing the audience is captivated by his stories from yesteryear.
Wehner, in my opinion is very underrated. He has a great ability to boil very technical explanations of a swing, play or other portion of a game down to terms and words that everyone can understand. He also grew up about 4 miles from the stadium and played for Jim Leyland’s Pirates, thus (remember that provincialism?) it makes a Pittsburgh audience really lock into him and take to him.
Collectively, Pirates fans are treated to an excellent radio broadcast thanks to the skills and contributions from a very talented group.
San Diego Padres – Ted Leitner, Jesse Agler and Tony Gwynn Jr. – as told by Rich Herrera.
In San Diego, Padres fans are treated to an iconic personality who truly reflects the community. That would be play by play man Ted Leitner. Fans here affectionately refer to him as “Uncle Teddy” and feel a closeness to him due to his having spent 37 years behind the mic calling Padres games. Ted is as unique as the city he calls games for. San Diego loves its baseball and appreciates its players and team, and if you listen to a Padres game you’ll hear him often refer to the team as “My Padres”. In other towns that would be sacrilege, but not San Diego. Because of the laid back attitude here, no one gets too worked up. They meet up at America’s Best Ballpark, enjoy the sunshine while enjoying a cold IPA and wearing their flip flops, and rely on the sound of Uncle Teddy to capture the action. He truly reflects the feel of this community.
Jesse Agler joined the broadcast last season and makes a great partner for Leitner. Chemistry is what everyone strives for in the booth and when these two call a game they bring out the best in each other. Jesse relates to fans and captures the big moment of a game and gives you goosebumps while doing so. He is a great booth mate because he’s able to bring out great stories and the rich history of the Padres from Ted, while also interacting with fans on Twitter and Facebook Live. This helps us bring generations of fans both young and old to the broadcast.
This season, the Padres have added Tony Gwynn Jr. to the radio broadcast, and with his rich family history and connection to San Diego, it will have fans doing a double take at his laugh that sounds just like his hall of fame father.
The Padres are the 12th team to migrate to the FM dial which will expose the team to a wider group of fans, and altogether it adds up to a summer soundtrack in San Diego with Uncle Teddy, Jesse and Tony Gwynn Jr. on a station that sounds crystal clear. You can drive down the highway on your way to the beach with your sunglasses on and the top down as you relish the fact you’re in America’s Finest City. The sum of these parts adds up to a broadcast that sounds like the city it represents, which is why it has a special connection to Padres fans.
San Francisco Giants – Jon Miller and Dave Flemming – as told by Larry Krueger.
Most Bay Area baseball fans feel fortunate to have the opportunity to listen to the best collection of broadcasters in the sport on a daily basis. The Giants have two former Giants, Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper on the TV side, and Dave Fleming and the Hall of Famer Jon Miller handling the radio duties on KNBR.
Miller, the longtime voice of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, has a voice that is synonymous with the sport. He has always been an easy, comfortable listen, and he works hard to be great on the air. Jon has seen decades of baseball, and thus is blessed with a wide array of anecdotes and stories. His overall wit and enthusiasm for the game are the strengths of his broadcasts.
Fleming is still a relatively young broadcaster, but he has emerged as one of the country’s best and most versatile play-by-play men. Dave is very bright with deep pipes, and his sound is so smooth. The duo have built an exceptional on air rapport.
Kruk and Kuip, as they’re affectionately known, join Miller and Fleming on the extremely popular KNBR Postgame Wrap, creating must listen conversation after each Giants game.
The main attraction of this group to fans is they are all passionate about the Giants’ winning baseball games, but they balance that passion with perspective, humor, and enthusiasm. They consistently provide Giants fans with intelligent baseball banter, and if you’re driving anywhere west of the Rocky Mountains you’ll be able to hear them on the blowtorch known as Thee Sports Leader, KNBR-680. It won’t take long for you to discover why they’re the best at what they do.
Seattle Mariners – Rick Rizzs and Aaron Goldsmith – as told by Jessamyn McIntyre.
Rick Rizzs has become the voice of baseball in Seattle. While we’ll never forget the dulcet tones of Dave Niehaus on a warm summer night, may he rest in peace, Rizzs has remained the mainstay and enters his 32nd season with the team.
Rizzs’ enthusiasm for the game can be heard throughout his entire call, but is exemplified in his homerun calls with his signature, “Goodbye baseball!” He continues to pay tribute to his long-time partner, Niehaus, on grand slam homerun calls using his famous saying, “Get out the rye bread and mustard, Grandma! It’s Grand Salami time!” Rick’s passion for the game is only exceeded by his warmth and gracious nature as a person.
Joining Rick in the booth is Aaron Goldsmith, who is in his fifth season as part of the Mariners broadcast team. Goldsmith is only 33 years old, but don’t let his youth fool you. From the moment he first took to the air, it was apparent he had the chops to hold the mic in the booth. From the ‘golden pipes’ he’s working with to the revved up calls on exciting plays, Aaron brings experience beyond his years to the broadcast on a daily basis.
The institutional mainstay in Rizzs, and youthful energy Goldsmith brings, keep Mariners fans happy and looking forward to listening to games on 710 ESPN Seattle year after year.
St. Louis Cardinals – Mike Shannon and John Rooney – as told by Tom Ackerman.
The Cardinals and KMOX have a long history, with the station’s powerful signal responsible for helping grow the team’s fanbase when it was the only franchise west of the Mississippi River. Today, the Cardinals Radio Network boasts 155 affiliates covering ten states, making it the largest radio network in Major League Baseball. But just as its 50,000 watts put baseball on the radio for millions of people, names like France Laux, Dizzy Dean, Joe Garagiola, Harry Caray and Jack Buck brought it to life. Most importantly, they’ve educated and entertained generations of listeners.
Today, Mike Shannon carries on that tradition as a link to the Cardinals’ championship past and a storyteller of the present. Shannon is a St. Louis native with a true love for the city and its surrounding areas. Now in his 46th season behind the microphone, you could make the argument no one has sold more tickets, hotel rooms and Budweiser than Shannon, one of the all-time St. Louis ambassadors. And in a true baseball town, no one has a better feel for the game. You’ll always learn something new listening to a Shannon broadcast, with his ability to identify strategy and nuances. He can set up a big moment with the best of them and deliver an exciting play with great enthusiasm. Shannon is the person you want sitting next to you at the ballpark. Luckily for Cardinals fans, they can experience that any time they want just by turning on the radio.
In addition, his partner John Rooney is one of the finest play-by-play men in the business. Name the sport and he’s probably called it on the national stage. Entering his 12th season as a play-by-play voice of the Cardinals, Rooney has established himself as one of baseball’s best. Always prepared and technically flawless, his smooth delivery is a terrific listen. Rooney has a gift of being able to describe the action in just the right amount of words, painting a beautiful picture each and every inning. He keeps a great pace and comes through with energetic calls of classic Cardinal moments, and like Shannon, is a compelling storyteller with decades of experience.
Rick Horton joins Rooney on road broadcasts, offering the insight Cardinals fans crave from the perspective of a former pitcher. Horton has a charm about him, a friendly, likable personality and true love for the game. Having played for Whitey Herzog, Horton’s expanded knowledge of baseball comes through in his play-by-play and analysis.
Tampa Bay Rays – Andy Freed and Dave Wills – as told by John Mamola.
Since 2005, Dave Wills and Andy Freed have called every pitch of Tampa Bays baseball from the depressing 101 loss season to the thrills of the franchise’s lone World Series appearance in the 2008. In a market that historically has struggled with attendance and budding stars of the game finding bigger paychecks once leaving Tampa Bay, Dave and Andy have been the rock of consistency in a community of baseball fans that has seen many changes over many years. The duo enters their 13th season together behind the mics of the Tampa Bay Rays Radio Network, and they’ve never sounded better. A delicate balance of baseball X’s and O’s with some light entertainment, Dave & Andy’s chemistry bleeds through the radio speaker as if two friends from different backgrounds found a way to work together sharing their passion for the game of baseball with the listening audience.
The three words that best describe Dave and Andy are: Engaged (They invite conversation, incorporating social media responses into the broadcast), Jolly (Always in a good mood, positive, energetic, and up for a laugh), and Polished (They work at their craft and search for coaching techniques and new things to try. There is always something different in every game broadcast).
When I talk to WDAE listeners about Dave and Andy, the responses surround certain elements of their on air persona/character. Dave Wills is the guy who likes to talk baseball and share a cold beer with anyone who will listen. A broadcaster who is not afraid to let his feelings be known, and never holds back in how he calls a game. He’s big and bold whether the Rays have smashed a home run or been the recipient of a bad call. Andy Freed is the baseball purist, and a historian of the game literally keeping every scorecard for every game of every season. A family man who always has a story about his twins, and respected by the audience for his depth of knowledge on a minor detail that always seemingly comes up as a major story later in the game.
In a market where the population is more transient than most (if not all) other MLB markets, Dave and Andy have continued to deliver a high quality broadcast for all baseball fans in the Tampa/St. Petersburg market. The “voice” of Rays baseball continues to be a destination for many, and will be for many generations to come.
Texas Rangers – Eric Nadel, Matt Hicks, and Jared Sandler – as told by RJ Choppy.
Eric Nadel. I could end it right there. The dude is an absolute monster in the booth. He’s in Cooperstown for a reason. He’s a storyteller, and his attention to detail right down to the necklace the pitcher is wearing, paints a picture as well as anyone in the game. Baseball, more than any other of the 4 major sports, has the closest connection between Broadcaster and Fan. It should come as no surprise that his homerun calls are repeated by many in the ballpark, “That ball is history!”
What makes the Rangers broadcast unique is the way they incorporate the other 2 members of the crew, Matt Hicks and Jared Sandler. Hicks’ booming voice and smooth delivery has flown side by side Eric for the last few years. They also incorporate the up and coming, 27 year old Sandler, in a way I’ve not seen a radio team, by using a 3rd voice who chimes in with a more analytical perspective, while also serving in a play by play capacity when a day off is needed.
As a radio station, the Rangers have helped 105.3 The Fan immensely. Baseball is a game changer for a radio station, and the daily cume brought our way from back to back playoff runs by the #2 team in town behind the Dallas Cowboys can’t be overlooked. They are a terrific partner, with an exceptional broadcast, and the weekly hits we receive from Manger Jeff Bannister, GM Jon Daniels, and Sandler give the station unmatched coverage of the team.
Toronto Blue Jays – Jerry Howarth, Joe Siddall and Mike Wilner – as told by Dave Cadeau.
Toronto Blue Jays games are called by a three man booth which includes Jerry Howarth, Joe Siddall and Mike Wilner. We are unique, in that the Blue Jays property is national across Canada, rather than simply local to Toronto.
Jerry Howarth is in his 36th season as the voice of the Blue Jays. Every Blue Jays fan across Canada knows Jerry’s call, and I’m sure they all feel like they know him personally. One of his best traits is that he makes himself incredibly accessible to the audience whenever they ask for his time (which is amazing for someone who in 2017 still does not own a cell phone!).
Joe Siddall played 14 pro seasons as a catcher, including MLB gameplay with the Expos, Marlins and Tigers. He is as friendly, honest and approachable as they come. Joe has a natural ability to engage with the audience and give context to the “why” and the “how” of what is happening in the baseball game.
Mike Wilner has been a presence on the Toronto sports media scene for almost 30 years, with a focus on baseball and the Blue Jays for the last 20. Blue Jays fans have become very familiar with Mike’s deep knowledge and strong opinions as he has taken their calls from across the country on our postgame show called Blue Jays Talk.
For road games, Jerry and Joe work as two-man team, and they present a classic baseball call. Jerry paints a vivid picture of the game with his signature calls to relay the action to our audience. Joe compliments him beautifully with deeper descriptions and explanations as to why something may have happened, or perhaps why it didn’t. They switch roles for 3 innings, and Joe’s growth calling the play has grown by leaps-and-bounds over the last 2 seasons.
When the Blue Jays are at Rogers Centre, Jerry and Joe call 6 innings, while Mike and Joe call the other 3. Mike and Joe create a very different experience for our audience, and frankly I haven’t heard this style anywhere else in the game. I like to think of what they do as a “baseball conversation” that includes play-by-play. As a member of the audience, I feel like I’m sitting there in the booth with Mike and Joe and learning something about the game of baseball, or a situation in the game and I’m able to picture it all unfolding. It’s a different experience, and very entertaining. I love both styles that we present to our audience, and by all accounts, our audience agrees. This allows us to showcase all 3 of our broadcasters, and their different perspectives and personalities by putting them in different seats as the games progress.
The Blue Jays are an important property to Sportsnet 590 The FAN and The Sportsnet Radio Network, and Jerry, Joe and Mike have a significant impact as the team’s radio voices. Our trio includes a mix of different personalities with huge experience, all well-respected in and around the game, and they work together incredibly well, plus they participate regularly on our talk shows and others across North America.
Washington Nationals – Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler – as told by Grant Paulsen.
The pairing of Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler has become appointment listening for baseball fans in DC. Having called games together since 2006, the two have grown synonymous with one-another thanks to their chemistry and longevity in the booth. Two unique voices who compliment each other beautifully, Slowes is a bit more excitable and often comes up with creative catchphrases the fan base latches on to, while Jageler is ultra smooth and has mastered pacing and description.
Their conversational style leads to witty banter and plenty of in-game laughs while rarely taking away from the game. You are never at a loss for what is going on with the action because they weave seamlessly in and out of play-by-play while delivering a scoreboard update or a story from the road. Both could handle a solo game without a problem but each does a nice job when providing color as the second voice during innings when they aren’t on the call.
The quality of the broadcast — from tight production to the audio and music in and out of breaks to the pre and post-game shows — stacks up very well with the elite radio teams around the country and is far superior to the work done in many markets. It’s quite common to see folks at the game wearing headsets, or even to hear that fans have put a radio on at their house to enjoy “Charlie & Dave.” They are smooth, informative, and they let the game breathe, and pro-Nats without coming off as complete homers. They’re an asset to 106.7 The Fan and we’re lucky to have them.