Category Archives: Broadcasting

Now Available: Cool Maps of MLB Team’s Radio Networks

Back at the beginning of the season, we released the Radio Station Affiliates Database for each team for 2017.  Now, thanks to the efforts of Tony Miller, who also maintains our Network TV Broadcasts database (downloadable here), we have way cool Google Maps of all radio affiliates for each of the six divisions at the links below:

These maps give you a pretty decent visual of each team’s sphere of media influence, with the occasional entertaining outlier (e.g., not just one, but two Cardinals radio affiliates in Hawai’i!

Enjoy!

Baseball and the Media Committee Meeting: The Alain Usereau Interview

If you are planning to be at SABR 47 at the Grand Hyatt in New York City, please consider carving out an hour in your calendar before dinner Saturday night to attend the Baseball and the Media Committee meeting, taking place Saturday, July 1, in the Empire State Ballroom at 5:15 pm.

We will be conducting a live “Working The Game” interview with Alain Usereau, play-by-play broadcaster who works major league baseball games for the French-language Canadian sports network RDS. Learn how Alain conducts live game broadcasts from RDS Montreal studios, how that differs from working games at the ballpark, how he deals with the unique challenges of doing live baseball broadcasts in French, his memories of the great Expos teams of the ’70s and ’80s, and much more.  The last 15 minutes of the meeting will be set aside for members of the audience to ask their own questions of Alain.

You do not need to be a member of the Baseball and the Media committee to attend and enjoy this unique experience.

We hope to see you there!

Vin Scully is Retired. So Which Legendary Radio Broadcasters Should You Be Listening To Now?

Unless you are old enough to have been alive during World War II, you are now living in a brave new world: a world in which you no longer have the option to flip the dial and listen to Vin Scully calling a baseball game.

It’s not controversial to declare that Vin is widely considered to have been the greatest baseball broadcaster in history, and will probably continue to be regarded as such perhaps for the rest of all of our lives. But even so, that certainly does not mean that there are no baseball broadcasters still working the mikes who must also be considered among the greatest in history, and who are still available for you to listen to just about any given Spring or Summer day.

To that end, below is a list of six current legendary baseball broadcasters still working every day on the radio, all of whom have already won the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award, just as Vin did, and who deserve your attention as they move into the twilight of their own careers. Living in the 21st Century as we do, you can hear any or all of them for as little as a $20 annual MLB At Bat Premium subscription (or $3 monthly, if you prefer), which affords you the opportunity to listen to any of the 30 clubs’ baseball broadcasters, no matter where in the country you live.

Or, perhaps better yet, if you have an MLB.TV premium subscription ($113/annual; $25/month), you can watch the game and listen to these same broadcasters call the game on radio overlay on certain devices such as your laptop, or via Roku. (Not all devices feature radio overlay, unfortunately.)

Or, if you’re more into the old school way of doing things, you can try to “DX” an AM radio signal after sunset to try to listen to these living legends, if they’re so available. The flagship radio station is listed next to the broadcaster below; you can also check out the full list of current radio affiliates of all major league teams here.

OK, enough delay. Here’s the list:

Dave Van Horne, Miami Marlins (began career in 1969; Ford Frick Recipient 2011; flagship: WINZ-AM 940).

Van Horne, a native of Easton, PA, started his baseball broadcasting career with the old Montreal Expos from their 1969 National League beginnings, and was eventually paired with such Hall-of-Famers-turned-color-commentators Don Drysdale and Duke Snider. Van Horne became widely famous for his “El Presidente, El Perfecto” call to conclude Dennis Martinez’s 1991 perfect game. Van Horne stuck with the ‘Spos through the 2000 season, by which time he had suffered the ignominy of being relegated to an Internet-only presence at a time when practically no one listened to audio on the Internet. He left the team to become the Marlins’ full-time radio play-by-play man beginning with the 2001 season. Now approaching his 78th birthday,  the 2014 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee has not announced any plans to quit baseball broadcasting soon, but you should catch a few of his games while he is in strong voice. Read Van Horne’s SABR biography, written by Committee member Norm King, here.

Denny Matthews, Kansas City Royals (began career in 1969; Ford Frick Recipient 2007; flagship: KCSP-AM 610)

Another long-time broadcaster who began his major league career with an expansion team in 1969, Matthews graduated from radio stints in Peoria and St. Louis to an anointment by the newly-minted Royals as their play-by-play man at the tender young age of 26. This positioned him perfectly to become one of the longest-serving radio announcers in history, and indeed, his current contract with the Royals was specifically structured to take him through his 50th season calling games for the team. For those of you keeping score, that’s 2018, next year, so you still have a bit of time to sample him, although perhaps not much, so seek him out today. Don’t let some financial newspaper’s assessment of Matthews as the “least exciting announcer in baseball” dissuade you—Matthews’s throwback style makes him a joy to listen to.

Bob Uecker, Milwaukee Brewers (began career in 1969; Ford Frick Recipient 2003; flagship: WTMJ-AM 620)

An ex-player of nearly no renown, Uecker found his niche in the guest chair on the Tonight Show, telling hilarious self-effacing stories of his on-field futility in his inimitably perfect deadpan manner. But even before the first of his over 100 appearances with Johnny Carson, who crowned Uecker with the honorific “Mr. Baseball”, he had already done a year doing color on Atlanta Braves TV broadcasts in 1969, pairing up with Ernie Johnson Sr. and Milo Hamilton. Uecker parlayed those late-night appearances into the everyday gig of radio play-by-play man for the Brewers starting in 1972, teaming with color men such as Merle Harmon and Pat Hughes.  Now at age 83, “Ueck” doesn’t do the full slate of games anymore—he’ll probably do 110 or so games in 2017, certainly none from the West Coast—but by the same token, he has no plans to retire, either. Typical of a man who prefers to work without a contract, he quips: “If you don’t want me back, tell me. If I don’t want to come back, I’ll tell you.” Check out his SABR biography here.

Marty Brennaman, Cincinnati Reds  (began career in 1974; Ford Frick Recipient 2000; flagship: WLW-AM 710)

“This one belongs to the Reds!” is one of the most iconic game-winning calls in baseball, and the guy who coined it over four decades ago is still plying his trade in the Queen City.  Teaming up first with erstwhile major-league minor Joe Nuxhall, and occasionally with his son Thom, an accomplished baseball broadcaster in his own right, Marty has authored numerous calls for some of baseball’s greatest moments, including Tom Browning’s 1988 perfect game, Hank Aaron’s 714th home run, and Pete Rose’s putative record-breaking 4,192nd career base hit. (Of course, Brennaman called Rose’s actual record-breaking 4,190th career hit as well.) Marty’s been somewhat cagey about his retirement plans, but there is no doubt he will call the 2017 Reds season, and though he has had some unfortunate flaps concerning recent comments he made about Joey Votto, that should not deter you from giving him a few listens before he finally hangs up the mike. Read his SABR bio written by Committee member Matt Bohn here.

Jon Miller, San Francisco Giants (began career in 1974; Ford Frick Recipient 2010; flagship: KNBR-AM, 680)

An entire generation of baseball fans grew up knowing Miller from his work with Cooperstown inductee Joe Morgan on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball for over two decades, but that stint was really no more than the cream filling for Miller’s eclair of a career spanning 41 seasons and counting. Miller has been a supremely talented and well regarded radio play-by-play man since 1974, first with the Swingin’ A’s for a season in 1974, then returning to the mike with the Rangers (1978–1979), Red Sox (1980-1982), Orioles (1983-1996), and currently with the Giants (since 1996). His easygoing, almost laconic style occasionally belies the humor and excitement he displays in equal measures when the time calls for either (or both). Still a relatively young man at age 65, there is little danger of Miller retiring anytime soon, but that does not mean you should not seek out his broadcasts tout suite and luxuriate in a bath drawn from his words.

Eric Nadel, Texas Rangers (began career in 1979; Ford Frick Recipient 2014; flagship: KRLD-AM 1080)

Nadel’s stellar skills and award-studded career are under-appreciated in an almost criminal way, as he is barely recognized by even savvy baseball fans outside the Dallas-Fort Worth DMA. But Nadel has been delighting Rangers fans with his strong and steady style since 1979.  “That ball is history!” is his distinctive home run call, and after having learned Spanish well into his adulthood, he had become fluent enough to call the occasional game in his new language, broadcast to several Latin American countries.  So beloved is he deep in the heart of Texas that the Rangers conferred upon him a lifetime contract in 2006, leaving it up to Nadel to decide when he wants to retire, not when anyone else wants him to. Since he is also baseball-broadcast-legend young at 65, don’t expect him to retire soon, either, but still, don’t tarry during the next Rangers game either dialing up their 50,000 watt blowtorch of a flagship station, or else a Rangers tilt on MLB Audio, to check out one of the under-rated all-time mike greats.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of all the great radio announcers in baseball, but if you’d like to get a feel for how the other guys who don’t call your team do it, you could do worse than starting with this list of Ford Frick Award-winners.

Happy listening! Stay tuned for an installment featuring legendary television baseball broadcasters soon.

Flagship/Announcer, Radio Station Affiliates Databases Updated for 2017

Just in time for the start of the season!  Courtesy of SABR’s Baseball and the Media Committee, the databases listing major league teams’ flagship TV and radio stations and announcers, as well as their radio station affiliates, have been updated and loaded into Google Drive for your perusing and research convenience.

The MLB Local Flagship_Announcer Database is a continuation of the work started by Maury Brown of Forbes.com over a decade ago, and is for all practical purposes the complete listing of every franchise’s radio and television broadcasters, both play-by-play and analyst, throughout big league ball’s broadcast history, beginning with 1921. Major changes for 2017 include the retirement of Vin Scully of the Dodgers, to be replaced by current Dodger broadcasters Joe Davis and Charley Steiner; the retirement of Dick Enberg of the Padres, to be replaced by Todd Kalas, formerly broadcaster of the Houston Astros; and the replacement of Matt Stairs as Phillies television analyst by semi-doppelgänger John Kruk. The file can be accessed by clicking on this link.

The Radio Station Affiliates Database was started by the Baseball and the Media Committee in 2013 and has been the historical record of teams’ radio affiliates since that season.  Every year, dozens of affiliates come aboard, drop off, change call letters, or even change team alliances. This database covers recent seasons, although there are plans to expand the database to include historical seasons as well to the degree possible. Be sure to consult this database before you go on your next summer road trip so you never miss a pitch as you drive from city to city. This file can be accessed by clicking on this link.  (Please note: four of the 30 MLB teams [Astros, Cardinals, Giants, Mets] did not have updated affiliates for the 2017 season as of 3/31/17. These teams are called out in red on the sheet, and the database will be updated once affiliates for these teams come available.)

If you notice any errors or omissions in either of these databases, please be sure to contact the Committee  or this website with corrections.

Enjoy!

NEW: Hear Recently Uploaded Classic Baseball Radio Broadcasts

Don Zminda has been a baseball writer, a VP at STATS LLC, and a SABR member for close to four decades, so it’s fair to say that Don knows a lot about baseball. He’s a big fan.

Don’s also a collector, and one of the things he’s collected over the years is baseball broadcasts. In fact, Don is in the process of uploading several radio broadcasts to a new YouTube channel he just created called “Don Zminda“.  Simple and elegant name, no?

Don has uploaded (so far) 14 radio broadcasts of baseball games, and there are some real beauties in there.  Eleven of them are postseason games, eight of them World Series, and included to date are five of the six 1981 World Series games miked by Vin Scully and Sparky Anderson; two 1982 ALCS games called by Ernie Harwell and Denny Matthews; and that famous 1988 World Series game in which Jack Buck could not believe what he just saw.

The set of three regular season games is composed of the broadcast of a 1965 tilt helmed by Ford Frick Award Winners Bob Elson and Milo Hamilton; the 1984 Jack Morris no-hitter against the White Sox called by then Pale Hose radio men Joe McConnell and Lorn Brown; and the infamous 1982 Fred “Chicken” Stanley game between the Tigers and A’s in which the protagonist appeared to get intentionally picked off second to open up the base for Rickey Henderson to try to surpass Lou Brock’s single season stolen base record.

The quality varies from broadcast to broadcast, as you might expect from the technology available at the time, but they are all at least quite listenable, and some of the broadcasts are clean and clear. These games would make for a pretty good companion on long drives, or as background while puttering around the house.

Again, here is the link to Don Zminda’s YouTube channel:

Don Zminda Baseball Radio Broadcast Channel

Enjoy!

Sorry, Brooks Marlow: Your Crappy Apology For Your Crappy Jessica Mendoza Tweet Ain’t Good Enough

By now, you might have seen the tweet from one Brooks Marlow, of whom probably very few of us had ever been aware ( I know I wasn’t), but with whom we are quite familiar this morning:marlow_tweet_1

Now, it’s one thing to criticize a broadcaster for their style, delivery, diction, explicit homerism, knowledge of baseball, or any number of legitimate attributes. And I think practically all reasonable, intelligent people would agree that not every criticism of a woman is due to misogyny on the part of the critic.  But, I mean, come on: Marlow explicitly and categorically stated that “no lady needs to be on espn talking during a baseball game”. It doesn’t matter that he followed up with “specially Mendoza”, or even tossing off a “sorry” for, I guess, impact reduction purposes—Marlow is categorically rejecting the idea that any woman should work on any ESPN baseball broadcast, ever. He is disparaging and dismissing an entire sex for reasons he does not explain, but explanation or no, this tweet is a practically textbook example of misogyny on the part of Brooks Marlow.

The Astros organization, to their everlasting credit, jumped all over this tweet, following up with one of their own within five minutes of the Marlow original:

2016-10-06_11-36-46

Good for them. They acted quickly and decisively to stanch a problem that could have potentially grown to who knows what proportions.

And then, a little more than an hour later, the follow-up tweet from Marlow that leaves a lot to be desired:

marlow_tweet_2

Wow. There is a lot to unpack here:

  • Marlow says he “needs” to apologize. Not that he apologizes, or that he wants to apologize—he needs to apologize. Well, yeah, he needs to apologize, because the organization is obviously making him do it.
  • Marlow also says he needs to apologize for his tweet “regarding Jessica Mendoza”. Note that he is not actually apologizing to Jessica Mendoza. He is apologizing to the Twittersphere about Jessica Mendoza. In other words, Jessica Mendoza is a prop Marlow is using in some apology-resembling tweet directed to someone else, and not a person directly to whom he should be apologizing. Come on, Brooks: Jessica Mendoza is a person, not a thing.
  • Marlow terms his tweet as being “inappropriate” and “insensitive”, words which looks awfully familiar-r-r-r .. oh, right! Those are the exact words the Astros organization used in their statement! Now, granted, young baseball players are not considered among the most articulate, eloquent or thoughtful writers, but the lazy parroting of team language here makes Marlow’s apology-adjacent statement come off as perfunctory rather than heartfelt.
  • Lastly, Marlow wraps up with an exoneration of himself: he says the tweet “does not reflect who I am”. This is the funniest and most ironic part of his fauxpology, in that anyone would reasonably conclude that his original tweet reflects exactly who Brooks Marlow is. But even if his internal moral compass is straighter than he displays in that tweet, his self-serving attempt to excuse himself looks, at best, weak. That he ends with this seems to be an indication that how he comes out looking in all this is of greater concern to him than is delivering an honest apology to his target.

Why is it important that Brooks Marlow learn quickly from his many mistakes here? Because he’s a guy who was drafted out of college in the 29th round by the Astros in 2015, and who “hit” .205/.302/.329 in 300 plate appearances as a 23 year old in High A this season.  In other words, Brooks Marlow is, to all appearances, not going to be a professional baseball player for very much longer, which means he will be working in the real world very soon, a world in which he is going to have to learn to treat female work associates as beings equal to him in their humanity, and not as objects.

I’ll be rooting for Brooks Marlow to learn quickly.

 

With Scully and Enberg Retiring, Who Will Now Be the Dean of Baseball Broadcasters?

He's gone, he's gone, and nothin's gonna bring him back ...
He’s gone, he’s gone, and nothin’s gonna bring him back …

The 2016 baseball season is now officially in the books, and in broadcasting terms, it was one of the most momentous in history. Two Ford Frick Award-winning broadcasters, Vin Scully (1982) and Dick Enberg (2015), have stepped away from their baseball mics for good and now head off to their next adventure.  (Not for nothing, but Bill Brown, radio play-by-play man for the Astros for the past three decades, is also hanging up the mic, although he has not yet received the Ford Frick Award himself.)

Enberg had a great career, no doubt, but It is universally acknowledged that Scully had been, for a span of at least a decade and a half, the unchallenged, unquestioned dean of baseball broadcasters, mantles previously held by such luminaries as Red Barber, Bob Elson, Byrum Saam, Jack Brickhouse, Mel Allen, Harry Caray, Chuck Thompson, and Ernie Harwell.

Now that Scully is gone, and that Enberg and Brown have headed off into the sunset with him, we now need to contemplate who among the current mikemen should now be considered the Dean of Baseball Broadcasters. That’s what I am asking you, the reader, to do here today: vote for who you believe should take on that exalted title.

The Game is currently blessed with dozens of great, long-time baseball play by play and color commentators. In fact, no fewer than thirty current broadcasters have 30 or more years in the business, an unprecedentedly high number. Not all of them, of course, can qualify for Dean status.  But in our opinion, the eight broadcasters who have 40 or more years of experience can qualify, so those are who we would like you to vote on today.

The eight on this ballot include:

  • Jaime Jarrín: With the Dodgers since 1959, he is the currently the longest-serving Spanish-language radio play-by-play broadcaster in history. In 1998, Jarrín received the Ford C. Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • Dave Van Horne: Hired as the first Expos English-language radio play-by-play announcer in 1969. Moved to the Marlins in 2001. In 2011, was the recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award.
  • Denny Matthews: Hired in 1969 as the first (and still only) radio play-by-play announcer for Kansas City Royals. In 2007, was the recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award.
  • Bob Uecker: Began calling play-by-play for the Brewers’ radio broadcasts in 1971. In 2003, was the recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award.
  • Mike Shannon: Hired as radio color commentator by the Cardinals in 1972; became the lead voice after Jack Buck’s death in 2002.
  • Marty Brennaman: Reds radio play-by-play announcer since 1974. In 2000, was the recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award.
  • Ken Harrelson: Hired by the Red Sox in 1975 for the TV broadcasts, moving to the White Sox in 1982. Became White Sox GM for 1986, took up with Yankees TV in 1987 before settling in with White Sox TV broadcasts in 1989. “Hawk” was a Frick award finalist in 2007.
  • Jon Miller: Also well-traveled, first with the A’s for the 1974 season, and had subsequent tenures with the Rangers (1978), Red Sox (1980) and Orioles (1983) before landing with the Giants in 1997. In 2010, was the recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award.

And now is the time for you to vote for who you believe the Dean of broadcasters should be, below. You may vote for one, two or three broadcasters you believe deserve this august title. Teams and first year broadcasting are shown next to the nominees’ names.

 

Who Now Becomes the Dean of Baseball Broadcasters?

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Watch and Listen to José Fernández in the Broadcast Booth

Much has been said about José Fernández during the past 30 or so hours. I can only repeat, rather than add anything new to, the things that have been said about him. He was most assuredly on the Hall of Fame track, a two-time All-Star in four seasons before he turned 24 and author of one of the highest K/9 career totals in history. He also had a compelling personal story surrounding his childhood in and escape from Cuba, extending to his actually saving a life in the process. As I say, all this has been well covered during the past couple of days and there’s nothing new or important I could possibly add to the eulogy of José Fernández.

I can, however, share with you a couple of stints José did on baseball broadcasts. One occurred on August 13, 2014 during a Marlins home tilt against the Cardinals, while he was rehabbing from his Tommy John surgery, and during which he actually spent time in the booth:

The other was during a broadcast on September 9, 2015 during a game against the brewers, while he was finishing up another DL stint for a right biceps strain:

The thing that strikes me in these clips is how poised José is.  These are videos of, respectively, a 22- and 23-year old kid, speaking a second language he did not pick up until he teens, and doing so using educated-adult-level vocabulary and grammar in a voice that barely hints at an accent.  I would venture to say that between these and his 150-watt smile, José Fernández had a broadcasting career assured upon his retirement far into the future.

Our deprivation of seeing that occur wanly pales in comparison to the deprivation José’s family feels today, and we want to add our condolences to the tens of millions that have already been offered up to his family.

The 2016 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee You’ve Never Heard Of

Committee Member Dr. James Walker, a prolific author of several baseball broadcasting books such as Crack of the Bat and Center Field Shot, penned an article over at the Conversation about this year’s Ford C. Frick Award, Graham McNamee.

McNamee could be considered a somewhat controversial selection for the Frick award. Even though he was the first-ever popular national baseball announcer, there were several holes in what we would consider his professional veneer—meaning that, by today’s standards, he would likely be considered a poor baseball announcer. But McNamee had a strong and pleasant voice that was cut for the stage, and that was exactly the thing that the earliest fans of baseball on the radio wanted from their announcer.  In the early and mid-1920s, McNamee was baseball on the radio.

Dr. Walker has generously consented to allow us to reproduce the article in full here.


The 2016 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee you’ve never heard of

James Walker

Graham McNamee called the 1928 World Series between the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals. Associated Press

When the National Baseball Hall of Fame held its 2016 induction ceremony on July 24, the names of the two player inductees – Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza – were recognized by even the most casual baseball fan. Serious fans (and most New Englanders) celebrated the Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy, the recipient of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for baseball writers.

But the fourth name on this year’s list, Graham McNamee, winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasters, resonated only with devoted historians of the national pastime. In “Crack of the Bat,” my history of baseball on the radio, I reviewed McNamee’s seminal contribution to the popularization of World Series broadcasts.

Most other Frick winners have been honored during their lifetimes. (Vin Scully won in 1982 and is still broadcasting today.) But McNamee hasn’t broadcast a game in 75 years; he died at 53 in 1942, when television was only an experiment and radio was just over two decades old.

McNamee’s long wait for recognition raises two questions: Who was Graham McNamee? And why did it take 74 years for the Hall of Fame to honor his contribution to baseball broadcasting?

The right voice at the right time

McNamee came to New York in the early 1920s to study singing, only to join the chorus of Gotham’s thousands of struggling vocalists. However, the city was also the center of a nascent network radio industry that had only just begun to generate substantial advertising revenues.

McNamee was in the right place at the right time, with the right voice. In 1923, he joined RCA-owned WEAF (later WNBC) as a staff announcer. WEAF was the nation’s most popular station and ran the first-ever radio commercial, a 10-minute ad for apartments in Jackson Heights paid for by the Queensboro Corporation.

Like all first-generation radio announcers, McNamee did every kind of programming: music, news events and sports. His first significant sportscast was a middleweight championship fight in 1923. While boxing had been broadcast before, stations usually used a ringside reporter who relayed the action by phone to an announcer at the station, who then broadcast the play-by-play to listeners.

McNamee, however, broadcast live from ringside. His breathtaking firsthand account of the contest as it unfolded before his eyes captivated listeners. Big-time, live, emotional sportscasts – just like McNamee’s – were beginning to sell a skeptical public on the new medium of radio.

Boxing was a start, but McNamee’s big break in sports came at the 1923 World Series. The previous year’s World Series had been called by legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice, but Rice loathed the assignment and refused to broadcast baseball again.

Fans file into Yankee Stadium during the 1923 World Series, when McNamee got his big break. Library of Congress

So in 1923, Rice’s colleague at the New York Tribune, W.O. McGeehan, took the mic on WEAF. But after two games he’d had enough. Like Rice, McGeehan found radio’s demand for a steady stream of words very challenging; the medium provided little time for composition and none for editing. So the newspaperman left his post in the fourth inning of Game 3, leaving the mic to his assistant, Graham McNamee.

A radio star was born.

The naysayers emerge

For the next eight years, McNamee became RCA’s voice of the World Series. As the Series’ broadcast reach expanded from the Eastern Seaboard to the Midwest and, finally, to the entire nation, McNamee’s fame grew exponentially. After the 1925 World Series, McNamee received 50,000 letters from fans of his broadcasts. Listeners loved his strong, pleasant voice and detailed, enthusiastic descriptions of the action, which allowed them to better visualize a game they could only see in their minds.

But not every baseball fan was a McNamee fan. From time to time, his attention would stray from the game and to the celebrities in the stands or a letter he had received. He’d be prone to forget the count and even the batter’s name. According to baseball broadcast historian Curt Smith, McNamee freely admitted to being “an entertainer first and broadcaster second.”

So as the novelty of World Series broadcasts faded, some baseball writers became less impressed with broadcasting’s first superstar.

After one game of the 1927 Series, columnist Ring Lardner famously observed, “I attended a double-header, the game [McNamee] was describing and the game I was watching”; a New York Sun headline read “M’Namee’s Eye not on the Ball: Radio Announcer Mixes Up World Series Fans”; and in a scathing criticism, the Boston Globe identified eight problems with McNamee’s call of the opening game, including forgetting to report balls and strikes and leaving the mic for several minutes to get a soft drink.

But most fans still loved McNamee’s style; plus they had few baseball broadcasts to compare with it. In the 1920s, not many teams – and none in New York, Philadelphia or Washington – regularly broadcast games. For most Americans, McNamee’s World Series calls were all they knew.

In 1927, Graham McNamee appeared on the cover of Time magazine. Time

McNamee also added a number of other high-profile broadcasts to his resume: the inauguration of Calvin Coolidge, the 1927 Jack Dempsey-Gene Tunney “long count” heavyweight fight, the 1927 Rose Bowl game and Charles Lindbergh’s return to New York after his solo transatlantic flight.

But by the end of the Roaring Twenties, many announcers began to specialize in covering the national pastime. They included Hal Totten, Quin Ryan and Pat Flanagan in Chicago; Ty Tyson in Detroit; Fred Hoey in Boston; France Laux in St. Louis; Tom Manning in Cleveland; and Harry Hartman in Cincinnati. Each developed his own unique style and vast, local followings.

Meanwhile, though he covered the World Series from 1923 to 1931, McNamee was only working a handful of baseball contests per year because New York teams rarely broadcast regular-season games.

Famous for being the first

Baseball broadcasting was passing him by. Major League Baseball Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis valued seasoned professional announcers and pushed NBC (RCA’s network) to move McNamee to pregame coverage for the 1932 World Series. Though McNamee continued to be involved in coverage of the Fall Classic – including narrating a newsreel of Game 3 of the 1935 World Series – he’d been marginalized.

Given his initial fame and role in pioneering the coverage of baseball on radio, why has McNamee been overlooked for so long by the Baseball Hall of Fame?

All previous Frick winners have had long careers, usually with one team. Although some eventually had national profiles, most cut their teeth on the day broadcasts, slowly winning the adulation of a team’s fans. But McNamee was baseball’s broadcast primal star, famous for being the first but not necessarily the best. Longtime Braves and Astros announcer Milo Hamilton, himself a Frick winner, gave a succinct explanation for why McNamee wasn’t in the Hall of Fame: “He didn’t broadcast baseball long enough.”

But in 2013 the Hall of Fame launched a new system for selecting winners that alternates consideration of announcers from three eras. The era for this batch of inductees – the one ending in the mid-1950s – gave McNamee a second chance.

It’s taken the Hall of Fame some time, and many would call it long overdue. In his 1970 book “The Broadcasters,” famous broadcaster Red Barber celebrated the medium’s pioneers, including Graham McNamee.

As Barber explained, what made them so great was “that nobody had ever been called upon before to do such work. They had to go out and do it from scratch. If ever a man did pure, original work, it was Graham McNamee.”

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

New Video on YouTube: “Sportscasters: Behind The Mike”

Committee member Norm King has shared a link to something any sports media acolyte should relish: a History Channel documentary called “Sportscasters: Behind The Mike”, a 1999-2000 effort that was narrated by Joe Mantegna and that features interview pieces with luminaries such as Vin Scully, Ernie Harwell, Curt Gowdy, Bob Costas, Jack Whitaker, Jim McKay, author Curt Smith, a young David Halberstam, and more.

The tone of the documentary is rather heroic and superficial, with the kind of dramatic martial type musical bed frequently associated with televised sports in general. But that is, of course, perfectly fine, because the point of the doc is to feature historical clips of TV and radio calls of yore, as well as to give us some topline backgrounding on the history of sports broadcasting and its most famous practitioners.

This is a VCR recording converted to digital to be uploaded to YouTube, so it includes commercials from its broadcast. I am assuming this was the broadcast premier of the doc, since one of the commercials is for Ameritrade, and during the spot they have an offer to rebate half your trade commissions if you open an account “between 1/1/00 and 2/29/00.” This was back during the go-go stock trading atmosphere of the Dot-com Bubble which came crashing down later that year, and I apologize for dredging up flashbacks if your own portfolio got creamed in the melee. (My 401(k) certainly took a hit). But as a snapshot in time, not only does this video capture vintage broadcasters in their relative youth (or even alive), but it reflects a unique moment in American history.

This doc also contemplates more than just baseball, giving a significant amount of time over to the history of the broadcasting of football as it, too, was emerging to prominence.

The doc wraps up around the 49:00 mark but runs another fifteen minutes of commercials and the intro to the next program, the NBA All-Star Game Slam Dunk contest on TSN.  Not relevant to the doc, of course, but again, if you’re an amateur anthropologist, you might have an amateur’s interest in how a person viewed TV in the year 2000.

Enjoy!