Category Archives: Local

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!

NOW AVAILABLE: Historical Baseball Writer Database

Almost two years in the making, we have completed the Historical Baseball Writer Database and have posted it in these places for your research needs and viewing pleasure:

The database is the result of painstaking effort poring over copies of Baseball’s Blue Books, an annual publication that launched in 1910 as a handy reference resource of the business side of baseball for people who worked in the game at the major league and minor league levels.  The Blue Book still publishes today, although most of the information that used to be listed is available online in varying degrees of free, and it is geared more towards scouting and coaching at the youth and college levels than to the business of professional ball.

From its beginning and through to 2003, the Blue Book would publish all the BBWAA-member baseball writers working at the various publications credentialed by the teams. They served as the source for this database.

Nearly every season between 1910 and 2003 is included in this database. Only 1926 and 1928 (Blue Books have not yet been located), and 1962 (BBWAA writers inexplicable excluded from that season’s book), are not yet included.  Also included are the 2010-2012 seasons, and also missing are 2004-2009 and 2013-2017 (we have media directories for those past five seasons). If you can help us find resources for those missing seasons before 2010, or can help us work with the materials we have on hand to fill in seasons after 2012, please write us and let us know.

If you are doing any historical research about teams, or media, or anything related where finding out who the beat writers and columnists of the time is an important thing to know, this would be a good place to start.

Thank you to the intrepid SABR members who helped us with putting this database together: Nick Waddell, Michael Sowell, Abby Rosario, Ruth Sadler, Jeff Findlay, Paul Goodson, Kenn Tomasch and Steve Dunn. Special extra thanks to Joel Dinda, who allowed me to borrow his several dozen blue books so we could make them available to our volunteers.

Enjoy!

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!

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 Story Behind Vin Scully’s Stories, Including the One About the Beatles

It’s pretty well accepted that Vin Scully is, at this moment, baseball’s master storyteller. His 67 years in the booth have bequeathed upon him a wealth of experiences from which to draw anecdotes. It would be totally understandable if you were to believe that Vin has a steel-trap memory that loses nothing over time.

Well, that might be true, but that also doesn’t mean that Vin comes up with his stories all on his little lonesome. There is a team of two helping him with every broadcast, stage manager Boyd Robertson and camera operator Rob Menschel, who have been working with him since 1989 and who not only do their nominal jobs, but also do some of the research that helps Vin develop the stories he will share on a given night’s broadcast.

Take the time the Beatles played Dodger Stadium on the 1966 farewell tour. There is a really great story about how they had trouble eluding fans while trying to leave after having given a concert. What are the chances Vin Scully is knowledgeable enough about Beatles lore to have any idea about the Dodger Stadium incident? Given that Vin was already 38 years old at the time, you would have to conclude the chances are darn slim, at best.

That’s where Rob Menschel, on this case anyway, comes in. He’s an actual music fan, so when Vin drops any kind of reference to rock n’ roll, it usually comes from him. Between himself, Rob and Boyd, Vin can develop a full plate of stories from a wide buffet of topics any one of them may not be expert enough to develop all on his own. The trick for Boyd and Rob, of course, is to find stories that will work in Vin’s voice, including stories about such hip, edgy, current topics as the Beatles.

I won’t relay the Beatles story here. Instead, I encourage you to read the VICE Sports article written by Eric Nusbaum about the process of bringing together all the stories that Vin Scully tells during the course of a typical broadcast.

With A Little Help From His Friends: The Story Behind Baseball Announcer Vin Scully’s Stories

The Cleveland Baseball Writers Association of America’s Annual ‘Ribs and Roasts’ Shows

Back in the olden days, it was very common for a city’s BBWAA chapter to have a banquet—or perhaps, more accurately, a bacchanalia—at which they present various awards and recognition of the mighty deeds of bat, ball and pen that took place during the regular season.

Some chapters had highly theatrical affairs. Leonard Koppett provided a detailed description of the New York chapters’ affairs in his terrific book, The Rise and Fall of the Press Box.  But research from Media Committee member Lou Boyd contends that the banquets held by the Cleveland writers’ chapter were at least the equal of that of New York’s.


The Cleveland Baseball Writers Association of America’s Annual ‘Ribs and Roasts’ Shows

‘The Forgotten Cleveland Indian MVP’s’

by Lou Boyd

 “Our Dinners Are Terrible”, screamed the headline in a February 1, 1949 article in the Boston Herald, written by Bill Cunningham[i]. This pronouncement was related to the midwinter baseball awards dinner season that was held annually in major baseball cities across the United States to celebrate and skewer their baseball heroes, managers, owners and anyone else who dared to have an impact on the previous year’s baseball season.

Invariably, these presentations were the responsibility of the local baseball writers from the various big league cities. The events ranged from a host of speakers and awards being presented to the winners of select categories up to massive productions of theatrical skits. These so-called skits could take the form of gentle taps on the wrist of their target all the way up to outright embarrassment for the subject.

The article went on to indicate that different cities were producing considerably different shows. New York, as expected, was considered the ‘most stylish of the lot’, yet, there was another city that seemed to be taking the crown away from the Big Apple. It was Cleveland.

The article goes on to say, “To put on a show such as the Clevelanders staged, you need some newspaper men who can really be funny. You need some, or somebody, who can write clever parodies and, if you’re going to lampoon the leading baseball characters of your immediate locality, you need scribes who bear, or who can manufacture, reasonable resemblances to the gentlemen being given the business. That type of affair takes a real talent and a lot of hard work. Maybe it’s worth it. The customers generally think so. Sometimes the organizers have their doubts. Such shenanigans, however, have to be good. Nothing can fall flatter than a string of these firecrackers that fall to explode. All of us have seen some that were utterly awful. It’s hard to foresee what’s going to be done about Cleveland. The place is taking all the honors that exist. It has the world championship in baseball. Its professional football team is the pace-setter and crowd collector of its particular division. Now its literary section is challenging for top honors in the field of Hammerstein, Booth and Barrymore.”

While the 1948 Cleveland baseball season was monumental, the baseball writers exploits during this off-season celebration in early 1949 was not their first. The Cleveland Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) had been conducting these dinners for the local American League representative Indians beginning in 1938, and each year they selected a ‘Most Valuable Player’ of the Cleveland Indians.

1939 Cleveland BBWAA Ribs & Roasts show, their second annual awards dinner. Mel Harder was elected team MVP.
1939 Cleveland BBWAA Ribs & Roasts show, their second annual awards dinner. Mel Harder was elected team MVP.

1938 – 1944 Ribs & Roasts Shows

On November 9, 1937, the Cleveland chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America met at the sports offices of the Cleveland Plain Dealer to hold their annual elections for officers.[ii] It is very probable that the genesis of the Cleveland version of a sportswriter’s dinner awards show began at that meeting. The following day, it was announced that Stuart Bell, Sports Editor of the Cleveland Press was elected chairman of the chapter. Eugene Whitney was re-elected secretary and Herm Goldstein was chosen as treasurer.

According to ‘The Sporting News’ on December 30, 1937, “The Cleveland chapter of the Baseball Writers Association will hold its annual dinner on January 4 with Steve O’Neill as the guest of honor. In addition to this affair, the chapter has decided to have monthly dinner meetings and to investigate the possibility of a major party along the lines already popular in several other cities.”[iii]

The Cleveland Chapter did decide to hold a major party and award the honor of “Most Valuable Player” for the 1937 season. The award was presented on February 23, 1938 to Johnny Allen at the first annual banquet referred to as the ‘Ribs and Roasts of 1938’. The awards and banquets continued uninterrupted through the 1943 season. It is assumed that due to the war, no shows or awards were given for the 1944 and 1945 seasons.

Throughout the early years, the formal event to honor these individuals was more often than not known as the annual “Ribs and Roasts” show, with the intent behind the name to present an enjoyable evening of poking fun at the members of the Cleveland sporting community, including the writers, players and management of not only the Cleveland Indians, but also on occasion, the Browns, Barons and any other organization rooted in local Cleveland sports.

Beginning in 1946, the Cleveland writers renamed the award as the “Man of the Year” and presented the honor to Bill Veeck, owner of the Cleveland Indians. The name of the award was changed in order to include “non-players such as owners and other more sedentary personnel”.[iv] In addition to Bill Veeck, the only other non-players awarded the honor were Mel Harder for the 1961 season when he was the pitching coach and Dave Garcia in 1979 when he was manager of the team. The award was officially changed to the “Bob Feller Man of the Year” award beginning in 2010.

For some reason, the MVPs recognized by the sportswriters beginning with the 1937 season through 1943 were forgotten by the local record books and publications. An article by long time Cleveland writer Howard Preston was published in 1969 that said “Late last month the Cleveland chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America presented another ‘Ribs and Roasts Show’ which it dubbed the 23rd annual affair, designed to put the spotlight on the previous year’s sports activities in Cleveland. Somebody can’t count. I have in my possession the program from the first annual Ribs and Roasts show and the date is 31 years ago last night, Feb. 23, 1938.”[v]

Even the Cleveland Indians publicity department somehow forgot about these player awards. Beginning with the 1968 Cleveland Indians Pressbook, the organization started to expand the historical information included in the booklet given to sportswriters covering major league baseball. Included was a list of members of the organization chosen as the Cleveland ‘Man of the Year’ award beginning in 1946. It can be surmised that Marshall Samuel, long time Indians publicist joined the Tribe with Bill Veeck in 1946 from Chicago and was not aware of the previous awards and shows since there had been a lapse of two years.

The Forgotten MVP’s

 In addition to Johnny Allen, the 1937 MVP, another six Indians have been lost to the record books for their accomplishments in the annals of Cleveland Indian history. Here is a list of those Tribesmen who should be recognized for their achievements recognized by the Cleveland BBWAA.[vi]

Indians Season         Date of Ribs & Roast Show                     “MVP”

1937                                       February 23, 1938                           Johnny Allen

1938                                       February 8, 1939                              Mel Harder

1939                                       February 6, 1940                              Bob Feller

1940                                       January 14, 1941                              Lou Boudreau

1941                                       January 20, 1942                              Jeff Heath

1942                                       January 26, 1943                              Ken Keltner

1943                                       May 23, 1944                                      Al Smith

Hopefully, this information will someday be recognized by the historians for the outstanding contributions these men made on the field for the Cleveland Indians.

[i] Cunningham, Bill. “Our Dinners Are Terrible,” The Boston Herald, February 1, 1949.

[ii] Unknown, “Writers Elect Bell”, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 10, 1937.

[iii] Unknown, “In the Press Box”, The Sporting News, December 30, 1937.

[iv] Preston, Howard, “Who’s Where, 31 Years Later”, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 24, 1969.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Unknown, “Honor Bearden at Banquet Here”, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 19, 1948.

Further confirmation of MVP awardees and Ribs & Roasts shows for the years 1938 – 1944 were compiled primarily from articles written in The Cleveland Plain Dealer and other various Cleveland newspapers during the timeframe of the awards shows.

2016 MAJOR LEAGUE BROADCAST REVIEWS

Many baseball fans have their favorite and least favorite broadcasters. This preference is often correlated with what team follows (or hates). This was especially true long ago, when you could only hear the local clubs or those you’d pick up at night over a transistor radio. But the Internet age—thanks, MLB.com—has made it possible to hear and see every club’s broadcasts, both on radio and television.

As a student of baseball broadcasting history, I thought it might be appropriate to “rate” the current MLB radio and TV broadcast teams. This involves listening to and watching a lot of baseball (not a terrible thing, right?) not only for the result but also for the way the games are delivered.

I rated these men and women—well, woman, anyway—on voice quality, knowledge of the game, analytical skills, and interaction with their partners. (And does anyone really think that Jenny Cavnar, Jessica Mendoza, or Jeanne Zelasko wouldn’t be qualified to work games? I can think of some current play-by-play men that I’d replace in a minute.)

Overall, I’m a pretty tough sell; while no individual or club rated below C-, there also aren’t a lot of A’s. Most clubs have at least an average broadcast, with few announcers, analysts, or overall game packages rating below B-. The narrowing of the types of broadcasters hired—most emerge from broadcasting schools with similar “professional” voices and pedigrees—has raised the floor for broadcast quality but also lowered the ceiling.

These ratings are sorted by American and National League franchises, partially because I’m a cranky traditionalist but primarily because it makes these lists easier to read.

In addition to rating the broadcast teams, I’ll also offer my top ten play-by-play voices and ten favorite analysts. (Note that radio has fewer high-rated “analysts”; this is because there are fewer analysts in general. Many clubs go with a pair of professional voices on radio rather than a play-by-play and a color announcer, as is usually done on television.)

Please also note that there are more broadcasters that I rate B+ and B than fit on these top 10 lists.

While I would love to rank the Spanish-language broadcasts—and all teams now have it except the Orioles, Indians, Tigers, Blue Jays, Braves, Reds, Pirates, Cardinals, and Nats—my skills en Español are not really up to par. (And that’s to say nothing of the Korean broadcasts the Dodgers offer.) So I’m challenging you bi- or tri-linguals out there: which Spanish MLB broadcasts and broadcasters are the best?

Below are the rankings. Thanks for reading!

 

THE RADIO BROADCASTS

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Baltimore Orioles: On a good day, the play-by-play men are inoffensive. Jim Hunter can and has risen above the others. C

Boston Red Sox: Ex-Pittsburgher Tim Neverett is the new second man to Joe Castiglione. Using two capable play-by-play men with different styles works here. B

Chicago White Sox: Apparently, you either love Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson or you don’t get them at all. C

Cleveland Indians: Tom Hamilton is among the best, and minor league vet Jim Rosenhaus helps. But this solid two-man duo begs for some analytic component. B

Detroit Tigers: Lead voice Dan Dickerson is fine, but Jim Price—who carried Ernie Harwell in his final few seasons—is slowing. B-

Houston Astros: Robert Ford has projectable skills. B-

Kansas City Royals: Denny Mathews, with the team since its inception, is in his victory lap. Ryan Lefebvre deserves the #1 job if he wants it. B-

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Serviceable announcers, serviceable broadcast. B-

Minnesota Twins: Twins voice Cory Provus is a pro (vus), but he needs more help than he’s getting. B-

New York Yankees: John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman are entertaining, I’ll give ‘em that! B-

Oakland Athletics: Longtime play-by-play man Ken Korach is solid. B

Seattle Mariners: While neither Rick Rizzs nor Aaron Goldsmith will light you on fire, they’re enough. B

Tampa Bay Rays: Pretty marginal, but congrats to Andy Freed and Dave Wills for working their ways up. C+

Texas Rangers: Eric Nadel remains a quality voice and Matt Hicks is getting there. B

Toronto Blue Jays: They really need to turn down the PA feed during home broadcasts. It’s beyond irritating. B-

 

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Arizona Diamondbacks: Greg Schulte has a hearty timbre uncommon among modern baseball announcers. B-

Atlanta Braves: There’s not much excitement here, but it goes down easy. B-

Chicago Cubs: Pat Hughes is entirely in his milieu. B

Cincinnati Reds: The overall show is weak, but at least Marty Brennaman offers the possibility of a non-P.C. eruption. C+

Colorado Rockies: Thrills are not on offer here. C+

Los Angeles Dodgers: This franchise deserves better. A few years ago, they tried internet broadcasts with Jeanne Zelasko and Mark Sweeney. Why not them? C

Miami Marlins: Thrills are definitely not on offer here. C

Milwaukee Brewers: Not sure if either of the new guys are fit to replace Bob Uecker, but the franchise may elect to find out anyway. B-

New York Mets: Among the top listens in the game despite a lack of ex-player analysis. B+

Philadelphia Phillies: There’s no A-level talent here, but many teams do far worse. B

Pittsburgh Pirates: Five reasonably solid guys, good play-by-play and some decent analysis. The rotating between TV and radio is a bit disorienting. B+

St. Louis Cardinals: Mike Shannon is an institution, but he’s no longer adept at play-by-play—if he ever was. John Rooney sounds … comfortable. B-

San Diego Padres: Ted Leitner, like poutine, stuffed pizza, and the runza, appears to be a dish that you have to be a local to enjoy. C+

San Francisco Giants: Jon Miller and Dave Flemming are the top MLB duo on radio. A-

Washington Nationals: Their radio voices are trained, experienced, and unexciting. B-

 

THE TELEVISION AND CABLE BROADCASTS

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Baltimore Orioles: For one thing, Gary Thorne and his “three-RBI homer” have to go. C+

Boston Red Sox: Dave O’Brien is a stable replacement for Don Orsillo. This is one of the better telecasts in the game. B

Chicago White Sox: Jason Benetti? A comer. Steve Stone? One of the very best analysts. And then there’s the Hawk. B-

Cleveland Indians: These guys are capable, if a bit dry. B-

Detroit Tigers: Mario Impemba is a student of the craft, but these telecasts lack quality analysis and imagination. B-

Houston Astros: While TV does not mandate an overly busy delivery, it does call for some excitement. B-

Kansas City Royals: Ryan Lefebvre is awfully good, a distinction that his Royals TV cohorts cannot claim. B-

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Almost annoyingly average. How is “Drive…home…safely!” anyone’s idea of a thrilling walk-off call? B-

Minnesota Twins: Dick Bremer is still well above par. B

New York Yankees: Ken Singleton is that rare bird—an ex-player excellent at analysis and quite good at play-by-play. B

Oakland Athletics: Glen Kuiper and Ray Fosse have rapport. B

Seattle Mariners: One of the more enthusiastic broadcasts you’ll see; Dave Sims is quite the spicy enchilada. B

Tampa Bay Rays: DeWayne Staats isn’t really any worse than he ever was. Brian Anderson is helpful. B-

Texas Rangers: Fill-in Dave Raymond has injected some much-needed professionalism into this telecast. C

Toronto Blue Jays: Hiring Dan Shulman to do play-by-play for 30 telecasts this year only makes Buck Martinez look worse. B-

 

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Arizona Diamondbacks: Zing-less presentation of a dull team. C

Atlanta Braves: This franchise used to be a model of how to do a baseball telecast. That was a long time ago. C+

Chicago Cubs: Jim Deshaies can blend humor and analysis, but an endless stream of in-game ads and promotions limits him. B

Cincinnati Reds: Even Chris Welsh has slipped a little. C+

Colorado Rockies: Drew Goodman & Co. deliver a quality view with good chemistry and analysis. B

Los Angeles Dodgers: Nobody could fill Vin Scully’s shoes, but better Joe Davis tries to than Charley Steiner. B

Miami Marlins: The decision to release Tommy Hutton from his color duties has harmed the product. B-

Milwaukee Brewers: This telecast really suffers when Brian Anderson is covering the NBA. B

New York Mets: The best baseball broadcast around: fine play-by-play, flow, humor, and incisive commentary. A

Philadelphia Phillies: The parts are reliable enough and they mesh okay. Matt Stairs is a rich man’s John Kruk. B-

Pittsburgh Pirates: More than decent all the way around. B+

St. Louis Cardinals: The play-by-play men talk far too much and the analysts are only average. C+

San Diego Padres: While Dick Enberg, in his last season, retains some charm, the broadcast will be better with Don Orsillo. B-

San Francisco Giants: Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow are in the top echelon, but as ex-players, they could provide more analysis. A-

Washington Nationals: At least nobody has to listen to Rob Dibble any longer. C

 

TOP TEN AT PLAY-BY-PLAY (sorted alphabetically within grades)

A             Gary Cohen, Mets TV

A-           Brian Anderson, Brewers TV

A-           Duane Kuiper, Giants TV/radio

A-           Jon Miller, Giants radio/TV

A-           Vin Scully, Dodgers TV/radio

B+           Dick Bremer, Twins TV

B+           Tom Hamilton, Indians radio

B+           Pat Hughes, Cubs, radio

B+           Ryan Lefebvre, Royals TV/radio

B+           Howie Rose, Mets radio

 

TOP TEN COLOR ANALYSTS (sorted alphabetically within grades)

A-           Ron Darling, Mets TV

A-           Ken Singleton, Yankees TV

B+           Jim Deshaies, Cubs TV

B+           Steve Stone, White Sox TV

B             Mike Blowers, Mariners TV

B             Ray Fosse, Athletics TV/radio

B             Jeff Huson, Rockies TV

B             Mike Krukow, Giants TV/radio

B             Jose Mota, Angels radio

B             Jerry Remy, Red Sox TV

 

Stuart Shea wrote Calling the Game: Baseball Broadcasting from 1920 to the Present, published by SABR in 2015.

Recently Discovered: Excerpt of Cubs at Dodgers, April 22, 1958, WGN Radio

Today we are reposting a post from the blog Inches per Second, maintained by Bob Purse, a self-described “father of two amazing young women” who’s “married to the most wonderful woman in the world”. (Lucky man!)

His website is  dedicated to playing historical audio as captured on reel-to-reel tapes. Not all of it is baseball-related—in fact, as far as I can see, almost none of it is—but his latest posts features a terrific find by Committee member Stu Shea, generously mentioned within, featuring an interview and game coverage of the Chicago Cubs at Los Angeles Dodgers on April 22, 1958, a game that was, in fact, the fourth-ever regular season major league baseball game ever played in Los Angeles. (Spoiler alert: Dodgers beat the Cubs, 4-2.)

Here’s the story, with audio, below. Enjoy!


 

With the Chicago Cubs currently leading all of baseball, posting the best record seen by any team in 32 years, and the best Cubs start in 109 years, what better time for a bit of radio and baseball history, involving the Cubs.

Today’s tape was generously donated to this site by my best pal Stu Shea, who has written several books, including several on baseball and music, among other things, and who also often offers up comments on this site and my other blog. THANK YOU, STU!!!

Here’s what Stu has to say about this tape:

This is a recording of the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers on WGN radio, Chicago, from April 22, 1958. This is the first season that the Dodgers were in LA after having moved from Brooklyn.

Included is a pregame interview between Cubs broadcaster Lou Boudreau and Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese–then 39 and in his last year as an active player–and some of the game’s action.

There are not many tapes in existence of Jack Quinlan, the Cubs’ play-by-play radio announcer, from his time in Chicago. He was a very highly regarded baseball voice who died in a car accident during 1965 spring training. He was just 38.

A couple of things to add. This was the very first time the Cubs or their announcers were seeing the L.A. Coliseum as it was in those days reconfigured for baseball. It was, as I’ve read, perhaps the least appropriate venue for major league baseball in history, and much of the discussion in these segments concerns the various aspects of the park.

I’ve divided the tape into the pregame interview and lead-up to the game, followed by the play-by-play of the first inning (which is all that’s on the tape of the actual game). Also worth noting is the lack of a commercial break at either the half-inning point or after the first inning, and, in a bit of sad irony, Quinlan makes note of a noted basketball coach who had died that day in a car crash, just as Quinlan himself would, seven years later.

Download: Lou Boudreau and Jack Quinlan – Pregame Show with Pee Wee Reese and Comments Before the Game

Play:

Download: Jack Quinlan and Lou Boudreau – Cubs Vs. Dodgers, First Inning

Play:

As the tape spooled down to its last few minutes, whoever recorded the Cubs broadcast switched over to a faintly received St. Louis station, and captured just a few minutes of a Cardinals broadcast, featuring two already well-known men, both of whom would become even more famous broadcasters in the coming years, Harry Caray and Joe Garagiola. And even here, the oddities about baseball at the L.A. Coliseum end up being discussed! Here is that brief segment:

Download: Harry Caray and Joe Garagiola – Cardinals Broadcast:

Play:

And in case you’ve never seen one, here is a picture of the L.A. Coliseum, as it was configured for baseball:

LA Coliseum 1958