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.