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:
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.
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.
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.
In case you missed it, there’s a really fun article over at The Sporting News, written by Jason Foster, that describes and shows video of many of the iconic plays that Vin Scully has called during his career.
But there are also a bunch of calls of iconic moments that I bet you didn’t know, or at least didn’t remember, Scully making the call on. For instance, did you know that Scully called Joe Carter’s Series-winning home run from 1993?
How about the epic 1991 Series Game 7 between Jack Morris and Jon Smoltz? Did you remember that Scully called this one as well?
But above all, if you knew that Scully called the following play, then you must immediately be crowned the King of Vin Calls:
I, myself, had no idea about this one, so I bow to you, Your Majesty.
You can check out the entire very-well-written article over at the Sporting News here:
But one record almost never gets mentioned, even though nearly everyone would agree that it is probably impossible to break: Vin Scully’s 66 years of broadcasting games on a regular basis for a major league baseball team . And now comes the word that Vin will be extending that record by returning in 2016 to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a 67th and final season which, at that level, makes it exponentially more likely that his record will indeed never be broken.
You might be thinking at first, hey, good call on mentioning Scully’s streak as a baseball record that’s unbreakable. (I confess that I myself had never considered it before hearing the announcement this morning.) But then you might be thinking, wait, this one will certainly be broken someday, won’t it? After all, each generation lives longer than any generation before it. People living into their nineties and even past 100 is becoming way more common, and soon might even come to be commonplace. So we can’t really call a record of 67 seasons in the broadcast booth totally unbreakable, can we?
Technically, you’d be right to think so, and maybe you’d even be proven right some day. But there are also a few mitigating circumstances to consider. For one, Vin Scully came into the booth as one of the youngest broadcasters ever to call a major league game, during the 1950 season at the age of 22. By contrast, the youngest baseball broadcaster today, Aaron Goldsmith of the Seattle Mariners radio network, started his major league broadcasting career just shy of his 30th birthday. The likelihood of any major league team hiring a kid in his or her early 20s to be a regular on their broadcasts is very slim.
For another thing, in order for someone to call 67 straight seasons of baseball as a regular for a major league team, they would almost certainly have to do so into their 90s, living to which becomes increasingly less likely as you pass through your eighties. When you as an American male turn 80, for instance, your chance of dying that same year is 1 in 16 (contrasted with 1 in 430 at age 40 and 1 in 88 at age 60). That drops to 1 in 8 by Vin’s age of 87, and 1 in 6 by age 89. Put another way, 87% of all American males born in a given year will have died before their 90th birthday. And even though the odds that an American female will live into her nineties is much greater at about 24%, it will be a long time before females are hired as regular major league team broadcasters at a rate that makes it just as likely that a woman will call games into her nineties as it is for a man to do so. So even with today’s extended mortality levels and tomorrow’s egalitarianism in broadcaster hiring, that is still a long, long shot.
Lastly, the chances that someone will remain with a major league team, any major league team, for 67 seasons without getting fired, or without quitting for another job or to go to a network, makes the odds longer still that this record will ever be broken.
Roll that all around in your head, and once you have, you will come to a fresh, new appreciation of the magnitude of the record that Vin Scully sets every time he steps back into the broadcast booth to begin another season, which he will do yet again next spring.
That is beyond amazing, and we are beyond blessed for living in these times so we can witness it.
Congratulations to you for your long and successful career, Vin Scully, and thank you for returning to the booth to entertain us for another year. And special thanks to your lovely wife, Sandi, for allowing you to do so.
(This article has been edited, with a revised headline, from the original to include reference to 2016 as Scully’s final season.)
I came across these recordings some years ago, having had them in my collection, and I finally got the bright idea to share them with you here. This game took place on June 4, 1957 with the Chicago Cubs visiting the Dodgers at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field.
I especially like this recording because Vin Scully, himself in the early stages of his own Methuselean career, is marveling at the nascent transformation of a young (and frequently wild) fireballer, name of Sandy Koufax, into the next great strikeout artist.
Granted, this is not the Hall of Fame pitcher we gush about half a century after his rarefied peak. Koufax wasn’t even primarily a starter at this point: only 13 of his 34 appearances in 1957 were starts. In fact, this particular start was the last of five in a row for him; Koufax wouldn’t take the mound for Dem Bums for another three weeks, and only then in a relief capacity. By the time October rolled around, he’d ended this, his third season, at 5-4 with a rather pedestrian 3.88 ERA which, actually, he would not improve upon until 1961. So at this point he wasn’t close to being All-World Sandy Koufax. He was more like Adequate-at-Times Sandy Koufax.
But Scully saw the potential in Koufax and marveled in this broadcast at Sandy’s newfound strikeout rate. At one point Vin goes to the stat sheet (and, I presume, his pencil and paper) to determine how many strikeouts he’d registered against how many innings he’d pitched. These days we take the reporting of K/9 rates by game broadcasters for granted, but back then, comparing strikeouts to innings pitched was revolutionary stuff. That’s totally understandable when you realize that in the entire history of the game to that point, a qualifying pitcher’s strikeouts exceeded his innings pitched only twice: both by Herb Score, and only as recently as 1955 and 1956. So you can see just how new and mind-boggling the concept was.
Koufax ended the season with 10.5 K/9, but he was not a qualifying starter. He did, however, become the second qualifying starting pitcher to exceed a strikeout per inning in 1960, when he registered 10.1 K/9. By contrast, 14 different qualifying pitchers in 2014 exceeded 9 K/9, and this season, 23 different pitchers are on pace to do so as of today. Make your own judgments as you see fit–I merely present the facts without further comment.
This was a night game, starting at 8:00pm, and was recorded off WOKO-AM (1460) in upstate Albany. The Dodgers’ flagship station was WMGM-AM (1050), which had had the rights to Dodgers’ radio broadcasts since 1943 when they were WHN-AM. There are commercials, too, both live-read and recorded. Jerry Doggett takes over the mike from Vin in the 4th. We also hear a third voice in the person of Al Heifer in between innings giving out of town scores and exhorting listeners to tip back a Schaffer and light up a Lucky.
Here are the recordings of the game, in full, broken into four parts.
Part 1 (1st to bottom of 2nd—note: Scully comes into the broadcast just after the 6:45 mark):
MLB’s Low National Ratings vs. Record-High Local Ratings: I love dichotomies, and not just because it’s a fun word to say. Although as the Sporting News says in that first linked article, it might be more of a Fox problem than a general national problem. If you want to know what I think, ask me offline.
SportsNet LA standoff was top story: Because of TWC’s strong-arm methods, 70% of the LA market did not have Dodger games available to them, and there doesn’t appear to be any thawing for 2015 as of yet.
Scully may travel less in 2015: And really, who can blame him? After all, the guy is 86 freaking years old. Most people born the same year as he was aren’t traveling anywhere anymore. (Yes, it’s because they’re dead.)
At least this will give TWC and the various LA cable operators—and Congress?!—another year to hammer out an arbitrated deal so that everyone in the Los Angeles market can actually enjoy the dulcet tones and exquisite stories of Vin Sully.