Columnist asks a simple question: What’s missing from MLB telecasts? Enough “launch angles!”
Baseball broadcasting has changed over the years, and in my opinion not for the better.
Before the advent of television, announcers would fill the broadcast with interesting tidbits of information about players’ superstitions, what they would do on off days, which players would enjoy playing at certain stadiums and which players would kill the home team, and not too personal information of the players’ off-season life. They would in effect be providing interesting mini-features between innings or pitches. Some of the information provided might be considered factoids, but they were always interesting. Today those interesting stories have largely disappeared. Instead, the use of statistics has replaced them.
Of all the baseball announcers I have personally heard Gary Cohen, the New York Mets lead broadcaster, is the leader in using statistics. A non-baseball fan tuning in a Met game for the first time, after listening to Cohen, might think that statistics are the most important part of the game.
Is the launch angle of every home run that important? Is the speed of every batted ball necessary to be told to the audience? Is the speed of a pitcher’s pitch necessary to be described as amazing? Cohen obviously thinks so.
I enjoy listening to the analysis provided by Cohen’s colleague, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez. A few years ago they did an entire broadcast. It was one of the most enjoyable baseball broadcast I ever watched, as they put themselves back on the field, describing to the audience what a player is thinking, what a manager might do and were sufficiently prescient to foretell accurately quite frequently; what the next play or pitch might be might be. Hernandez’s unscripted off-the cuff comments also adds to the enjoyment. They deserve more airtime.
Recently the New York Mets-New York Yankees subway series games were televised nationally and on both the Mets and Yankees networks. I tuned in the Yankee telecast and found it more enjoyable, because not every play was amazing or a “Gee, Whiz” one as Cohen describes it during his thousand word a minute commentary on the Mets broadcast. The Yankee announcers often let the play on the field do the talking before adding a brief commentary. So do the broadcasters I’ve seen on ESPN baseball telecasts.
Cohen, on the other hand, announces as if he was on the radio, where dead air time was a no-no. Or maybe he feels that his audience doesn’t appreciate the players’ performance. Or doesn’t understand what they’re seeing. What I find interesting is that after Cohen describes still another “great play,” Hernandez or Darling might tune it down and say, “That’s a fine play” and describe why it is. Hernandez often says, “That’s a big league play and big leaguers are supposed to make those plays.” (Gary started on Mets’ radio alongside the iconic Bob Murphy.)
I often enjoy the repartee between Cohen, Hernandez and Darling. If only Cohen would take an occasional deep breath, stop his constant talking and not describe every difficult play as if it deserved a place in the Hall of Fame.
While other baseball announcers I’ve seen often let the picture do the talking before adding their commentary about a play, Cohen does not. He describes that play as it is taking place. He obviously does not agree with the adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
Checking in with Dick Vitale:
My favorite voices were Mel Allen, Marty Glickman and Marv Albert. I loved Frank Messer, Phil Rizzuto and Bill White. I watched many Yankee games. I am a major baseball lover.
Hope you’ve seen my documentary, “DICKIE V. “I have been overwhelmed by the response I have received of my life story and on my speech at the ESPY’S In accepting the Jimmy V Perseverance Award, I hope to be 100% by mid- September. Those are the goals of my chief oncologist and my vocal cord surgeon.
Vitale has done lots of good for the underprivileged. He also put in lots of energy to promote the game. College basketball owes him lots of recognition and a debt. He was also an NBA coach in Detroit. More success in front of the camera. Made his mark at University of Detroit. I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise you to know that he was a marvelous recruiter and built the Rutgers’ roster that raced to the Final Four in 1976.
From aficionado Don Haley
I am glad to read this. I thought Burke did a fine job filling in recently.
I hope Yankees radio/TV can still find a place for Sterling’s sterling voice on its airwaves when he hangs up the play-by play gig for good. I’ve heard him host talk shows on WFAN in the offseason and that irascibility of the 1970s is long gone. He is amiable, humble and with a voice that won’t quit.
From legendary voice Tim Brando:
About Jason Horowitz who becomes radio voice of the Vegas Raiders and follows Bill King, Greg Papa and Brent Musburger: “Really good young fella. He’s stepping into some size 22s with those names. That’s a trifecta, isn’t it!