Announcers

These local ex-MLB play-by-play voices were unsung, yet fans appreciated them locally; (Part #1)

 

The Halls of Fame are the ultimate, the final and most coveted professional stop for extraordinary players, managers, owners and administrators. The Halls are sports’ version of heaven. It doesn’t get better. For baseball broadcasters, the Hall’s Ford Frick Award is the top of the mountain, the zenith of the profession. 

This is a list of former team play-by-play voices, all are essentially retired and many are deceased. It’s possible that some of these names might win the Frick one day, but at this point none is on this list . (Frick winners are below.)

One way or the other, these voices served their local constituencies committedly and consistently. These men might have been lead voices or play-by-play sidekicks. Each deserves recognition in a special category, “Unsung Baseball announcers.”

Vin Scully told me and others that “without Jerry Doggett, it would never have worked.” Doggett and Scully started in Brooklyn, partnered in Los Angeles and enjoyed 31 happy seasons together. From what I could glean, the two men never had a cross word. They’d spend lots of time together on the road too. Doggett accepted his support role which in the day was called “Associate Announcer.” Jerry worked his couple innings and leave the booth with a smile.

Another on this list in a similar role as Paul Carey in Detroit, under Ernie Harwell. More tomorrow.

Longtime local voices either retired, no longer active and to this point not honored by the Frick Award.

(PART 1 – PART 2 WILL BE PUBLISHED TOMORROW)

Alphabetical order:

1-Joe Angel 

Joe put the cleats away for good at the beginning of the 2019 season. He’s missed! Joe was the perfect, relaxed voice. He sounded like a summer’s breeze. Angel was funny and entertaining wherever he worked. Angel spent a couple seasons with the Giants in the 70s. He also voiced games for a handful of teams including the Orioles three times. One intervening season was with the Yankees where he and Sterling were oil and water. Baltimore is where he was enjoyed for his last 15 seasons.

2-Buddy Blattner

Buddy played baseball baseball for four seasons just after the war, after which he turned to broadcasting. Blattner broadcast for the Cardinals, Angels and Royals in addition to a Game of the Week package where he partnered with Dizzy Dean. Blattner also covered the NBA’s St. Louis Hawks. In 1969, he took Denny Matthews under his wing and turned him into his understudy and sidekick in Kansas City when the Royals were born in 1969. Matthews is still there. It’s his 53d straight season, an American League record.

3-Lou Boudreau 

He did it all, managed, played and broadcast. He’s a Cooperstown Hall of famer as a player. Boudreau worked Cubs game on radio or TV  for close to 30 years. His early broadcast service was interrupted once for a year on the field  to serve as the club’s manager. Lou and Vince Lloyd were an inseparable Chicago institution on WGN Radio for a couple decades.

4-Bill Brown 

Brownie started with the Reds, doing their television for some six seasons beginning in 1976. In ’87, he moved down to Houston and was with the Astros for 30 years. On television it’s harder to develop a personality unless you’re outlandish and eccentric. Yet Brown was understated and respected on the tube. Brown got to work with the occasionally feisty Milo Hamilton. But Bill didn’t complain.

5-Ken Coleman

Ken was another one of these laid back play-by-players with an unrushed delivery. He was easy to digest. Joe Castiglione broke into the Majors in Boston under Coleman in the 80s and considered him a mentor of sorts. Ken was with the Sox over two different stints from 1966 to 1989.

6-Skip Caray

Best known for his years with the Braves, son of Harry and father of Chip. Distinct style, sardonic and entertainingly whiny. Skip called games on TV and radio from 1976 until his death in 2008. Many of those early years in Atlanta, the Braves were carried on the Turner Network and Caray developed a national following.

7-Paul Carey

Paul had a hollow timbre and was a perfect sidekick for the soft-spoken Ernie Harwell. Carey had one of the best pure voices in baseball broadcasting. He 19 seasons with Ernie beginning in 1974. How can you not like Paul? He did whatever was asked including engineering the broadcasts.

8-Connie Desmond

Drinking got the better of this man. It was his undoing. Had he held himself in check, Connie certainly had the talent to be a number one voice in a baseball booth. Other than that problem. he was a true pro His voice resonated and he had that fine comfortable delivery. Connie was on the Dodgers broadcasts from 1943-56. Vin Scully described his mentor Red Barber as father-like and Desmond brother-like. When he was fired for late in the Dodgers 1956  campaign, Brooklyn brought in Jerry Doggett.

9-Jerry Doggett

Dodgers Blue Heaven: Heritage Auctions: The Jerry Doggett CollectionScully himself sang Jerry’s praises. Without him, Vin said,  it would never have worked, Jerry was a humble guy and obviously a team player. A Texan, he was blessed with the best ever in Vin. He was just happy to be there and to do his job, calling a couple innings a game. There were very few games televised. When they were, Doggett did three innings on TV and six on radio. He started his stint in Brooklyn on Labor Day weekend 1956, when Desmond was let go and Doggett remained through 1987, 31 seasons.

10-Don Drysdale

As a Hall of Fame pitcher, he was as comfortable in the booth as he was on the mound. Drysdale could deliver his play-by-play with the sharpness and speed as he would fire a pitch. Don covered five teams plus games for ABC and NBC. He spent his last five seasons with the Dodgers before his untimely death in mid season,1993. He teamed with Frick winners that include Vin Scully, Dick Enberg, Al Michaels, Hawk Harrelson and Dave Van Horne.

11-Pat Flanagan

In those early years of radio in Chicago, there wasn’t a singular exclusive rightsholder. Flanagan was a trained chiropractor who by happenstance, broadcast both the White Sox and Cubs on WBBM. Like others at the time, home games were done live an the road games were recreated.

12-Lanny Frattare

Lanny spent 33 years with the Pirates. For time in grade, the man earns his stripes. Reinforcing his selection is the fact that 33 season is a club record. Rosey Rosewell and Bob Prince, arguably the two most popular Bucs’ voices ever were not close in tenure. Lanny was heard on both radio and television, (1976-2008). Lenny did over 5,000 games for Pittsburgh. Lanny has the distinction of calling the basketball game for ESPN when Bobby Knight threw a chair across the floor in 1985.

13-Earl Gillepsie

Think Milwaukee Braves. Eddie Mathews, Henry Aaron, Warren Spahn, and in the booth, the golden voice of  Gillespie. “To a man, woman and child, they’re on their feet,” he exulted during the 1957 Braves World Series championship. Earl was so beloved by those in Milwaukee in those simpler days of the 1950s and 60’s that when word came down that the team was Atlanta bound, he didn’t stay on, choosing to become a nightly sports TV anchor.

14-Jack Graney

A Canadian, Graney influenced Jack Buck when the latter heard him as a kid, growing up in Cleveland. “I didn’t want to be a policeman or fireman. Jack made me want a living calling ball.” Graney spent 21 seasons as a pioneer Cleveland baseball broadcaster, in the days of no-television.

15-Hank Greenwald

Hank had a couple stints with the SF Giants, from 1979-86 and 1989-1996. During the two intervening years, Hank served as a Yankees announcer on WABC Radio. The late Greenwald maintained that he left San Francisco after a dispute of sorts with Giants executive Larry Baer. He later also spent a couple seasons doing the Oakland A’s on TV.

16-Halsey Hall

A sportswriter and then longtime minor league announcer with the Minnesota Millers, he did home games from the press box and recreated road games off the Western Union wire at WCCO Radio. When the Senators became the Twins in 1961 and moved from DC to Minneapolis, Hall was one of three along with Bob Wolff and Ray Scott.

17-Merle Harmon

Harmon’s baseball work is mostly connected with the Brewers and his decade with Bob Uecker. He was the first voice of the Kansas City Athletics, (1955-61) under the unpredictable owner Charles Finley, joined the Braves in Milwaukee in 1964 but wasn’t invited to Atlanta when the team moved there in 1966. From 1967-69, Merle did Twins television. In addition to visible work for ABC and NBC, Harmon spent the last eight seasons of his career behind the mic for the Texas Rangers on TV.

18-Fred Hoey

Having been appointed the Red Sox radio voice in 1927, Hoey called games  until he was fired in 1936. But fans loved him and established a grassroots effort to have him reinstated. But in 1938 he was fired again and this time it stuck. Broadcaster Ken Coleman said, “On the air, Fred was Boston baseball, and it was not the same without him.”

19- Marc Holtz

Holtz worked radio for 13 years and added a couple years on TV too. Holtz partnered with with Eric Nadel. Marc had the distinction of calling the club’s first ever playoff, in 1996 against the Yankees. He earned his promotion to the Big Leagues showing his ware in Omaha with the  Royals and Denver, for the Bears. Nadel says this about Holtz: “His easygoing style paved the way for me to do the relaxed, lighthearted broadcast that I like to do and I am forever in his debt. He was just 51 when he passed of leukemia in 1997.  

20-Jerry Howarth

In style, he always sounded to me like Vin Scully. There was a little hint of Russ Hodges. But it was the Giants announcer that Jerry admired as a kid growing up in the Bay Area. A gentleman, a fine broadcaster and beloved in Toronto, Howarth called Blue Jays games from 1981-2017. For many of those early seasons he was an understudy to the late Hall of Famer, Tom Cheek, a Frick winner.

21-Waite Hoyt 

Raconteur, a baseball Hall of Famer and member of the Murderers’ Row Yankees team in 1927. He was a gifted storyteller. Fans rooted for rain so that Waite can regale them with anecdotes. From the early 40s to the mid-60s, Hoyt presided over the Reds’ radio microphone. He was old school indeed. Developing no-hitters were sacred. Superstitious, he’d never use the words no-hitter until it was complete.

22-Ernie Johnson Sr.

Started as a pitcher with the Braves and continued as a broadcaster with the Braves in Milwaukee. Father of Ernie Johnson, Jr. was an ex pitcher and a warm human being. You can hear it in his voice. He started in Milwaukee and went with the team to Atlanta. Beginning in 1962, Ernie Sr. migrated with club to Atlanta. He was on Turner’s Super Station and worked nationally for 38 years. He had a welcoming warmth.

23-George Kell

New York had its share of southern voices, Mel Allen, Red Barber, Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy to name four. Detroit had playing Hall of Famer George Kell who had Arkansas roots and Harwell, a Georgian. Kell first worked with Harwell on both and TV and radio, Later Harwell dominated radio and Kell television.

24-Ned Martin

Teamed with Gowdy on the Red Sox beginning in 1961. The well spoken Martin did both radio and television, then separately with one of the two mediums, radio then TV. Loved by the blue collar and the academicians alike. He would quote Shakespeare or emote, “Oh Mercy!”  Martin was sometimes called the Vin Scully of the American League.

**

The Frick vote is the most democratic of the pro Halls. The nominees are released months prior to the actual vote. The ballot is selected by a committee appointed by the HOF and the voters are the living winners of the Frick Award plus historians and sports media writers. Selection for Pro Football and Basketball media awards, the Rozelle and the Gowdy respectively, are sub-rosa. Generally, no public criteria or list of voters are released. (In full transparency, I am a proud voter for the Frick Award.)

Six Frick winners who played and broadcast are Jerry Coleman, Joe Garagiola, Ken Harrelson, Tony Kubek, Tim McCarver and Bob Uecker

Year          Honoree                      Primary affiliation(s)

1978          Mel Allen/Red Barber    NY Yankees/ Brooklyn Dodgers

1979          Bob Elson                    Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, Mutual

1980          Russ Hodges                New York/San Francisco Giants

1981          Ernie Harwell               Brooklyn, NY Giants, Baltimore, Detroit

1982           Vin Scully                   Brooklyn/ LA Dodgers

1983          Jack Brickhouse           Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox

1984          Curt Gowdy                 Boston Red Sox, NBC

1985          Buck Canel                  New York Yankees, New York Mets

1986          Bob Prince                   Pittsburgh Pirates

1987          Jack Buck                    St. Louis Cardinals, CBS

1988          Lindsey Nelson             New York Mets

1989          Harry Caray                 St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs

1990          By Saam                      Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Athletics

1991          Joe Garagiola               NBC

1992          Milo Hamilton              Houston Astros

1993          Chuck Thompson         Baltimore Orioles

1994          Bob Murphy                 New York Mets

1995          Bob Wolff                    Washington Senators, NBC

1996          Herb Carneal               Minnesota Twins

1997          Jimmy Dudley              Cleveland Indians

1998          Jaime Jarrín                 Los Angeles Dodgers

1999          Arch McDonald             Washington Senators

2000          Marty Brennaman        Cincinnati Reds

2001          Felo Ramírez                Florida Marlins

2002          Harry Kalas                  Philadelphia Phillies

2003          Bob Uecker                  Milwaukee Brewers

2004          Lon Simmons               San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics

2005          Jerry Coleman              San Diego Padres

2006          Gene Elston                 Houston Astros, CBS Radio

2007          Denny Matthews          Kansas City Royals

2008          Dave Niehaus              Seattle Mariners

2009          Tony Kubek                 Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, NBC

2010          Jon Miller                    Baltimore Orioles, San Francisco Giants, ESPN

2011          Dave Van Horne           Montreal Expos, Florida Marlins

2012          Tim McCarver              New York Mets, ABC, CBS, Fox

2013          Tom Cheek                  Toronto Blue Jays

2014          Eric Nadel                    Texas Rangers

2015          Dick Enberg                 California Angels, San Diego Padres, NBC

2016          Graham McNamee        NBC Radio

2017          Bill King                       Oakland Athletics

2018          Bob Costas                  NBC, MLB Network

2019          Al Helfer                      Brooklyn Dodgers, Mutual

2020          Ken Harrelson              Chicago White Sox

2021          Al Michaels                  Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants, ABC

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David J. Halberstam

David is a 40-year + industry veteran who served as play-by-play announcer for St. John's University basketball in New York and as radio play-by-play voice of the Miami Heat in South Florida. He is the author of Sports on New York Radio: A Play-by-Play History and The Fundamentals of Sports Media and Sponsorship Sales: Developing New Accounts.

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