Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Baseball's Golden Voices

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
Baseball has lost another legendary broadcasting icon with the passing of Harry Kalas on Monday at the age of 73. The longtime Philadelphia Phillies announcer was found passed out in the booth before a road game at 12:30 pm just before the Washington Nationals contest.
As the grand old game goes through changes and new ballparks along with the steroid era dominate the headlines, these announcers are unfortunately becoming extinct.
I have compiled a list of my all-time favorite announcers and I'm very thankful to have met some of these legends.
1) Ernie Harwell (Detroit Tigers) has been a very good friend of mine since we met during Spring Training in 1984 in Dunedin, Fla. Harwell had a spring home in Pinellas County and we met before a Tigers/Toronto Blue Jays contest. I've had many great times with Harwell but the biggest was when I did an inning of play-by-play with him at the old Al Lopez Field in Tampa during a Tigers versus Cincinnati Reds game. I recently spent my 46th birthday with Ernie at his home in Novi. I could write a separate story on all the great times I've spent with Ernie.
2) Vin Scully (Los Angeles Dodgers) I've never met him and I still hope I can get the chance. Everytime I went to Dodgertown in Vero Beach, we never crossed paths. But his creativity and smooth delivery handling all moments are a style I've always marveled.
3) Mel Allen (New York Yankees) was a pleasure to be with when the team trained at Fort Lauderdale Stadium. We met in 1983 and sat in the Yankees dugout just talking baseball and he would always talk about how he enjoyed doing the syndicated television show "This Week In Baseball."
4) Jack Buck (St. Louis Cardinals) The only time we met was in Spring Training in 1983 at Pompano Beach Municipal Stadium during a game versus the Texas Rangers. Buck took the window out of the press box so he could see the game better. He got drilled by a foul ball in the arm and after it happened just took the situation in stride by coming out of his booth and joking about it with the rest of us showing the bruise. I can just imagine how he described it to his audience but he was real nice to me when we talked before the game and for a few minutes afterwards. At the Rangers games, I used to work the scoreboard and was making extra money to pay for college.
5) Curt Gowdy (Boston Red Sox) was a guy that I never met but he was legendary on NBC's Saturday Game of the Week and his calls for the World Series and All Star Games were awesome. The 1971 All-Star Game at Tiger Stadium when Reggie Jackson hit the ball over the roof will always standout with me.
6) Harry Carey (Chicago Cubs) is the reason I made my lone appearance to Wrigley Field during the 1990's. It was a thrill to have written on Carey and listen to him sing Take Me Out To The Ballgame during the seventh inning stretch, a tradition that the Cubs now carry on with visitors who sometimes sing it well or sometimes provide laughs with their lack of singing ability. If it weren't for cable and Super Station WGN, I wouldn't have ever met Carey.
7) Jerry Coleman (San Diego Padres) was a man that I had the good fortune of interviewing in 2002 in Tempe, Arizona., before an Anaheim Angels game. He was another great story teller. Coleman is alive and well at 84.
8) Bob Uecker (Milwaukee Brewers) was one of the original announcers on ABC's Monday Night Baseball and his comical approach towards his career .200 batting average in six seasons provided enough entertainment that he would utilize this to get involved in acting along with doing his famous Lite Beer Commercials. Uecker is still going strong at 74 and in 2003 earned his way into the Baseball Hall of Fame winning the Ford C. Frick Award. Like Garagiola, these two sub par players microphones were more potent then their bats.
9) George Grande (Cincinnati Reds) was an ESPN Sports Center original but his passion for the game of baseball led him to one of the best jobs in the business.
10) Joe Garagiola (St. Louis Cardinals) is alive and well at age 83 and like Uecker had a sub par career hitting .257 in nine seasons, playing 676 games. Garagiola earned his way into the Hall of Fame in 1991 with his work teaming with Gowdy and Scully during his 30-year association with NBC. We met when the Detroit Tigers played the Arizona Diamondbacks in June of 2001.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at Scottsports33@aol.com.

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