Results tagged ‘ announcer ’

February 17 – Happy Birthday Red Barber

Yankees Red Barber 1953TI never heard Walter “Red” Barber announce a Dodger game. I was born in 1954, the same year Barber left the Brooklyn booth to join Mell Allen in the Bronx. By the time I was old enough to remember him announcing Yankee games, his voice and style really didn’t make much of an impression on me. Allen was my guy and I can still remember details about the way he called games and talked about different Yankee players.

Then I read Roger Kahn’s classic Boys of Summer and fell in love with the old Brooklyn Dodgers, so in love that I continue to strive to improve my knowledge of D’em Bums still today. In doing so, I’ve had the opportunity to listen to tapes and watch old television broadcasts featuring Barber during his days describing the action at Ebbetts Field. This younger Barber was much better than the older Yankee version I remember listening to on my big brother’s GE transistor radio as a boy. He did those Dodger games with more emotion and made much more liberal and entertaining use of the glorious homespun lexicon of his native Mississippi. From “can of corn” to “walkin in the tall cotton,” the Ol’ Redhead invented a whole new way of describing the action taking place on a Major League baseball field that endeared him to hundreds of thousands of Dodger fans and got him into the Hall of Fame.

Barber’s most famous moment in the Yankee booth took place sadly the day that cost him his job. On September 22, 1966, the Yankees were ending a season that would see them finish in last place and playing in front of a paid home crowd of just 413 people. Barber rightly attempted to focus his television audience’s attention on the fact that the once mighty Bronx Bombers had fallen on such hard times that nobody was willing to pay to see them play. He instructed his cameramen to focus on the thousands upon thousands of empty seats that existed in the House that Ruth Built that afternoon but was overruled by one of the Yankee suits upstairs. He was fired by new club president Mike Burke just a week later.

Barber died in 1992 at the age of 84. This former Yankee reliever this one-time replacement for A-Rod as Yankee third baseman and this great former Yankee first baseman were each also born on February 17th.

February 2 – Happy Birthday Michael Kay

KayI’ve listened to a lot of play-by-play announcers do baseball games, especially Yankee baseball games and I have to admit that none of them have done it better than Michael Kay is doing it right now. He’s knowledgeable, always well prepared, he’s got a sharp sense of humor and he’s got a great broadcasting voice to boot.

I thought Kay’s call of Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit was one of the best ever made. His ability to adjust to whoever YES throws in the booth with him is very impressive. Doesn’t matter if Paul O’Neill is insulting him, or David Cone is droning on and on about some pitcher’s delivery, Kay not only complements his partners in the booth, his ability to ask them extremely pertinent questions that draw on their own expertise and experience is a real plus for fans watching the game.

A native of the Bronx, Kay was a sports reporter for both the New York Post and Daily News before he began doing Yankee games on the radio for WABC in 1992.  A gifted interviewer, if you haven’t seen his Center Stage interview program on the YES network make sure you check it out. He’s already won numerous Emmys for his television work and his daily ESPN Radio show is also very popular.

Like most Yankee fans, I sometimes get irked by some of the things Mr Kay has said into a microphone. I thought the biggest goof of his career was predicting the Texas Rangers were toast after the Yankees came back from a five run deficit to beat them in Game 1 of the 2010 ALCS. Despite these occasional misspeak’s, Kay has been an outstanding asset to Yankee broadcasting and I predict that some day he will end up in the broadcaster’s wing of Cooperstown.

Kay was born on this date in 1961. He shares a birthday with this one-time Yankee utility outfielder, this former Yankee war-time catcher and this member of the Football Hall of Fame.

November 17 – Happy Birthday Tom Seaver

seaverOriginally the very first genuine “Amazin” Met, today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant almost single-handedly turned Shea Stadium’s tenants from a running joke into a bonafide professional baseball team. Then, beginning in 1975, Met President M. Donald Grant committed three of the dumbest mistakes in Major League front office history.

First he enraged Tom Seaver by penny pinching him during the Mets last pre-free-agent era negotiation with their Ace in 1975. Then when baseball’s age of free agency began the following year, Grant refused to go after any of the newly available superstars who could have rejuvenated a Mets’ roster that had grown very mediocre.

Grants final error, the biggest of them all, was trading Seaver to the Reds in the first half of the 1977 regular season for four pretty  ordinary big league players. Seaver would go on to win 20 games that year and the NL Cy Young Award. He would continue to pitch for another decade and on August 4, 1985, while pitching for the White Sox against the Yankees on Phil Rizzuto Day at Yankee Stadium, Tom Terrific won his 300th big league game.

The Yankee crowd that day adored Seaver and Yankee boss George Steinbrenner noticed. He would spend the next year trying to put the future Hall of Famer in pinstripes but could never quite reach an agreement with Chicago. At first, the Boss refused to give up any of his young stud pitchers for the aging right-hander and then it was Chicago GM Ken Harrelson’s turn to balk when Steinbrenner offered him disgruntled Yankee DH Don Baylor for Seaver.

So Seaver went to the Red Sox instead and finished his playing career in Beantown with a 5-7 record during the 1986 season. Two years later, Steinbrenner finally brought the Fresno, California native to Yankee Stadium as Phil Rizzuto’s broadcasting partner. He and the former Yankee shortstop remained a pair for the next five seasons and Yankee fans who were around to witness how extremely well these two Big Apple baseball legends got along in the booth, loved them.

In 1990, just as Steinbrenner was about to begin serving his “Howie Spira induced” lifetime ban from the game, the Boss was considering removing Seaver from the booth and making him the Yankees’ GM. That never happened. Seaver now spends his days overseeing his California vineyards. He turns 69 years old today and shares a birthday with this former Yankee reliever and this long-ago Yankee skipper.

November 7 – Happy Birthday Jim Kaat

The “Scooter” will always be my all-time favorite Yankee announcer but not because he was a particularly good analyst or play-by-play guy. Quite the opposite, he was petty bad at both. But Rizzuto helped me enjoy Yankee broadcasts regardless if the team won or lost and he wore and flashed his unabashed lack of objectivity on behalf of the Bronx Bombers like a badge of honor.

 As much as I enjoyed Rizzuto, I appreciated Jim Kaat. His award-winning commentary taught me things I didn’t know about the game of baseball and how it is played at the highest of levels. He did a great job of explaining technical things to his non-technical audience, like why a curve ball curves, what pitchers have to be prepared for in a suicide squeeze situation, and how the best fielding catchers play the spin of the ball on foul pops.

Unlike Rizzuto, who played his ball before my time during the forties and early fifties, “Kitty” played his rookie season just one year before I became an avid fan of Major League baseball. I loved to listen to him talk about his personal experiences with ballplayers he played with and against, especially during the sixties. Back before you could watch every Yankee game on TV or bring up Major League Baseball’s Web site on the Internet, the only things I knew about players like Bob Allison, Zoilio Versailles, Don Mossi, or Leon Wagner were printed on the backs of the baseball cards that I collected as a kid.  Kaat’s vivid memories of the players I grew up watching gave life to the faces on those cards for me.

In addition to announcing for the Yankees for a dozen seasons, Kaat pitched in Pinstripes for parts of both the 1979 and 1980 seasons. He ended his 25-year playing career three seasons later, with 283 career victories. Jim Kaat belongs in the Hall-of-Fame.

Also celebrating a birthday today is this former Ole Miss quarterback and this one-time knuckle-balling starting pitcher.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1979 NYY 2 3 .400 3.86 40 1 13 0 0 2 58.1 64 29 25 4 14 23 1.337
1980 NYY 0 1 .000 7.20 4 0 3 0 0 0 5.0 8 5 4 0 4 1 2.400
25 Yrs 283 237 .544 3.45 898 625 102 180 31 18 4530.1 4620 2038 1738 395 1083 2461 1.259
MIN (15 yrs) 190 159 .544 3.34 484 433 20 133 23 6 3014.1 2982 1343 1118 279 729 1851 1.231
PHI (4 yrs) 27 30 .474 4.23 102 87 6 11 2 0 536.2 611 266 252 51 109 188 1.342
STL (4 yrs) 19 16 .543 3.82 176 17 59 6 1 10 292.1 327 145 124 19 83 98 1.403
CHW (3 yrs) 45 28 .616 3.10 92 87 1 30 5 0 623.2 628 250 215 42 144 300 1.238
NYY (2 yrs) 2 4 .333 4.12 44 1 16 0 0 2 63.1 72 34 29 4 18 24 1.421
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/7/2013.

October 21 – Happy Birthday John Flaherty

Flash.FlahertyFlash turns 46 years old today. Before he joined the YES Network as an analyst for Yankee games and as a commentator on the Post Game shows, Flaherty was a big league catcher for fourteen seasons with five different teams. Born in the Big Apple, he ended that playing career in his hometown, with three seasons as Jorge Posada’s backup from 2003 until 2005. During lulls in the action, when he is in the booth for Yankee games, viewers often hear Michael Kay or Kenny Singleton tease Flaherty about the lucrative contract he signed with Tampa Bay, back in 1998. He pocketed about $12 million of Devil Ray money during his five season stay for catching about 90 games per year and averaging .252. He hit just .226 during his 134-game career in pinstripes but he’s doing a much better job for New York in his broadcasting role.

In 2011, Flaherty became an owner of a professional baseball team, when he founded the Rockland Boulders, a member of the unaffiliated Canadian-American League. The team is based in Rockland County, NY.

Like Flaherty, this Yankee was born in New York City and celebrates his birthday on this date. He did a bit better than John did while playing in New York and now has a plaque in Cooperstown. Also born on October 21st is this former Yankee pitcher who flirted with World Series history in 1947.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2003 NYY 40 116 105 16 28 8 0 4 14 0 4 19 .267 .297 .457 .754
2004 NYY 47 135 127 11 32 9 0 6 16 0 5 25 .252 .286 .465 .750
2005 NYY 47 138 127 10 21 5 0 2 11 0 6 26 .165 .206 .252 .458
14 Yrs 1047 3640 3372 319 849 176 3 80 395 10 175 514 .252 .290 .377 .667
TBD (5 yrs) 471 1802 1673 157 422 82 1 35 196 3 86 250 .252 .289 .365 .654
NYY (3 yrs) 134 389 359 37 81 22 0 12 41 0 15 70 .226 .261 .387 .648
DET (3 yrs) 193 594 546 59 130 35 1 15 67 1 27 83 .238 .277 .388 .665
BOS (2 yrs) 48 100 91 6 16 4 0 0 4 0 5 13 .176 .224 .220 .444
SDP (2 yrs) 201 755 703 60 200 33 1 18 87 6 42 98 .284 .324 .411 .736
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/21/2013.

October 12 – Happy Birthday Tony Kubek

tony.kubekCan you imagine a rookie coming out of the Yankee farm system today and starting 31 regular-season games in right field, 22 in center, 41 at short and 38 more at third base? Then imagine this same 22-year-old kid is able to hit .297 despite all the switching from position to position, wins the Rookie of the Year Award and even hits .286 with two home runs in his very first World Series. I’ve just described Tony Kubek’s very impressive rookie season for the 1957 Yankees. It is no wonder that this native of Milwaukee, who was born on this date in 1935, became one of Casey Stengel’s favorite players. Stengel, after all, was Baseball’s master platooner. In Kubek, he had a very smart, extremely tough kid who had a shotgun for an arm and a very good bat. The only thing he couldn’t do was hit a lot of home runs. Since Stengel wanted outfielders who could hit with power, he gave up playing Tony in the outfield and decided to make him the Yankees’ next shortstop.

That’s where Kubek and Bobby Richardson became the best Yankee double-play combination in my lifetime until Robinson Cano was introduced to Derek Jeter.  Kubek was a three-time All Star and played a total of nine seasons and seven World Series in a Yankee uniform before a bad back hastened his entry into the broadcast booth, where he became one of baseball’s all-time great television analysts. Kubek was the Ford C Frick Award recipient in 2009, putting him the Baseball Hall of Fame for his broadcasting ability.

Kubek shares his October 12th birthday with this former Yankee pitcher and this Yankee utility infielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1957 NYY 127 475 431 56 128 21 3 3 39 6 6 24 48 .297 .335 .381 .716
1958 NYY 138 597 559 66 148 21 1 2 48 5 4 25 57 .265 .295 .317 .612
1959 NYY 132 553 512 67 143 25 7 6 51 3 3 24 46 .279 .313 .391 .704
1960 NYY 147 618 568 77 155 25 3 14 62 3 0 31 42 .273 .312 .401 .713
1961 NYY 153 657 617 84 170 38 6 8 46 1 3 27 60 .276 .306 .395 .701
1962 NYY 45 184 169 28 53 6 1 4 17 2 1 12 17 .314 .357 .432 .789
1963 NYY 135 592 557 72 143 21 3 7 44 4 2 28 68 .257 .294 .343 .637
1964 NYY 106 447 415 46 95 16 3 8 31 4 1 26 55 .229 .275 .340 .615
1965 NYY 109 370 339 26 74 5 3 5 35 1 3 20 48 .218 .258 .295 .553
9 Yrs 1092 4493 4167 522 1109 178 30 57 373 29 23 217 441 .266 .303 .364 .667
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/12/2013.

August 8 – Happy Birthday Dewayne Staats

staatsdewayneBefore Dewayne Staats became the first official television voice of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1998, he had served a four year spot as MSG-TV’s lead Yankee play-by-play announcer, teaming with the great Tony Kubek in the booth. The Missouri native got that job in 1990, in the middle of the Stump Merrill era and left after the strike-shortened 1994 season, right before the Yankees went on their impressive run of postseason play. He and Kubek were replaced by MSG with Dave Cohen and Jim Kaat.

Staats big league play-by-play career had started in 1977, when he got his first gig with the Houston Astros, his favorite boyhood team. After four years there, he did play-by-play for the Cubs for four more years before landing his Bronx Bomber assignment with MSG. The fact that Staats was behind the microphone during a time when the Yankees were struggling to win, limited his personal Yankee highlights reel. His most famous moment in the role was when he called Jim Abbott’s 1993 no-hit game, though in 2011, he did get to call Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit because it came against Tampa.

Compare a tape of a Kubek/Staats Yankee broadcast with one from today’s crew and you’ll feel like you’re comparing a silent movie with a talk-radio show. The former Yankee shortstop won his Ford C. Frick award for expert analysis and unlike Tim McCarver, Kubek’s goal was to provide it with as few words as possible. Ditto for Staats. In fact. a 1992 New York Times’ article comparing the Yankee and Met booth crews labeled Kubek and Staats the “Dragnet” team because they “gave just the facts” during a game, with a bare minimum of chattiness or cheerleading. Of course as bad as the early Yankee teams they covered were, there was not a whole lot to cheer about.

When Staats left the Yankees he joined ESPN for a couple years before getting hired by the Rays. Dave Cohen replaced Staats in the Yankee booth and Jim Kaat took over for Kubek, who retired at the same time. Staats shares his birthday with this Yankee pitcher, this Yankee pitcher and this Yankee coach.

July 31 – Happy Birthday Curt Gowdy

gowdyIn my humble opinion, Curt Gowdy had the greatest voice in sports broadcasting history. I realize he became famous during the fifteen seasons he spent as the voice of the Red Sox, but he got his start in the business as a Yankee radio announcer in 1949. where he worked for two years learning the craft from the master of them all, Mel Allen.

Before that, Gowdy had aspired to be a a fighter pilot during WWII but a herniated disc in his back aborted that plan. He went back to his native Cheyenne where he got a job as a sportswriter for the local newspaper and also started announcing high school football games. He was then hired by a radio station in Oklahoma City where he got to announce Oklahoma State basketball and University of Oklahoma football games. But it was Gowdy’s offseason job as a minor league baseball announcer that earned him a spot in a nationwide audition for a chance to work with Allen and the Yankees. He later told Curt Smith, author of a book called “Voices of the Game” that Mel Allen was the guy who helped him really learn how to announce a baseball game. He credits the Yankee broadcasting legend with teaching him “timing, organization and even how to do a commercial.” Gowdy said he thought he was a young hot shot in a baseball booth until he worked with Allen who made him appreciate how much hard work and effort was required to excel in that profession.

One thing Gowdy had that Allen didn’t need to teach him him was ambition. He could have remained Allen’s apprentice for a long time but he wanted to be a big league team’s featured voice so he jumped at the chance the Red Sox offered him in 1950 and remained in that job for the next decade and a half. Those of you old enough to remember Gowdy in his prime as the Peabody Award winning voice of many of the most memorable US sporting events that took place during the late sixties and seventies, know the rest of the story. He died in 2006 at the age of 86.

You can listen to Gowdy talk about his days in the Yankee radio booth in this treasure of an interview he did for the Archive of American Television in May of 2000.

Gowdy shares his birthday with this late great Yankee outfielder and this former Yankee backup catcher.

July 4 – Happy Birthday John Sterling

John_SterlingThe phrase “You either love him or you hate him” may just have been coined for today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. I love the guy. In fact, the one thing I regret about being able to watch every Yankee game in high def on a big screen is that I no longer listen to them on the radio unless I happen to be in the car when they’re playing. That means I don’t get to listen to John Sterling do his stuff, often enough.

I admit, he’s a lot more fun to listen to when the Yankees are winning but if I’m forced to “listen” instead of “watch” the Bronx Bombers play a game, I appreciate the fact that Sterling and his booth partner, Suzyn Waldman keep me entertained with their broadcast styles and idiosyncrasies.

Sterling is a native New Yorker (born July 4, 1938). He got his start as a game announcer in Baltimore, doing Bullets basketball and Colts football games. He came back to New York with WMCA, where he did Nets and Islander games and then migrated to Atlanta and commentated for the Hawks and Braves. He joined the Yankee radio booth in 1989 and has a Gehrig-like streak going of not missing a Yankee game during the past 23-plus seasons he’s been on the job.

What I find real hard to understand is the level of animosity that exists among Sterling haters and detractors. There are actually blogs and web sites devoted to criticizing and making fun of Sterling’s gaffes and calls. Some guy named Phil Mushnick who writes for the NY Post seems to have dedicated his column’s editorial mission to trying to convince whoever happens to read it that Sterling should be fired. Talk about a waste of newsprint!

As far as I’m concerned, baseball is and always will be a game. Games are supposed to be fun. Yankee games are one of the great joys in my life and Sterling’s great broadcasting voice, signature calls and his unique schtick make those games even more enjoyable. Many may roll their eyes and make believe they think its corny but I know the majority of Yankee fans absolutely love to hear Sterling shout, “Inning over. Ballgame over. The Yankees win! Thuuuuuuuuuuuuuh Yankees win!”

So Happy Birthday John Sterling, happy birthday America, and happy birthday to this former Yankee owner, this former Yankee pitcher, and this former Yankee utility infielder too.

June 18 – Happy Birthday Russ Hodges

Yes, the same Russ Hodges who made the famous call of Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round the World,” was once the number 2 man in the Yankee broadcast booth behind Mel Allen. Back in the forties, the Yankees and the New York Giants did radio broadcasts of only their home games and since the two teams were never scheduled to play at home at the same time, the clubs shared announcers. In 1949, both teams started broadcasting road games as well and ended the practice of sharing play-by-play personalities. Allen stuck with the Yankees and Hodges the Giants, which is why on October 3, 1951, it was Hodges who was in the Polo Grounds radio booth screaming those famous words out over the air waves; “The Giants win the pennant” The Giants win the pennant!” Hodges remained the voice of the Giants for 21 years until his death in 1971. He was inducted into Cooperstown as the 1980 winner of the Ford Frick Award. Hodges was actually one of two eventual Frick Award winners to make the live call on Thomson’s historic blast. The other was the late, great Ernie Harwell who was doing the television play-by-play of that legendary game.

The only member of the Yankee all-time roster to be born on June 18th is this former reliever.