MLB radio: Sound salvation

14 04 2010

Last week Night Owl sang the praises of the free preview of MLB Extra Innings, and for the past few years, I too have tried to use it to sneak a peak at a few Reds games I wouldn’t normally get to see.  Here’s what usually happens for me, though:  I remember the free preview thing about mid-week, check the listings and see that on my days off the Reds aren’t offered as an option, then make a mental note to myself to do a better job of remembering next year.  This year that cycle was broken.

I didn’t look at a single game.

I understand Night Owl’s plight.  I, too, am a displaced fan, only I root for the Reds while I live in Southern California.  I can actually watch all of the games the Owl wants to, but I care as much for them as he does for the Yankees.  Charley Steiner drives me crazy with his style, a pseudo Vin Scully drawl that comes across to me somewhat smug and pompous and eventually bores me to tears.  Steve Lyons is mediocre in my mind as well (I think that’s his voice I hear on occasion).

Vin Scully, on the other hand, is perhaps the gold standard of broadcasters.   I could listen to as he read a cereal box, and would be in awe as he related a story about pyridoxine hydrochloride and Matt Kemp.  Yesterday I learned from him that Andy LaRoche has a ranch somewhere in Colorado and his cattle are branded E3.  I can still hear the story in my mind, inflection and all.  He is about as good as it gets.

When I was a kid, I felt honored to get the team of Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall calling the action at Riverfront Stadium, and while Marty is still around and still very good at what he does, his supporting cast (Jeff Brantley and Bernnaman’s son Thom) is lacking, and it drags down the experience somewhat.  The contracts of both Thom and Brantley expire at the end of this season, and while I can see keeping Thom around for his family connection, here’s hoping “the Cowboy” is retired to LaRoche’s ranch come fall.

While watching your hometown team on TV has its moments, there is nothing better than a good radio announcer to bring the game alive.  They are responsible for telling you everything since you cannot see it.  They tell you about the dying quails and the on deck circles.  They tell you if it’s raining and if so how hard.  They relate stories from their past and how they relate to the action that plays out in front of them.  While TV announcers can take a break and let the picture speak for them, radio announcers have no such luck.  They are your eyes.  You just need your ears.

And because of this, rather than watch the Extra Innings free previews this year, I’ve been enjoying the MLB At Bat app on my phone and the radio feeds that it brings.  As I mentioned, yesterday I listened to Vin Scully and parts of the Diamondbacks/Dodgers duel in Los Angeles.  I listened to Bob Uecker broadcast a game for the first time outside of the movie Major League and even found myself chuckling and cheering on the Brewers as a result.  Today I’ve been enjoying the Twins/Red Sox match up, featuring John Gordon and Dan Gladden in the booth.  While John would forget an occasional base runner (noting the bases empty when Dustin Pedoria was on 2nd, for example), overall the two were a good combination that called an enjoyable game.

So I’ve made a goal for myself this year:  30 teams, one full radio game for each of them, and more if time permits.  The only rule so far is that I won’t listen to a Reds game broadcast by the opposing team.  I’m pretty sure that would tarnish my viewpoint, and I’m already dreading the Padres game I choose based on my memory of them from my trip down there to catch the Reds  in 2008.  Listening to them call the Reds-Padres series was awful.  Like living 3000 miles from the home of your favorite team.

Why is this a challenge at all?  Well, for one it has to be day games.  Nights are tied up with dinners and bedtimes for the kids, while my days off generally give me an afternoon to get stuff done.  It’s another advantage of radio baseball.  You go to the store, and it goes with you.

I’ll even rank them as I see fit (Reds games excluded), and I’m hopeful to hear stories of your favorite baseball memories as well.

So far, the ranking’s pretty easy:

1) 4/14 – Boston Red Sox vs. Minnesota Twins, John Gordon and Dan Gladden.

Next week the Royals and the Blue Jays play the only day game I might have a chance at, a 9:37 start on Wednesday.  After that, I’m open to your suggestions.

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3 responses

14 04 2010
night owl

You can’t possibly dislike the Dodgers and their announcers as much as I dislike the Yankees and theirs. And, the radio announcers for the Yankees are horrendous. John Sterling and Susan Waldman — I’m assuming they’re still doing N.Y. radio games — are painful.

I don’t understand how Steiner and Lyons ended up with the Dodgers. Both of them are fairly recent additions, and to me, they have no connection to what the Dodgers are.

14 04 2010
handcollated

I’m already dreading the Yankees game, and your comment doesn’t help. I’m going to look for a rainy day in the Bronx when I choose that feed and hope for a called game after five.

Steiner’s been on the air for the Dodgers for about five years, I think. To be, he’s like listening to burlap – very unexciting. And Lyons is one of those guys who just seems to stick around broadcast booths. I seem to remember him with the Cubs broadcast crew at some point.

There’s another baseball tandem I can do without – the Cubs TV guys. Too bad it’s usually my best chance to see the Reds.

17 04 2010
Rhubarb_Runner

You might like the Twins booth, but it was SO much better when HOF’er Herb Carneal was there.

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