The Men Behind the Microphones
When discussing the bonds which link baseball fans to their
favorite club, one element that is often overlooked is the
team's broadcasters. For every person in the stands, a dozen
more are watching at home or listening in their cars. From April
through September, the voices of the local broadcasters almost
become part of the family, providing a sense of comfortable
continuity from season to season.
Surprisingly for such a tradition-bound organization, the Red
Sox have never fully capitalized on this factor. The Sox'
celebrity announcer was public address man Sherm Feller, not a
radio or TV voice. Only one broadcaster has remain with the club
longer than Joe Castiglione's 21 seasons: Ned Martin, who
broadcast the Sox for 32 years, from 1961 through 1992. (See
Table 1.) Compare this to the Kansas City Royals, where Denny
Matthews has broadcast since their original season of 1969, or
the New York Mets, who still employ two of their three original
broadcasters from 1962, Ralph Kiner and Bob Murphy.
Table 1: Red Sox Broadcasters for 20+ Years
Murphy, Kiner and Matthews are just three of the dozen major
league broadcasters who have been with their current club for
thirty years or more. The list includes both halves of the
Cincinnati Reds' radio team, Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall,
and Milwaukee's inimitable Bob Uecker, who continued to call
Brewers games even while starring in a network sitcom.
By contrast, in the booth as on the diamond, Bostonians best
remember the ones who got away. The Mets' Bob Murphy, a
winner of the Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award for
broadcasting excellence, got his start calling Red Sox games from
1954 to 1959. His partner during those seasons was fellow Frick
Award winner Curt Gowdy, who broadcast the Sox for fifteen
seasons before joining NBC full time. More recently Jon Miller,
the voice of ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, spent three years
in the Red Sox radio booth, from 1980 through 1982, before moving
on to Baltimore.
The two longest-tenured broadcasters (see Table 2) both work for
the Los Angeles Dodgers. Jaime Jarrin has called Dodger games on
their Spanish-language radio affiliates since 1959, one year
after the club's arrival from Brooklyn. Vin Scully, who moved
west with the Dodgers, was already in his second season at the
mike when Bobby Thomson beat the Dodgers with his pennant-winning
home run in 1951.
Table 2: 40+ Years with Current Club
||Brooklyn-Los Angeles Dodgers
||Los Angeles Dodgers (Spanish)
||New York Mets
||New York Mets
Scully shows how a broadcaster can come to symbolize his team.
Generations of Dodger fans brought radios to the park so they
could listen to Scully describe the action they were watching,
and a fan poll named Scully, not a player or manager, the top
figure in Los Angeles Dodger history.
Ernie Harwell, the only broadcaster to work as many seasons as
Scully (see Table 3), could probably have won a similar pool
among Tiger fans. Harwell was so beloved in Detroit that when
management tried to retire him, the public outcry brought him
back for ten more seasons. And in Chicago, the Cubs not only
erected a statue of Harry Caray outside Wrigley Field, but have
continued his tradition of singing "Take Me Out to the
Ballgame" with guest vocalists ranging from opera singers to
The Red Sox may be learning the importance of maintaining a
distinguished broadcasting tradition, Joe Castiglione is in his
21st season; Sean McDonough, his sixteenth. If they are around to
call the centennial of the Sox' last world championship -- or
to broadcast Boston's first title since the development of
commercial radio -- the Sox could finally have worthy heirs to
the tradition of Scully, Harwell and Caray.
Copyright © 2003 Doug Pappas. All rights
Originally published in the September 2003 issue of Boston
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