You know what I miss about modern baseball? No, it isn’t the great pitching, there’s a lot of that around. It isn’t the wonderful fielding, take a look at “Web Gems”. It isn’t the hitting, these guys can hit. What I miss is the men who used to call the games.
I miss Mel Allen. I miss Red Barber. I miss Russ Hodges. They were the main men in New York baseball when I was very young. They knew how to describe a game in vivid words that painted pictures of the game, of the field, of the players, and of the fans. Allen had sheer joy, Barber colorful use of words, Hodges wore his emotions on his sleeve. In fact, Hodges gave us all one of the single greatest calls of a lifetime with his 1951 “The Giants Win the Pennant” repeated a thousand times. Go to You Tube or somewhere and just listen to the joy and astonishment in his voice. Don’t look at the picture, just listen to the voice. You know what happened if you just listen.
Of course there were others. Dizzy Dean was a world to himself. Half the time I didn’t understand him (and neither did anyone else except for maybe Mrs. Dean) but who cared; he was wonderful. Jack Buck was understated and almost emotionless sometimes, and that was a wonderful tonic to the “rah, rah” types that drove me crazy. And nobody ever knew how to simply shut up and let the crowd do the talking than Buck. Joe Garagiola knew more about baseball than most people could learn in a 1000 years. Both were out of St. Louis (And isn’t it amazing how many great play-by-play guys have come out of St. Louis?) so I got to hear them a lot. Ernie Harwell could describe a play better than anyone I ever heard. Bob Prince was a little too much for me, but his love for his Pirates was so obvious you let it slide sometimes. And Curt Gowdy could announce anything and have you impressed.
There aren’t a lot of them left. You still hear Jay Randolph on an occasional Cardinals broadcast (see what I mean about St. Louis) and there is not, nor has there ever been, anyone quite like Vin Scully. Take time someday and just listen to the man. Even his non-baseball talks are a treat to the ears.
Now it’s not that the new guys are bad, they just aren’t quite as good. Too many of them simply call a game and don’t describe it. I guess that’s television and the idea that you can see for yourself what’s going on. But you know what? I miss the old guys who knew you had to describe a game as well as call it.