The death of Ernie Harwell reminded me how much I miss the truly great voices of baseball. SportsPhd had a wonderful comment on Harwell (which you should read, especially if you’re a dad) and mentioned the now stilled voices of the past. He mentions a lot of them, missing Bob Prince at Pittsburgh and Russ Hodges with the Giants. But then it’s a short blog, not a dissertation. It’s right that we sit and remember these people. They mean as much to baseball as the players, the managers, the peanut vendors, the owners, the fans, the print reporters, and the guy who trims the ivy at Wrigley Field. For some of us, it’s how we got our baseball.
They are sometimes famous for catchphrases like Red Barber’s “catbird’s seat” or Mel Allen’s “how about that”. Others are noted for the delivery style like Dizzy Dean’s mangling of the English language or Vin Scully’s use of classical allusion. Still others are best noted for simply knowing when to shut up. Jack Buck being the great practitioner of that.
There are specific calls that ring in my head when I think of baseball. None are more memorable than Russ Hodges’ “The Giants win the pennant. The Giants win the pennant. The Giants win the pennant.” The call that announced that New York was going to the World Series in 1951 gets my vote as greatest call ever. Others will disagree. I know several people who love Bob Prince’s call of Bill Mazeroski’s home run in game seven of 1960.
Jack Buck also has two of my favorites. One is his response to Kirk Gibson’s home run in 1988, “I don’t believe what I just saw.” The other is his comment when Gene Larkin hit the little single that put the Minnesota Twins over the top in 1991, “The Twins are going to win the World Series.” What a wonderful bit of understatement. Then the Twins swarmed on the field and Tom Kelly went to the Braves bench to congratulate the Braves. Buck’s response? Silence. He knew when to shut up and let the camera do its job.
My personal favorite is Vin Scully, but then I’m a Dodgers fan. I love his use of the language. I still remember him calling Sandy Koufax’s perfect game late in the evening on the radio. Wow.
I’ve left out a bunch: Joe Garagiola, Jay Randolph, etc. But there’s no slight meant. I’d give a whole lot just to hear the voices of those that are gone and those that are retired. I hope the generations that follow get to hear something like them. If not, those generations are really going to miss something very special.
Rest in Peace, Ernie Harwell.