I live in Charlestown, MA so my commute to McCoy Stadium for a PawSox home game is 48 minutes each way with no traffic.
(The course record is 43 minutes, but don’t tell the state troopers)
Two things make the drive tolerable. For starters, there are 16 Dunkin Donuts franchises between my house and the ballpark, so there’s never a shortage of caffeine. But more importantly, I can pass the time by listening to any live major league baseball game on XM Radio.
I love listening to the different announcers and try to pick up little nuances that can help me get better behind the mic. I’m a strong believer that the worst thing you can do is try to copy another announcer, but I also believe that you can improve by finding things you like (and don’t like) in other broadcasters.
Last night following the PawSox 3-2 loss to Durham, I listened to the San Diego Padres’ announcers Ted Leitner and Andy Mazur call a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Leitner is something of a polarizing announcer – people either love him or hate him – but he’s one of my favorites. His style is totally unique – a stream of consciousness that includes play-by-play, comedy, commentary, and some cheerleading for his beloved Padres. I couldn’t pull it off, but Ted sure does and I really enjoy listening to him.
Here’s a quick Top 5 that I love to listen to on XM.
Vin Scully (LA Dodgers). The gold standard and still the best in the business at the age of 81. I’ve included this link before, but read the transcript of Scully’s call of Sandy Koufax’s 1965 perfect game and you’ll truly appreciate his brilliance.
Here’s a Scully story. A few years ago, I filled-in on a few Cincinnati Reds telecasts in Los Angeles and San Diego. The road trip began at Dodger Stadium and the final game of the series was not on TV, so I drove to San Diego a day early to play golf with my color analyst Chris Welsh. On the drive south, we listened to Scully call the final game of the Reds/Dodgers series and his broadcast was filled with interesting information about Cincinnati players that neither one of us knew – despite being about the team every day for years. Above all, Scully is a master storyteller with total command of the language.
Jon Miller (San Francisco Giants). Sure he does a great job on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, but Miller shines brightest on the radio. In my opinion, Miller uses his voice better than any other announcer. It helps that he has a great one, but he plays it like a Stradivarius. His call of the game is pretty straight-forward, and no one can make the basics of baseball sound so exciting.
Miller was the subject of a great story last week on a Washington Post blog.
Marty Brennaman (Cincinnati Reds). The most candid home team announcer in the history of broadcasting. If the Reds are screwing up, Marty isn’t afraid to say so. But that’s not the only thing that makes him one of my heroes. He’s funny, opinioned, quick to poke fun at himself, and an absolute master at making his broadcasting partners sound good. And I get to work with him next month! (More on that later)
Perhaps the most amazing thing about Marty is that in more than three decades of broadcasting Reds games, he’s never botched a big moment. WLW-AM, the Reds flagship station, has saved the classic audio of all of the major events during his tenure and Marty nailed every one. That’s a streak of DiMaggio-esque proportions.
Dave O’Brien (Boston Red Sox). We are blessed in Red Sox nation to have O’Brien behind the mic. For starters, his voice is magnificent, but Dave is the total package – smart, funny, descriptive, and well-prepared. I don’t know that anyone sounds better at calling an exciting play than O’Brien.
Dave Neihaus (Seattle Mariners). One thing that all of the greats have in common is that they sound like they’re having a great time, and no one embodies that more than Neihaus. There is a joyous tone to his voice every night, and the ballpark sounds like a magical place to be when he’s behind the mic.
Other XM Radio favorites include Eric Nadel (Texas Rangers), Jerry Howarth (Toronto Blue Jays), Pat Hughes (Chicago Cubs), Howie Rose (NY Mets), and Dan Shulman (ESPN).
If I could include favorite TV announcers, former PawSox announcer Gary Cohen (NY Mets), Josh Lewin (Texas Rangers), Dave Sims (Seattle Mariners), Matt Vasgersian (MLB Network) and Sean McDonough (ESPN) would be at the top of the list.
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I have another opportunity to fill-in on a Cincinnati Reds broadcast coming up next month. I’ll join Hall of Famer Marty Brennaman on the radio on July 27th against the San Diego Padres.
The Reds went 2-1 when I filled-in in Pittsburgh last month, so I’ll try to bring them some good luck at Great American Ball Park in July.
Perhaps there will be someone on the PawSox disabled list at that point who can take my place in the booth with Steve Hyder. Jeff Natale was awesome when I had laryngitis.
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Tuesday is a Clay Buchholz Night at McCoy Stadium. For the season, Clay is 4-0 with a 1.74 ERA and his numbers have been mind-boggling in his last 7 starts: 4-0 with a 1.52 ERA (47.1 IP, 26 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 5 BB, 45 K). Buchholz has not allowed a walk in his last 23.1 IP.
If you can’t make it out to McCoy, I hope you’ll join us for the radio call beginning with the pre-game show at 6:50 on the Pawtucket Red Sox radio network or PawSox.com.
I’d love to hear from you. The address is firstname.lastname@example.org.