The voices you hear

Last month, I wrote about my 20-plus-year avocation, sports announcing, which has provided me with volumes of stories even though I’ve never worked in broadcasting full-time.

I wrote that I haven’t really patterned myself after any announcer that I’m aware of. But if you listened to, for instance, Jim Irwin call Packer and Badger games and Bob Uecker call Brewer games for decades, you are likely to unconsciously emulate them unless you make a conscious effort not to.

Packer fans today get to hear the outstanding work of Packer announcer Wayne Larrivee, known for …

The contrast to Larrivee is the other announcer at Lambeau Field Monday night, the Vikings’ unprofessional Paul Allen:

The example of working to not sound like someone applies to the announcing Carays, Harry …

… and Skip, who did not want to sound like his father, and almost never did …

… except for this October 1992 moment:

Jack and Joe Buck don’t sound alike, but Joe gave a great tribute to Jack in crazy game 6 of the World Series:

Harry Caray and Jack Buck called Cardinals games from the late 1960s until the Cardinals fired Caray in 1970. Note the differences between their styles:

Buck then took over and announced the Cardinals and NFL football until his death:

The younger Buck now announces baseball …

… and football (where he almost became the Packers’ personal announcer, calling their last six games of the 2010 season):

Team announcers have two priorities: (1) Get people to watch or listen to the broadcast, and (2) get people to come to the team’s home games. Some team announcers claim to call games down the middle, but that’s not necessarily what their listeners want to hear. And when your team does well, that tends to help the announcer’s career too:

The number one task of an announcer is to call the game — score, down and distance, balls and strikes, etc., and of course in-game commercials and sponsor mentions. The announcers I like best are those who besides that make you watch, whether you have a rooting interest in the game, and regardless of the score.

Skip Caray was worth watching to see what he’d say next, including:

  • Until Braves owner Ted Turner made him stop, upon reaching the bottom of the fifth inning: “We’ve come to the bottom of another fifth.”
  • During a late at-bat of a Braves hitter during a game in Los Angeles: “He has twice grounded to short. [After the swing] He has thrice grounded to short.”
  • During a period where Turner prohibited CNN announcers from using the word “foreign,” mandating “international” instead, a batter called time out and stepped out of the batter’s box because, Caray explained, “he had an international object in his eye.”
  • Caray described one poorly attended Braves home game as “a partial sellout.” Another home game, with entire sections of empty seats, was called “Blue Seat Night, folks — you dress up like a blue seat, you get in free.” In another game, he announced, “The stadium is filled tonight, but many fans have come disguised as empty seats.”
  • Caray once mispronounced the name of Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt, omitting the M and adding a Z sound at the end. After coming back from commercial, his partner, former Milwaukee Braves pitcher Ernie Johnson, asked, “What was the name of the Phillies third baseman again?”

When you’ve been announcing games since 1974, as Reds announcer Marty Brennaman has, you can get away with being critical during games:

Whether or not he can call games as well as he used to, CBS’ Verne Lundquist (who had a couple of problem calls in the LSU–Alabama game Saturday) is enjoyable to watch, particularly on basketball with Bill Raftery, which is kind of like watching your two great-uncles argue with each other:

The best hockey announcer right now is probably NBC’s Mike Emrick:

One announcer whose very voice is college football is ABC’s Keith Jackson …

… although he could do other sports too:

My favorite sports announcer was Dick Enberg of NBC and CBS:

The announcer that makes every other sound like a rank amateur is, of course, the transcendent Vin Scully …

… who, though best known for baseball, could announce football too:

Scully’s opposite in career is NBC’s Al Michaels, best known for football …

… and one hockey game …

… but who also did baseball well:

One more thing: The exciting aspect of calling sports is that the announcer is never 100 percent sure what’s going to happen. Watch the bizarre finish of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, for which no announcer could properly prepare:

3 thoughts on “The voices you hear

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