In baseball, the voices of the game are often as part of the viewing experience as the action on the field. That becomes amplified during the playoffs, when entire seasons are on the line and emotions are running hotter than ever—on the field, in the bleachers and in the announcer's booth.
If one of those unforgettable moments—a Kirk Gibson pinch-hit home run, a Luis Gonzalez squibber out of Derek Jeter's reach—happens this postseason, the announcer will go a long way toward forming it in our long-term memories. So, we can only hope that the voice of the moment does it justice. Fortunately for the baseball world, the announcers' booths are loaded with commentating all-stars—for the most part.
Here's a look at the top television commentators of the 2012 MLB playoffs, along with those reporting from the field.
Chances are that if you're an avid baseball fan, this photograph makes you angry. Or at least cringe a little.
This is perhaps a blanket statement, but in general, the broadcasting duo of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver annoys the brain cells out of most people watching baseball on Fox. Yet, since the 1990s, they have continued calling the sport's most important games.
It's said that McCarver helps the baseball novice understand the game better with his rudimentary breakdowns of the action. And for that, he can be applauded—assuming he does in fact help indoctrinate new baseball fans into the game. But for the seasoned baseball fan, it's better to just turn the sound down on the TV and turn it up on the radio.
As for what Buck offers, that's still under review.
To borrow from baseball vernacular, Brian Anderson is a professional announcer. There isn't anything particularly flashy or memorable about him—he just gets the job done.
For a Giants fan accustomed to listening to John Miller (the former ESPN Sunday Night Baseball announcer) call games throughout the season, Anderson's less expressive delivery is a bit of a downgrade. Yet, his knowledge of the game is strong and his calls are crisp.
Perhaps Jaime Maggio doesn't offer the same insider knowledge as John Smoltz. But she is a field reporter for a reason, right?
While the reason for Maggio making this list might set the feminist movement back a couple decades, the fact of the matter is that eyes are less likely to stray from the TV when she is on. For that alone, she is an effective member of the TBS broadcasting crew.
Of course, she is equipped with a sharp mind, an engaging personality and a working knowledge of the sports she covers, which make her contributions truly worthwhile.
Dick Stockton might be better suited for football or basketball, but his sophisticated voice is equally qualified to fill in for Al Michaels or NPR's Garrison Keillor.
Currently doing play-by-play for the Cardinals-Nationals series, Stockton is tasked with carrying a broadcast team made up of former player and manager Bob Brenly—certainly a knowledgeable baseball mind, but probably better talking about the game over a beer than on air—and David Aldridge, an excellent basketball reporter who might be slightly miscast in baseball.
There's no questioning Ernie Johnson's acumen as TNT's studio host during NBA games. And he is more than competent calling baseball games. But something about his underlying comedic tone doesn't fit quite right in the baseball booth.
Regardless, he is getting the job done calling the Yankees-Orioles. And maybe it's his regular dealings with the gregarious Charles Barkley that make it a breeze working with Hall of Famer Cal Ripken and future Hall of Famer John Smoltz.
Broadcasting professionals tend to appreciate Bob Costas more than the general public—some people find him pretentious and tired. Yet, there is a reason why he is an eight-time National Sportscaster of the Year and regular host of the Olympics.
And today, when he calls the Cardinals-Nationals game on the MLB Network, he will end a 12-year absence from the baseball broadcasting booth. Regardless of whether viewers like him, they will hear a crisp and intelligent commentary of the action.
Though Tom Verducci isn't in the booth, the handful of comments he offers from the field every game add an important dimension to the broadcast.
This could be a jaded take, based on Verducci's standing as arguably the best baseball journalist working today.
But whether he's penning a feature story for Sports Illustrated, analyzing from the MLB Network studio or field-reporting during the playoffs, Verducci equally demonstrates a grasp of the game and a knack for communicating to the baseball public.
While Ernie Johnson has play-by-play duties, the real stars of the booth are the two color guys: John Smoltz and Cal Ripken. But it's not their stellar playing careers that make Smoltz and Ripken so notable.
Often former players of their caliber aren't the best communicators, but Smoltz and Ripken are as good as it gets at conveying their Hall of Fame knowledge of the game. Though both belong on this list, Smoltz gets the nod for being slightly more refined and for his ability to regularly hang with Dan Patrick as a morning talk-show guest.
Only three years removed from his playing days, Smoltz offers insights as someone who played the current brand of baseball, while not talking over viewers' heads or taking their intelligence for granted.
Being assigned to call the LDS series with the least national appeal isn't an indication of Don Orsillo's skills in the booth. If anything, it is a perfect pairing of personalities between Orsillo and the cardiac A's. Both have light-hearted, playful personalities that light up during exciting moments.
Of course, Orsillo has plenty of experience with baseball drama, as his regular job is doing play-by-play for the Red Sox. Regardless, Orsillo's commentating does justice to exciting moments, such as Yoenis Cespedes' diving catch against the Tigers or Coco Crisp's leaping grab at the center-field wall on Tuesday night.
Plus, he's a bit quirky, which makes him a perfect fit for baseball—the sport of pies to the face and hot foot pranks.