Jon Miller: Broadcasting Legend
The Bay Area is often said to be one step ahead of the curve. If that is true, Jon Miller must be setting the pace.
Since 1997, Miller has enchanted audiences as the “Voice of the Giants” but his legacy extends far beyond his local roots.
Born in San Francisco, Miller began his broadcasting career as the sports director for a local radio station. His tenure in the booth commenced in 1974 when he became the play-by-play announcer for the Oakland Athletics.
The A’s won the World Series that season and, much like his native state, the franchise’s success may have been an omen that anything Miller touched was golden.
The anecdote of how Miller decided to pursue a profession in commentating isn’t one of a divine calling. The story goes that one day Miller watched a baseball announcer call a game with a sandwich in one hand and a book in the other. Between pitches, the announcer would take a bite and read a page. Miller realized that a job where he could watch a baseball game, eat a sandwich and read a book was the one for him.
After his lone season with Oakland, Miller groomed his talent during brief stints with the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox. In 1983, the Baltimore Orioles radio affiliate assigned him play-by-play duties. Much like the stroke of luck he bestowed upon the A’s, the Orioles won the World Series in Miller’s first year with the club.
Along with Major League Baseball, Miller has called games for the NHL, NBA, NCAA and the defunct North American Soccer League. He landed his first network gig in 1976 announcing the NASL Championship game on CBS. Miller also spent time in a backup duty for NBC’s Saturday baseball Game of the Week during the late 1980’s.
Miller’s most recognizable role is as the play-by-play announcer for ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. Miller teamed up with Hall of Famer Joe Morgan in 1990, and the two have made Sunday evening baseball as American as apple pie.
“Jon has made a lasting impact on baseball through two decades on Sunday nights,” said Ted Robinson, a renowned sportscaster with 22 seasons of MLB service. “He has the gift of a spectacular voice and the skill to use it beautifully.”
Miller’s style separates him from the masses. Listening to him call a baseball game is like listening to your grandfather read a bedtime story, except you don’t get sleepy. His gentle but enthralling voice is soothing to one’s ear. A viewer can remain captivated during the dullest of pitching duals.
The intelligence Miller displays in his delivery is enlightening. He has been known to quote lines from Shakespeare during broadcasts, and will occasionally drop in a Spanish or Japanese phrase because he is fluent in both languages.
“Jon Miller is the best baseball broadcaster I have ever heard when the ball is in play,” said Golden State Warriors television play-by-play announcer Bob Fitzgerald. “He paints a perfect picture, has just the right amount of enthusiasm and rises to the big moments.”
Moments like the biggest stage in all of baseball—the Fall Classic. Miller replaced Vin Scully as the World Series national play-by-play announcer on ESPN Radio in 1998, and has broadcast 11 Series during his distinguished career. Miller also holds the honor of calling Barry Bonds’ historic 756th home run.
Along with his eloquence, another characteristic that sets Miller’s on-air personality apart from other commentators is that he doesn’t have a trademark phrase. He doesn’t need a go-to saying or slogan because Miller is good enough to rely on humor and wit.
“I appreciate that Jon doesn’t have a signature phrase,” Fitzgerald said. “Every moment is different and special. Any triple ever called by Jon Miller is my favorite call. He describes the outfielder, the ball and the runner perfectly, every time.”
Also unlike many local sportscasters, Miller is not a homer. You couldn’t tell which team he was employed by after watching a game. The same extent of enthusiasm is exuded for both teams.
This unbiased approach ultimately led to the termination of Miller in Baltimore. Orioles owner Peter Angelos had no intention of renewing Miller’s contract after 1996 because he thought “Jon should be more orange and black.” Some O’s fans believe the expiration of Miller’s contract created a curse that is the result of the team’s slow demise over the last decade.
Miller’s perfectly blended set of skills has garnered a myriad of accolades. He is a two-time recipient of the CableACE Award, an honor given for cable television excellence, and has twice been nominated for an Emmy Award. Miller was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame in 1998 and was named the National Sportscaster of the Year by the same organization.
“Clearly he's one of the great baseball announcers of all time,” said Grant Napear, play-by-play voice of Sacramento Kings television. “Without question he's the most recognizable voice in Bay Area sports.”
At 57 years of age, Miller is in his 12th season as the play-by-play voice on the Giants flagship radio station KNBR. He signed a contract extension in 2007 that will keep him in that position until 2012. Miller will always call California home, but he embodies much more than Bay Area sports media.
Miller’s presence and voice conjure an image of a modern day Benjamin Franklin. Without a doubt, he is one of broadcasting’s forefathers. Jon Miller is the national voice of baseball.
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