I have a confession to make—I only bought XM Satellite Radio two years ago so I could hear every baseball game in the Major Leagues.
To me, baseball on a the radio is the ultimate theater of the mind. You have to rely on the announcer to paint the picture for you. A good radio man can provide an instant visualization of the ballpark for his listener.
A good baseball play-by-play man also has a great understanding of the fact that the game is often long and tedious. Media audiences have short attention spans, and you must keep their interests by either telling a story or displaying a sense of humor on the air.
This is especially when the game is a blowout, and you want keep to the fan from flipping the dial.
Now, don't get me wrong, there are some great television broadcasters in the big leagues, but I prefer radio to television because the radio man has a more difficult job to do. He has to talk a lot more than the TV guy because the listener cannot see anything that is happening on the field. The more descriptive he is, the more he enhances the listening experience for the fan.
He must also possess a great personality and passion for the game that will keep the fan interested when the game is a blowout or dull. While the TV guy may still have to find a way to fill the time between pitches, he doesn't have to use as many words because the viewer can see what's going on—listeners can't, and must rely on the radio guy to be their eyes.
It is a much more challenging job to do baseball play-by-play on the radio than television. Through my exposure to them on XM, I have decided to rank the 10 best radio announcers in baseball today. Most of these guys are highly descriptive and, in some cases, they have a larger-than-life personality that makes them bigger than the team they cover.
Read on to see if your team's guy made the list, and, in case you were wondering, I am fully prepared to accept your critiques. Now then, on with the list.
10. John Gordon, Twins: I like Gordon for two reasons—he's a very laid back Midwestern fellow who is very relaxing to listen to, and his voice only rises when something exciting happens. If you want to get a sense of who John Gordon really is, picture the guy who does the voice-overs on the Smucker's ads as a Major League broadcaster.
9. Dave O'Brien, Red Sox: Come on, did you honestly think I wasn't going to nominate one of my team's guys for this list? Truth be told, O'Brien should be the Sox lead radio voice. He's very professional and has a great voice to boot.
He's also a national guy for ESPN, and I think he's classy for willing to play second fiddle on the radio broadcasts for his favorite team growing up.
8. John Rooney, Cardinals: Another laid-back Midwestern guy with a good set of pipes, who was willing to leave his job as the top dog for the White Sox to back up an cranky old geezer like Mike Shannon.
7. Pat Hughes and Ron Santo, Cubs: I'm putting these two together as a team because one's not as good without the other around. Santo has a tendency to go off on tangents that sometimes make no sense, and Hughes seems bored when Dave Otto is in the booth instead of Santo.
However, they have great chemistry together and are fantastic storytellers, especially when the game's a boring one.
6. Jerry Coleman, Padres: You've got to hand it to Jerry Coleman. It is truly remarkable that a man his age is still broadcasting the majority of his team's games, and in turn is at the top of his game.
Part of his appeal lies within the so-called "Colemanisms," in which he screws up the names of players or makes a bizarre statement such as "Rich Folkers is throwing up in the bullpen." He still makes keen insights and is an asset to the Padres broadcast team.
5. Skip Caray, Braves: Skip is the best and most vicious anti-homer broadcaster in the game today. He is by far the most entertaining guy to listen to when his team is getting killed.
While it may be true that he's very enthusiastic when the Braves do win, he's the first to openly criticize the team or the management before the scribes can publish their articles.
4. Ted Leitner, Padres: So overly-relaxed and wooden that's he's hilarious. I think the laid-back beach culture of San Diego has had an adverse effect on Ted. He's also got guts to tell the management and fans that the Padres belong to him when they are succeeding, and to disassociate himself from the team by referring to them as "Your Padres" when they are struggling.
3. Tom Hamilton, Indians: A very knowledgeable and enjoyable broadcaster whose best feature is that he gets so excited when the Tribe does something great that you can't help but get swept up in his enthusiasm.
2. Bob Uecker, Brewers: A national treasure. Uecker is the best guy to listen to when the game is boring because he will immediately bring out the one-liners that deprecate himself, and tell a bunch of stories from his past.
He understands better than anyone that baseball is a long game and ratings are a precious commodity in the radio business. I'd listen to him if the game was 18-0.
1. Jon Miller, Giants: The total package. Knowledgeable, funny, and a great set of pipes. Miller knows so much about the game and its history, that he sometimes forgets he's got a baseball game to call.
Giants fans should consider themselves lucky to have the best all-around broadcaster in the game, and the national audience should be happy to see him on ESPN every Sunday night.
There you have it, let the debating begin.
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