A recent newsroom conversation about the passing of legendary Giants and A’s broadcaster Lon Simmons earlier this month sparked a conversation about baseball on the radio and some of those memorable voices that trademark a baseball game with their ability to speak.
First, let me say Simmons, with his steady baritone voice and wit could capture and lull me into the broadcast. His self-deprecating humor injected at the oddest of times would snap you out of any trance he had brought you under. I spent many a swing shift on patrol in my prior life listening to “Lon and Bill” (King) broadcast the Bash Brothers and the rest of the A’s during the ‘80s and early ‘90s.
Like many Oakland A’s fans my age, my earliest A’s baseball memories were listening to Monte Moore do the play-by-play on a transistor radio. My parents got no objection from me if they wanted to go somewhere during game times as long as they put the game on during the drive, and I would even wait in the car while the rest of the family went into the store or other location. These were the days when only a handful of games were televised and if you wanted to follow your team you listened to the game on the radio.
But Moore was nothing like Curt Gowdy broadcasting NBC’s Game of the Week on Saturdays or, along with Tony Kubek and Joe Garagiola, in the playoffs and World Series – in which the A’s were making regular appearances. Gowdy’s voice is reminiscent of that era of not only baseball but good ol’ AFL Football.
Depending on the part of the country one is from, the same memories of summer nights or spring days can be brought back hearing the identifiable tones of a broadcaster. The likes of Jack Buck, Harry Caray, Mel Allen, Ernie Harwell, or the distinguished Vin Scully are as characteristic of their team as some of the great players of the game.
Each had their own infectious style that bonded fans to their hometown teams making those memories unique to a geographical area. They ruled the airways for decades with their spoken descriptions of the game. And you could count on them to be there every season as they weren’t traded, cut, or went to another team as a free agent.
I don’t know if it’s nostalgia, or a yearning for lost days of youth, but hearing those voices again strikes an exclusive chord to each individual.
Whether it’s having the game on in the background while doing yardwork or on a fishing trip, or a late-inning broadcast played through a bedside clock radio, a radio broadcast of a game still continues to hold a fascination for fans.
Through the conduit of your team’s broadcaster, your imagination is captured with the game in its purist play-by-play form and memories are made as you can place yourself in the bleachers or behind home plate.
As former major league baseball player and long-time Milwaukee Brewers announcer Bob Uecker said, “You paint a picture in the mind. It’s a kick to make baseball come alive to a guy hundreds of miles away who’s never seen your home park.”
For the record, I am NOT A FAN of listening to the game when actually at the ballpark. A true fan doesn’t need someone telling him what he is seeing in person.
Years from now fan memories will be stirred when hearing rebroadcasted highlights with the voices of Jon Miller along with “Kruk and Kuip” or Ken Korach and Ray Fosse.
(I also believe many of those same fans will agree, despising those moments they have to hear Joe Buck paired with Tim McCarver from Fox broadcasts.)
With the new season here, games will be heard in cars, offices, out on picnic tables, and through garage boom-boxes and memories will be made as millions of fans set their daily schedules around the listening to, and even viewing of, baseball games.
Richard Paloma is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.