“Homer” announcers a disgrace to the game: just do the game, we’ll do the rooting


“Homer” announcers are a disgrace to the game of baseball.

Baseball announcers should report the events on the field and enhance the broadcast by providing insights into the game; such as explaining the strategy, rules, and even the history of the game.

The most wanton example of the “homer” announcer, who plays the role of cheerleader is former Red Sox player Ken “Hawk” Harrelson; when the White Sox score he drags out his trademark—“You can put it on the board! Yes! Yes!”  But, when the other team makes an out, Harrelson says, imitating a braying jackass:“He gone!  He gone!”

Aug 26, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; New York Yankees broadcaster John Sterling in the press box during a game against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-US PRESSWIRE

Another prime example of this embarrassing crowd is  Yankee homer, the smarmy, John Sterling:


Based on my own experiences announcing for a college team on radio and TV, I agree that is impossible to announce for a team and not identify with their success, at times, but resorting to homerism should consciously be kept to a minimum.

The best announcers strive to be accurate, unbiased, and baseball intelligent; they teach the listener about the game; the radio announcers graphically describe the scene and the plays. Vin Scully takes broadcasting into the rareified atmosphere of the poetic:

“He (Bob Gibson) pitches as though he’s double-parked.” Source: Baseball Digest (September 1972)

“He’s (Tom Glavine) like a tailor; a little off here, a little off there & you’re done, take a seat.”

“How good was Stan Musial? He was good enough to take your breath away.” Source: On-Air Radio Broadcast (1989)

“I said to him, ‘Joe (Garagiola), you played a long time, but I’ve broadcast as many games as you’ve played, and then some. So if you’re gonna talk “inside baseball,” you tell the fans the “inside baseball.” But don’t tell me.'”

“It’s a mere moment in a man’s life between the All-Star Game and an old timer’s game.” Source: On-Air Radio Broadcast (1980)

“It was typical of him (Ted Williams) to become a Marine Air Corps pilot and see action and almost get shot down. He was a remarkable American as well as a remarkable ballplayer. His passing so close to a national holiday seems part of a divine plan, so we can always remember him not only as a great player but also as a great patriot.”

And Scully was not biased about his home team: “The Dodgers are such a .500 team that if there was a way to split a three-game series, they’d find it.” Source: On-Air Radio Broadcast (1990)

In a recent Wall Street Journal report*, “our own,” Red Sox announcers, Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy scored low on the homer index, they rated #28 of 30; only Vin Scully at #29 and one other broadcast team were below them–the Mets’ trio: Gary Cohen, Ron Darling, and Keith Hernandez.

The Top Three worst homers were: #1. Ken Harrelson and Steve Stone [White Sox], #2. Matt Underwood and #3. Rick Manning [Cleveland], and Greg Brown and Steve Blass [Pittsburgh].

Radio announcers were not included in the WSJ article, but, here is one opinion about “our own” Joe Castiglione:

“He’s a staple in Red Sox baseball, especially for the Red Sox radio show. This team can do no wrong in his eyes, and every call made against it is an outrage. You can hear the excitement in his voice here as he talks about the Red Sox winning in 2007.”

Kelsey Givens  http://bleacherreport.com/articles/862925-25-biggest-homer-announcers-in-sports-history/page/18

Wrong, Kelsey!  Despite the rabid nature of the Red Sox fans, Mr. Castiglione eschews the temptation to play homer cheerleader for the team.  He notes the good plays made by the visiting teams and is willing to admit his opinion was wrong, after reviewing an instant replay.  He will take note of a “bad call” by an umpire, no matter which team it effected.

The use of “do no wrong, “every call” and are examples of the casual and careless use of absolute and extreme words that are rarely factually accurate, except on rare occasions.

With access to all MLB radio broadcasts, via SiriusXM, fans are able to sample the announcers of all teams.  My experience has turned up some odd ones:

White Sox radio announcers Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson are mid-range homers, who take on the geographically conceited tone, typical of that “toddlin’ town”; they sound as if they believe that Chicago is the apex of the baseball universe.  Their “you rubes out there” attitude belies the reality that, besides Wrigley Field, which they did not assist in creating.

Chicago rests its celebrity on:  a fire; the S.S. Eastland cruise ship disaster, where on 24 July 1915—a calm, sunny day—the ship was taking on passengers when it rolled over while tied to a dock; 844 passengers and crew were killed; inventing the skyscraper; perfecting “machine politics;” Mayor Daley’s 1968 police pogrom at the Democratic National Convention; the stench of stockyards; proximity to Lake Michigan; the Haymarket Massacre and hangings; the 1919 Chicago Race Riot; the Manhattan Project, that brought the world nuclear weapons and the nickname it embraces, the Windy City,” which derives from its boasting lobbyists and politicians.

And, memo to Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson: Chicago, the urban center of the “Midwest,” is not the center of the “Midwest,” which is neither “mid” nor “west.”

Reds radio announcer Marty Brennaman received the Ford C. Frick Award on July 23, 2000, in ceremonies at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, but has the attitude of an annoyed accountant at tax time.

In contrast, his partner, former MLB pitcher, Jeff Brantley affects a Mississippi drawl that makes him sound like a cross between Walter Brennan and George Wallace and his idea of play-by-play announcing is to remain silent until the pitch hits the catcher’s glove and then say: “Ball…3 and 1.”  If the ball is hit, he drawls his description so slowly that, before he can say:  “Fly ball to Right field for the third out.”—the commercial break starts.

The better announcers will at least tell their listeners the type and location of each pitch:  “Slider, low and away…86 on the gun.”  Some may even add:  “He has been missing with the slider all game; he has had better success with his curve.”  The very good broadcasters will note the number of pitches thrown and the ratio of balls and strikes.

Then there are those who say: “Jones is hitting .300 against the Pirates for his career.”  A more relevant fact would be what Jones was batting against the Pirate pitcher on the mound in that game.

Other bad examples from baseball radio broadcasts:

“Old McDonald has an arm: E.I.E.I. you’re out!” [Pirates]

“Can I get a big WOOOOOO!?” [Marlins]

“I think we need to get another run…” [Phillies]

The use of the words “we” and “us,” when used to describe the announcers and the players on the field as a “team,” is particularly egregious and indicative of homer announcers.  When they say, “Well, Bob, I kept the shutout going, now keep us ahead…” it implies that the announcer had some effect on the events of the game and that he is an equal member of the team.

You might expect that the San Diego announcers would be laid back and casual; no, they sound like automated speech synthesizers set at too high a speed.  They spew quickly and, at seemingly random breaks, the emphasize a word without any apparent purpose.

Then there are the “gabby” announcers, who yammer on about their personal lives and other irrelevant topics, while they try to, belatedly, keep up with the game action.  “Yeah, I’ve been trying everything to keep the weeds down between the cracks on the patio and…oh, Smith hits a single and the Cubs now lead 3 to 2, uh, I mean 3 to 1…and some people say that pouring a little vinegar on the weeds will…”

Baseball announcers, here is the deal.  Just describe the action on the field accurately, without team bias and we fans will take care of the rooting for the home team.

And, by the way, OUR Red Sox announcers are the “best–ever”!

And, THAT’S a “homer”!


*“How biased is your baseball announcer?” http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444180004578016652376246198.html?mod=wsj_share_tweet