Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Announcers Score With Me If They Give It On The Air -- A LOT

Ernie Harwell once told me that he learned this trick from oldtime baseball announcer Red Barber when it came to giving the score on the air: Red would take one of those egg timers -- with the grains of sand, hour-glass shaped -- and flip it to start it. When the grains of sand ran out, he gave the score, and flipped the timer. So listeners were guaranteed the score every three minutes. And, Harwell said, he stole the technique. Worked wonders, he told me.

I can't disagree. Ernie was one of the most reliable announcers when it came to giving the score. His longtime partner -- Paul Carey -- wasn't as trustworthy, but he is forgiven. How can you not give a pass to a man with the voice of God?

I don't listen to baseball much on the radio anymore, mainly because I'm not in my car all that often. I work at home, and before that I had a very short commute. I'll still tune the game in occasionally if I'm working outside or swimming in the pool, but with a small family and a couple of dogs, the game-listening kind of gets shoved wayyyy in the background. But that's okay.

Harwell (left), thankfully stole a trick from the great Red Barber

Regardless, when I do listen -- and especially when I was more avid -- hearing the score for me is sort of like insulin for a diabetic. I start to get the shakes if it doesn't come within a minute or two. The Tigers' current radio guy -- Dan Dickerson -- does a pretty good job in that department. He seems to get it. While baseball is still a wonderfully lazy game practically made for radio, its listeners still want the game score. For if we don't get it, it's like stepping into a conversation where everyone is interested in the topic and nobody will tell you what they're talking about. Very annoying.

I guess what makes me crazy about announcers who won't tell the score is, it takes two freaking seconds to say it! Ken Kal, the Red Wings' radio announcer, does a marvelous job. He blends it into his play-by-play:

"Lidstrom with the puck. Flips it into the Colorado zone. Red Wings changing on the fly -- 2-0 Detroit -- and the puck is picked up by Smith...."


Basketball is great for score fans because it's changing constantly. All you have to do is listen for the next basket or free throw, and the announcer can't help but give the score. Can you imagine how frustrating it would be if you heard:

"Billups spots up for a three....it's through! Chauncey Billups triples! Now here come the Nets..."

No way Jose.

Football is a toughie. You might have to listen a little while for the score, although Mark Champion of the Lions was pretty reliable. Dan Miller, who took over for Champion last season, does alright. But for some reason I don't break into palpatations if I don't get the football score right away. Maybe because with the Lions, I'm actually afraid of what the score is.

Television solved this problem years ago with the addition of their eternal scoreboards burned into your screen throughout the game. All you have to do is click the channel, and look for the darned thing -- because it's located differently everytime. But at least it's there, and that's a good thing.

I wonder what the radio equivalent of that might be?

Too bad we don't have the technology yet where, everytime you tuned the game in on the radio, the announcer gets a small electrical jolt, which causes him to give the score immediately.

Come on, techies -- get with the program.
Top Ten List - Day II

10. Kent Hrbek (Minnesota). Maybe his numbers were inflated by the Metrodome, but Herbie was a player. Not the most limber of men, but he didn't drop the ball. Menacing at the plate, Hrbek thrived on the low, inside fastball.
9. Chris Chambliss (New York Yankees). Solid, unspectacular, easy to overlook. Of course, hit the dramatic, walk-off HR that won the 1976 ALCS. But Chambliss could hit for average, a little power, and didn't hurt you defensively.
8. Mike Hargrove (Cleveland/Texas). A sleeper pick. "The Human Rain Delay" (named such because of his annoying routines between every pitch) was a masterful fielder and a .290 career hitter. Unfortunately, played on some bad teams.
7. Tony Perez (Cincinnati). If you needed an RBI, you'd send for Perez. He had amazing consistency in that department. Not a bad fielder, and he was an absolute integral cog in the Big Red Machine.
6. Cecil Fielder (Detroit). Big Daddy, in my mind, never got his props for his defense. True, he didn't possess a lot of range, but the balls he got to -- were caught. The power numbers speak for themselves. RBI king for several seasons beginning in the early 1990's. World Series champion in '96 with the Yanks.
5. Mark McGwire (Oakland/St. Louis). Oh, it pains me to put him here because of the steroid thing, but the truth is, Mac was a great first baseman even before the alleged doping. He could scoop out low throws with the best of them, and was one of the most feared sluggers of his time -- again, pre-steroids.
4. Steve Garvey (Los Angeles). Garvey once played an entire season -- 1984 -- without committing an error. He made plays look effortless. Deliberate at the plate, Garvey rarely struck out and hit with power. He excelled well into his late-30's because he kept himself in marvelous shape. Maybe one of the most reliable players -- overall -- of his era.
3. Don Mattingly (New York Yankees). Amazingly, Mattingly's career with the Yankees traversed a period that was mostly postseason-free. So he only played in one playoff series -- the 1995 ALDS (his last season), in which he batted .417 with a homer in 24 at-bats. But he is #3 because he fielded brilliantly, hit for power and average, and was lefty. Also a great leader on some not-so-hot Yankees teams of the 1980's.
2. Frank Thomas (Chicago White Sox). The Big Hurt. For that is exactly what he inflicted on opposing pitchers. Thomas was, at his best, a monster at the plate -- a feared beast. Pretty slick with the glove, too. Truly menacing, though, with the bat. Among the top ten players of his time.
1. Eddie Murray (Baltimore). A tough call, because Mattingly and Thomas were so gifted, but Murray was absolutely off the hook at the plate when runners were in scoring position in the late innings. Plus, he had over 3,000 hits and 500+ homers. He may not have been quite as adept with the glove as Mattingly and some others, but he was no slouch defensively. Ultimately, his reliability for ribbies (over 1,900) puts him at the top of the heap. Plus, being a deadeye switch-hitter means something. He played the game a bit angry -- and I like that.

Tomorrow: second basemen.


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