(image by Whitney Holtzman)
Unless we can invent some sort of time-stopping device, akin to the remote in the woefully woeful Adam Sandler film, Click, there will come a time when Vin Scully retires, tired of educating and illuminating baseball fans across the globe. It will be a terrible time, not only for how Vin Scully is the one common that all baseball fans can agree on, and not only because we won’t learn things like “Uggla means owl”, but for light sleepers like me, there will be no one to sing me off to dreamland, his soothing baritone going from the speaker under my pillow into my ear as I drift off.
Baseball broadcasters have always been nearly, if not more, important as the action on the field as they are the personification of the team. They are the voices that explain the game to us as we grow up, sitting with our mother or father or brother or sister or uncle or whoever as we first learn about the sport and fall in love. And while a player can stick around 20 years if he’s lucky, a broadcaster is the literal tie between generations.
Before Scully, there was Red Barber. And baseball fans have been lucky enough to have Mel Allen, Ernie Harwell, and Jack Buck and…the list goes on and on. But where will the next Scully come from? Will there even be another?
No longer are there one man booths. Instead, there is the play-by-play man and one, if not two, color analysts. Not only that, but with the advent of MLB.tv and smartphones, listening to a radio broadcast is no longer a necessity when on the go. Sure, some people prefer the rich, lush descriptions that are only viable on the radio, but listening to the radio is now akin to listening to vinyl: it’s an act of love, not necessity.
Baseball has always been a highly localized sport, as well. With 162 games a year, even with the ability to access every ballgame being played, most people still only seek out their local affiliate, with exceptions being made for the playoffs and perhaps the weekly game on Fox and ESPN. Just as Vin Scully’s voice reached the masses by calling postseason games, it’s necessary for the broadcaster to reach that national stage before he can be called the voice of a generation.
Which, sadly, means that it’s likely that in twenty years, should he continue doing it, John Buck will be the broadcaster everyone associates with the sport. We may not love him, hell, some of us can’t even tolerate him, but Buck has also been calling the World Series for the duration of my conscious lifetime and baseball fandom. Will I, or you, or the average baseball fan, really not become nostalgic and gloss over his deficiencies or listless calling of the game? For if not him, who?
Bob Uecker, a close second to Scully in my book both for his humor and ability to call a game, is already 77 and only does the radio broadcasts of Brewers games.
Jon Miller would get my vote for his excellent game calling and genuine love of the sport, but after leaving Sunday Night Baseball, he is back in San Francisco and on the radio.
And hell, the Giants are quite lucky, laying claim to Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper on the TV side. Their analysis, especially of pitchers, is a marvel, and their energy and attitude is certainly a little more modern than many of the names on this list. Their voices were even leant to the greatest sports video game of all-time, EA Sports’ MVP 2005.
The Mets have another great group in Gary Cohen and Ron Darling. Cohen’s game calling is solid and Darling’s analysis is thought-provoking and very often spot on. The group sometimes calls upon Keith Hernandez and there is no better group to listen to when a game enters the 16th inning.
And, of course, there is Bob Costas, should he ever get to call Major League action again. Costas is a baseball trivia machine, much the way Scully is, and when he teamed up with Al Michaels to call a few innings of a Mets game earlier this year, it was magical. But it’s probably too late for him—he doesn’t have the time to spend forty years with a single team and become the god-like voice of all things baseball.
In the end, no, I don’t think we know who the next Vin Scully will be. Hell, there may never be another one. Baseball, for how much we love it, is no longer the lone thread that ties the nation together. Besides the popularity of other sports, there are just so many more outlets for information and entertainment. Which isn’t a bad thing, it just is.
So if there is another Vin Scully out there, one whose voice reminds us of home, whose insight is unique, and whose knowledge is seemingly infinite, I like to imagine that he’s some 20 year-old kid. Calling games for a Single-A club, the local radio network reaching maybe 30 people on a good night. He’s honing his skills and preparing for the day, sometime in the future, when he’ll get his break. And we’ll all be the better for it.
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- tastekitchen said: The Giants announcers are overrated. While, Ken Korach does a tremendous job and is very under the radar.
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- tritonreverse said: You forgot the Rangers’ Eric Nadel.
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