11/26/09 10:00 AM EST
Sound of silence disquieting in baseball
Fans tweet their favorite broadcasting calls from season
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
You want to hear Hawk Harrelson screaming for them to "put it on the board."
You need to know that it's an "A-Bomb for A-Rod," because John Sterling says it's so.
The voices are quiet right now. You miss them. It is Thanksgiving, and that is only natural. The broadcasters deserve a break, and we do hope they are gargling salt water or whatever it is they do to preserve those all-important vocal chords for next season.
But for fans, it's tough. What a void. You listen to sports-talk radio on the commute home and that's OK, but you'd rather have Mike Shannon in St. Louis telling you that pitch was "right down Main Street" or know Dave Niehaus is describing another hit by Ichiro.
In fact, you miss the voices in the booth so much that you are maybe more thankful for their calls now than ever. MLB.com misses them right along with you, so consider this a bit of a Thanksgiving support group reachout. We asked 725,000 fans who follow @MLB on Twitter to share their personal favorite calls from the 2009 season, just to get the conversation started.
The first person to respond to our call for calls was Eric Young Jr., the Rockies' rookie outfielder.
"When Drew Goodman called my first home run," Young said with a laugh.
Top that one. Your magical moment was being described by a Major League broadcaster. It was Sept. 8 at Coors Field, a missile to left off Reds rookie Pedro Viola. You had completed your first home run trot, you finished the game, and then you wanted to find out how the call looked and sounded because that's your history right there.
"I couldn't stop smiling," Young continued. "Dreaming about that moment, and finally watching/hearing it on TV -- wow."
Goodman said after Young crossed the plate: "How good that must feel! And someone put a seat belt on Dad wherever he's watching from tonight."
Tom Reese, 28, of Smithville, N.J., captured the sentiment of so many fans who are especially missing the late Harry Kalas. Sadly, this is the first offseason when you know his incomparable presence will not be felt when the game finally returns at Spring Training.
"Gotta go with Harry Kalas' final home run call, a Matt Stairs go-ahead two-run shot in the ninth against the Rockies on Easter Sunday," Reese replied on Twitter.
MLB.com called Reese to find out more about just what Harry the K had meant to him.
"As a Phillies fan growing up, his was the first voice I ever really heard," Reese said. "His was the first memory of baseball I have -- it was hearing his voice doing all the Phillies calls. His voice to me has always been synonymous with baseball in general. Once I heard his voice crackling over the radio or TV, I knew immediately it was baseball season.
"Mike Schmidt's 500th home run was a huge one. And of course in 2008, the World Series victory call. 'The Philadelphia Phillies are the 2008 World Champions of Baseball.' That'll just resonate in the hearts of all Phillies fans for the rest of their lives."
Daniel Spevak is a Philadelphia transplant who now lives in Deltona, Fla., and he reflects the endless continuum of the game when he cites a call by Phillies broadcaster Scott Franzke as "no questions asked, the best call of the year."
Watch this MLB.com video, which begins with Chip Caray's TV call for TBS and then features Franzke's version 19 seconds into the clip. Jimmy Rollins pelted the walk-off double to right-center off Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton to win pivotal Game 4 of the National League Championship Series on Oct. 19. You can hear the excitement mount as his boothmate and former Phillies star Gary "Sarge" Matthews shouts a "YES!" as Franzke is saying "Ruiz slides." Toward the end, Matthews adds: "Oh my, are you kiddin' me?"
Franzke told Phillies fans:
"One ball, one strike ... the right-hander checks the runner ... here's the pitch ... swing and a drive ... right-center field, this one is falling, it's a base hit! It'll go up the alley! (Eric) Bruntlett will score. (Carlos) Ruiz around third, he is being waved home ... THE PHILLIES HAVE WON THE BALLGAME! Ruiz slides" Rollins has won it!
"They stream out of the dugout, Rollins mobbed near third, this game is over as the Phillies strike again with two outs in the ninth inning, and they have a three games to one lead! The Phillies have beaten the Dodgers with two outs in the ninth and they have done it to Broxton again in Game 4! Wow, what a finish! Jimmy Rollins has made his mark in this series!"
Torrie Sweeney of Chicago Heights, Ill., remembers hearing this from Harrelson, the White Sox former play-by-play voice of generations now: "Call your sons! Call your daughters! Call your friends! Call your neighbors! Mark Buehrle has a perfect game going into the ninth!"
Then she added: "And the YES YES YES HISTORY! part."
"Yes" indeed. It was the most-suggested call of 2009 in our informal call for calls. Mark Buehrle's perfect game, and the shout of "MERCY!" after DeWayne Wise saved it with that crashing catch in the ninth.
Nicole Demetrak of Petaluma, Calif., said her choice was "the A's Vince Controneo's call of Ryan Sweeney stealing Ian Kinsler's homer to center. 'He's got it! He's got it!' The enthusiasm, you just felt like you were watching it live. Best call on A's radio since Bill King's last 'Holy Toledo.' Miss that guy."
Demetrak added: "Now that @MLB asked Twitter fans to say their favorite radio call of last season, I'm missing baseball even more! What's my Spring Training countdown to? 99?"
As we share our memories of favorite calls, we are reminded how much we love Ernie Harwell. Celebrate the longtime former Tigers broadcaster every day and give thanks now for what he has meant to so many. It makes you smile when you stop and think about what he once said of fans.
"I think I owe thanks to the people who have listened to me over the years, who tuned in on the radio. They have given me a warmth and loyalty that I've never been able to repay. The way they have reached out to me has certainly been the highlight of my life."
The broadcasters bring us the highlights. Many times they are the highlights themselves.
Many fans went with Mike Blowers' prediction come true. It was one of the most unbelievable things that happened in 2009. The Mariners' analyst and former player predicted on air that Matt Tuiasosopo would hit a home run.
"He predicted even inning and pitch count and location 100-percent right!" remembered Ashley Wellington-Fahey of Seattle. Indeed, Niehaus was floored as he found himself calling Blowers' prophecy. Watch it again. You may never see a call like that one.
Marisa Roffman of Sherman Oaks, Calif., was among many respondents who chose Scully calls. That is nothing new. One of the game's greatest ever announced during the past season that he will come back in 2010 and then go year-to-year after that. The only thing that changes are the game situations, and the one Roffman remembers most from 2009 is "when Manny Ramirez hit the pinch-hit grand slam on his Bobblehead Night. (Scully) let the crowd's reaction tell the story. It was a beautiful thing to see." K.C. Douglas of Downey, Calif., remembers Scully saying this: "More Hollywood than Hollywood, it's Mannywood!"
Or maybe it was that night when the Dodgers finally clinched the NL West title, after being pressured by the Rockies. Amanda Cournoyer of Coventry, R.I., remembers that one: "Vin said, 'I don't know; success that is delayed can be sweeter still, I think.' Loved it."
We mostly remember the good times with our teams, but a baseball season is not all about winning. You listen to a lot of losing. It is a fact of life that only makes winning that much better. And Dave Miller is a Cubs fan in Arlington Heights, Ill., whose favorite call was actually a less-than-positive moment for his home team.
"It was the Cubs' Len Kasper's call of (Carlos) Zambrano's meltdown in which he 'ejected' the ump and trashed the Gatorade machine. Nice scolding."
Rangers fan Brian Freeman of Fort Worth, Tex., volunteered Josh Lewin's call of Chris Davis' walk-off home run that beat the White Sox. It goes like this: "Davis in the air to center field, to the track, to the wall, DO IT AGAIN! Walk-off, Davis ... ballgame!" Just another excitable boy that we miss a lot right now.
"Ballgame over. World Series over. Yankees win. Theeeeee Yankees win!" That's what Stephanie Gordon of Hoboken, Jr., remembers most, thanks to Sterling, the Yankees' radio play-by-play voice. That is how the season ended. Soon enough, Sterling was helping to emcee parade events. Now we are at Thanksgiving, missing voices like that.
Take care of those golden throats, gentlemen and ladies of the booth. The first Cactus and Grapefruit League games are a few months away. We will be needing you again soon.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.