Time To Shake Up the Broadcasting Booth

The World Series Champion Chicago White Sox have signed Chris Singleton to join Ed Farmer in the radio booth. After a great off-season, the White Sox made their first bad move. Singleton was a protégé of current Sox TV announcer, Darrin Jackson, when he came up with the team and I’m guessing will be similar to Jackson in the booth, as well. This would be a huge step down in quality from what the team had for the past 13 years.

If you never heard Farmer do a game with play by play announcer John Rooney, I feel for you, as they were the best baseball radio broadcasting duo I’ve listened to. (Topping my TV broadcasting duo list, Bob Costas and Tony Kubek doing game of the weeks on NBC.) They both had the rare ability to be insightful about the game, while also being erudite in their thoughts on other subjects.

After working for the White Sox for the past 17 years, Rooney was not re-signed because he didn’t want to take a salary cut. During the final days of Michael Jordan’s Bulls, owner Jerry Reinsdorf had packaged his two teams together in a radio deal with ESPN 1000, which enabled the Sox to get more than they received for their latest contract. (NEWSFLASH: The Bulls haven’t been so good since his Airness left.)

Farmer, who would generally do 3 innings of play by play with Rooney, will be in that role full-time, now.

I know the baseball purists won’t care for this idea, but I heard Tony Kornheiser mention on his XM radio talk show that the Nationals should have hired him and Wilbon to do the games together. Now, considering that the guy has about 10 other jobs and makes officially between a million and gazillion dollars annually, I’m not sure he would be a good choice to fill this position, but the sentiment I agree with.

Earlier this year I made an effort to listen to all the radio announcer teams on XM, as I was planning to do a piece where I would rate them. The first thing you will notice, if you attempt to do this is how much all the play by play guy’s sound-alike. It’s truly maddening to me, as I’ve mentioned here before that I can’t stand the affected voice. Happily the affected voice style is being replaced at most stations in large radio markets by people who don’t sound like broadcasting school grads, but it would seem that baseball hasn’t gotten the memo.

Kornheiser’s point of view on the topic is that not that many people listen to radio broadcasts, so what needs to be done is have a more lively debate in the booth. Now I know there are a some old lady shut-in’s who need all the radio minutiae because they are keeping score of the game while listening, but baseball has to reach out to younger listeners. Since most people listen to the TV broadcasting teams, radio needs to present more lively dialogue. What they could use is someone like Jimmy Piersall who never worried about stirring the shit up. Of course, most broadcasters are company men, who are hired according to the team’s wishes.

What MLB needs is a renegade owner like Mark Cuban to take over a team like Tampa Bay or Kansas City. Knowing that the team’s radio ratings are minuscule, he would put together a crew that was not afraid of using incendiary comments to get people to tune in. I’m not saying this duo would have to be Opie and Anthony, but I do think bringing some edge to the radio broadcast would be an exciting new step in the evolution of baseball. Could it be worse than adding ex-jocks like Chris Singleton to the fold?

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A final note on the American League’s radio broadcasting teams: Now that the clear stand-out team of Rooney and Farmer are no longer together and that long-time A’s announcer Bill King passed way, I would list the Cleveland Indians radio crew Number 1. What puts the Indians crew at the top is their dynamite play by play guy, Tom Hamilton. Hamilton has a strong voice and knows how to create excitement with it, bringing the energy of the game through the radiowaves. I also like crews in Baltimore and Detroit.

The one crew that is almost unlistenable to me is the Yankees duo of John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman. To be fair to Sterling, he’s an acquired taste, but Waldman shouldn’t have the gig. I have no problem with her as a reporter, but I just don’t think a woman should be in the booth as an analyst of a men’s sport. I might be able to get past this though, if she didn’t have such an annoying New Yawk voice. It’s like listening to the Fabulous Sports Babe, all over again. While I’m a fan of having non-jocks in the analyst’s role, I hate that someone like Waldman was giving one of the first chances at this position, as she isn’t exactly as Jackie Robinson-like ambassador.

Finally, I decided to only rate the AL broadcasting teams, as I didn’t want to have to discuss Vin Scully. If you want to wax poetic on Vinnie, I suggest you go to Dodger Thoughts and find other like minded individuals who cream their BVD’s just thinking about the guy.

After re-reading this piece a few hours later, I realized that the last line could be construed as me taking a shot at Jon Weisman. This was not the intention. While I don’t agree with the notion that Sir Scully is a baseball deity like so many do, it’s just a matter of an opinion, which I know I’m in the minority on. Also, I’m sure since most participants at Dodger Thoughts are from the SoCal region, they wear more stylish attire, like the Silk Extreme Thong from the International Male catalogue.

25 thoughts on “Time To Shake Up the Broadcasting Booth

  1. 3.  I listened to Tom Cheek do Jays games from their inception in 1977 until I moved to Chicago in 2001. While I always loved listening to him (much better than any TV announcer(s)) and Jerry Howarth, I never knew justr how good I had it until listening to, let’s see, the Sox TV guys, the Cubs TV guys, the Cubs radio guys…the Sox radio guys I thought were ok, passable, but not in Tom’s league. I returned to Toronto in time for his his tumor and subsequent passing, which caused much sadness amongst Jays fans. We still have Jerry, who is pretty darn good, although his sidekick Warren Sawkiw is pretty terrible. Bus he’s in his twenties, so he must appeal to the younger fans (I’m and old 35, I guess)

  2. 4.  I’d definitely echo the comments on Tom Hamilton. Growing up with the Indians throughout the nineties, I would often mute the TV and turn on the radio just for Hamilton. His voice is bright and distinct. I’m happy to see him get some credit here.

  3. 5.  I don’t know if it’s that I’m a Cubs fan, but I’ve always found Sox radio broadcasts to be mind-numbingly boring. Singleton won’t help, unfortunately. Of course, I like listening to Pat and Ron on the North Side, so maybe I have issues.

  4. 6.  Scott and I disagree on many things, punk rock for one, but as to the Rooney/Farmer pairing, he’s right on. I listened to these guys quite a bit over the last two years and have been incredibly impressed how they banter back and forth in innings where the other is supposedly off. That’s the mistake most tandems make, one does 1,2,3…the other 5,6,7 and the ‘voice’ back for 8&9. Rooney/Farmer would take turns doing the PBP and color really mixing-up the effect for the listener.

    And let’s face it I hate those damn GFWS and if those guys can make them even remotely listenable to me they’re doing something.

    Rooney/Shannon will be really interesting to watch (sic).

    Long live the radio PBP!

    Oh and another thing, John Sterling is terrible, there’s no two ways about it.

    What? You can’t take a shot at a fellow Toaster? What kind of world do we live in? 😉

  5. 7.  Oh forgot to mention, I’m also for trying Wilbon/Kornheiser for the Nats. Sure they’d be bad in a traditional sense, but quite entertaining.

    Scott…who does “your editor” actually watch or listen to for sports commentary? I know that because Kornheiser is a right-coast/intellectual/liberal he’s a “blowhard”, but who isn’t really? God if they could only bring back Rush. Now there’s some insight!

  6. 8.  I actually think that Nancy Lieberman and Ann Meyers do a heck of a job on basketball analysis, so I don’t agree that a woman couldn’t necessarily do analysis for a mens’ sport. (I do know that women and men both play hoops). I’ve done some football color commentary on the radio and I never played a down in my life. Also, I think Pam Ward is a pretty decent football PBP announcer, better than some of the other ESPN clowns. And of course, my wife would be a better color man than Paul McGuire.

  7. 9.  TFD: What the hell are you talking about? Is considering Kornheiser unfunny (opinion) and gleefully uninformed (fact) evidence of a political agenda? I can’t imagine why anyone who’s interested in baseball would prefer Wilbon and Kornheiser’s schtick to an actual account of the game.

  8. 10.  Almost unlistenable? What part of the Sterling/Waldman shtick is tolerable? I’ve been a Yankee fan my entire life, and I’ve never been able to deal with listening to John Sterling. Talk about a schill. And Suzyn Waldman doesn’t add anything to the broadcast.

  9. 12.  Kornholer? Pul-eeze. Like we need another baby boomer lecturing us all how the world was better when motown ruled the earth. Ugh.

  10. 13.  RyanM:

    The whole point of Kornheiser is that OF COURSE he’s gleefully ignorant of the day-to-day intracices of baseball (or other sport, pick your poison.) He’s funny, intelligent, ironic, sarcastic, and irreverent.

    I can imagine how someone who can’t imagine how they’d be preferable on any level would be the same person who doesn’t understand his schtick/self-hating Jew/psuedo Larry David personality and the humor/entertainment buried within.

    -nuance-

  11. 14.  Ripping on Vin Scully? Wow, your ignorance has finally surpassed your arrogance. Or do I have that backwards?

    This site has become less and less tolerable as Will has posted less and less. Hopefully Will can post an analysis of your elbow tendenitis you have to suffer from. No human can pat their own back so often and not be afflicted…

    Now where is that bookmark delete? Ah, here it is.

  12. 15.  TFD: What exactly does that have to do with Rush? And why is it that anyone who doesn’t like Kornheiser as much as you do is operating with some deficiency? First you assume Your Editor is a dittohead because he expresses the certainly true sentiment that Kornheiser doing PBP would be a disaster, then you attribute my lack of amusement at TK’s antics to ignorance. I understand the schtick, it’s just not funny. Megadittoes!

  13. 16.  Scott, as a west coaster, I’ll go commando if I ever run in to you and leave the silk extreme thong at home, the better for you to kiss my ass.

    I think the worst insult I can give your article is that it reads like something from one of the mainstream mediots. Send a resume to the LA Times, Scotty. You’ll fit in perfect. And if there’s something we can do to have more of Will and less of you, do not hesitate to let us know.

  14. 18.  Your Editor, Hey good to hear from you, although if memory serves we just chatted the other night. Anyway, so we disagree on Tony-Tony-Tony. And if you listen to very little sports commentary how exactly can you opine on such things? But I digress…you’re totally wrong on him mailing it in and being a blowhard idiot. Now if you were talking Woody Paige or Skip Bayless, I’m with you. Is it not possible you’re missing what Tony is really doing? Or is it just ‘cus he jumps to immediate and non-objective conclusions related to steroidal effects in baseball? Do you listen to his radio show? That’s the real Tony. PTI, with its surely idiotic moments, is more illuminating and/or entertaining than about 99% of what’s on ESPN. (I think I’m on record to be one of the biggest critics of ESPN around these Internets parts – – although it’s much harder these days now that Marky/Marky is gone for SixFlags – – so I have some cred here.)

    RyanM: The Rush comment was a joke, my man. The lone reason that I can see that the crowd here hates Tony is because he doesn’t see the world through the objectivist eyes of a James acolyte. (He has all that damn access and closeness to his subject after all; not to mention his hands are ink-stained. And he talks music and pop culture! gasp)

    Anyway – beers and tacoes.

    But really, I promise, promise, promise to never bring up politics again in such a off-handed, snarky way. It’s just too polarizing – – gosh darnit.

    Let’s just go back to debating what a wonderful choice Chris Singleton was; or better yet why the Sox weren’t enlightened enough to put Brian Kenny there, after all he knows his baseball.

  15. 19.  Wow, just read Suffering Bruin.

    “Send your resume to the LATimes!” Omigod does that ever cut to the bone. cough

    What could only be described as a compliment to 98% of the those would like to write for a living is used as a dig by you. As they say on the beer commercials, “BRILLIANT!”

    I can hear Jon Bon Jovi from here, “You give trolls a bad name.”

  16. 20.  Uh, where do I begin. I really enjoy listening to people who know baseball, but what is offered up by most broadcasting teams is a robotic recap of the action, with little analysis. This is why I enjoy Ed Farmer so much, as he’s a former player who’s not afraid to tell it like it is, plus he also was a former scout, so he brings that perspective as well. If you look at what I initially wrote, I didn’t think Kornheiser would be a good choice, but I do think a writer like Jayson Stark or Tom Verducci would be much better to listen as an analyst than the homer’s that most teams hire.

    In regards to female play by play, I think Pam Ward does a solid job doing college football, but I don’t want to hear a female in the analyst position in regards to men’s sports. Lieberman is the best woman’s b-ball analyst, but I don’t think she should do network men’s games.

    I mentioned the Vin Scully issue because I just don’t like listening to him. Since this akin in some baseball circles to a person in Alabama not believing that Jesus is their Savior, I decided to not review the NL announcers. I thought I would have a little fun with it and I thought the International Male thong was funny, so I added it. I should mention that I spend a few weeks each year out in SoCal doing stand-up or making the network rounds, so I’m not someone who has no idea of the lifestyle. Come on, just trying to bring some levity to the serious talk baseball sometimes commands at the Toaster.

    TFD, I should mention that Jon never contacted me about being offended by anything I wrote. I just posted the italics at the end, because re-reading it made me think it could be construed as a shot, which I wasn’t attempting to do. I do love your comments though, as it’s fun once again to have some life brought to the comment section.

    Another Tom,
    You proved my point. By me not touting Vin Scully as a great announcer to my ears, you determined that I must be a raving idiot. I would be disappointed if you stopped commenting here, as you have quality thoughts, but hey it’s a big ole goofy world, so do what u like.
    **It should be mentioned that Will Carroll loves Vin Scully, so please don’t think that I speak for him on this subject.

    Finally, I really doubt that any writer at the Toaster would turn down a chance to write for the LA Times.

  17. 21.  Look, I’m a high school english teacher. Take a look at the time of 16. I was in class. I was teaching.

    It wasn’t me.

    I swear to Christ, people, it wasn’t me. I’ve got a half-brother staying with me, I’ve got password saver, I showed him the Dodger Thoughts site that I used to post on quite frequently… he’s denying it and it’s painful because you don’t want to call you’re own flesh and blood a liar but really, what choice do I have here?

    I love teaching. But if the LA Times called tomomrrow and said they’d like me to write for the sports section, I’d be there. If I were more honest, I would tell them that people like Jon and Scott and a host of others I used to read on a daily basis would be more qualified.

  18. 22.  Suffering Bruin:

    Hey, I believe you. I’ve read some brief stuff of yours at DT and thought that comment was way out of character.

    Keep doing the good work of past participles, Joyce, and The Raven. 😉

    And good luck w/those family issues. Yikes.

    BTW, to all, Scully is another issue Scott and I disagree. I could listen to Scully call a game from now until infinity. To steal a little phrase:

    “The un-Scully Dodger broadcast is a game not worth listening.” – – Socra-TFD

  19. 23.  TFD,

    Many, many thanks. I didn’t mean to make this group a therapy session but thanks for responding. I’m a little embarassed about all of this, to say the least. The half-brother has profusely apologized but I cannot forgive the comment he made while apologizing…

    “I didn’t think it was that big of a deal.”

    Clearly, it’s time for an ethics lesson. Baseball websites not a big deal? There’s a recessive gene at work somewhere.

  20. 24.  No big deal to Suffering Bruin, actually I thought Another Tom’s comments were more harsh, as your half-brother was at least funny. The patting on the back line pissed me off more, because the truth hurts.

    Unlike other sites, I encourage some flaming, as long as it doesn’t get extremely personal. Note: I might be the only one at the Toaster to feel this way, so I’m just saying it’s ok to slam me. My only prerequsite has been to offer your real name or send me an email telling me who you are, as I think it’s gutless to slam if you completely hide between a moniker.

  21. 25.  The patting on the back line pissed me off more, because the truth hurts.

    Now that’s funny.

    Scott, thanks for that comment and thanks for bringing up the topic, one that means a lot to me.

    Plenty of friends think I need therapy because I take baseball broadcasting so seriously. Of the the three major sports, there is but no question that the baseball broadcaster has the largest responsibility to the fan. A bad basketball or football broadcaster isn’t going to distract nearly as much because there’s so much action going on. I realize I’m preaching to the choir here but in baseball, there is so much happening that isn’t related to constant movement. When I was a broadcaster, I would prepare like no tomorrow for the baseball games.

    As I see it, the biggest flaw among baseball broadcasters is that they don’t appare to be “in” to the game. Remember when ESPN started in with baseball? They had an eclectic bunch of announcers: Mike Lupica, Norm Hitzges… the latter name being the prototype for what ESPN was looking for at the time: an informed, passionate fan who was very much into the game. Unfortunately, ESPN backed off, probably in the face of criticism from people who used to play the game. So we got Joe Morgan, my favorite player and least favorite announcer.

    Lest I put words in Scott’s mouth–and believe me, after my adventures on this thread, it’s the last thing I want to do–I think what’s at the heart of the criticism of Scully (whom Bill James described some years ago as a hack in love with the sound of his own drone) is that his digressions be they historical or lyrical distract from the game. I and many other Dodgers fan will tell you the opposite is true–Scully is always into the game and that’s what makes him so good–but I undertand the criticism because so many announcers, many of whom say Scully is the best, are not into the game at all. They try to be “professional” and end up sounding dull.

    Whether you’re a Scully-fan or more into Mel Allen, the subject in and of itself is terribly important to the game of baseball. It’s not a war between Scully and whoever the anti-Scully is. It’s between those of us who see that when Jon Miller and Joe Morgan broadcast a game with barely disguised disinterest–as they did in April when the Dodgers played the Giants–it has an impact.

  22. 26.  My favorite analysts are ex-jocks who are willing to be critical in their point of view. The best that I’ve heard are Rick Sutcliffe and Steve Stone. Considering they are ex-Cubs, my view should be considered absolutely unbiased.

    In regards to Scully, I think he has an amazing ability to do a broadcast by himself, as he’s always informative and smooth in delivery. My problem with him is one of personal likes, as I don’t care for his voice and I like to hear a conversation in the booth. It’s just like how I have immense respect for the broadcasting abilities of Jim Rome and Rush Limbaugh, but don’t like listening to them, as I need more conversation on a daily basis. (Despite me thinking that Limbaugh is wrong-headed in most of what he offers, he’s talented behind the mic. Actually, the guy who just might be the most entertaining solo host is Michael Savage, who is a certifiable wacko.)

    Ultimately, I like hearing a Joe Buck or Josh Lewin, who mixes commentary and comedy in their play by play. The same goes for the analyst position. While I would rather hear a Sutcliffe, Stone, or Ed Farmer as an analyst, Lupica would be an improvement over most of the golden voiced former jocks who litter the airwaves.

    I’m glad suffering bruin has decided to rejoin the discussion, as we need all the stimulating commenters we can get. Thanks.

  23. 27.  Is there anything more enjoyable or predictable than the comment flow after a semi-controversial post? Some people agree and some people rip in, then one of those people that rip in feel bad, apologize, and then the remainder of the comments are a butt kissing love fest. Good times!

    Here are my takes:
    1. If I’m listening to a baseball game it is because it either is not on the baseball package or I am unable to get back to my couch in front of the baseball package. Therefore, I want to hear about the game as if I were watching. I don’t want the announcers to try and be bigger than the game, but I do hope they’re listentoable.
    2. I’m an Angels fan (FargoAngelsofAnaheim guy) and actually enjoy their radio broadcasts. They explain the game to me pretty well and that’s enough for me. I live in eastern North Dakota so I end up listening to some Twins games basically because of location, and that team is OK although Gladden can be painful.
    3. I like Scully because he’s one of a kind. If a new commentator tried his style I’d hate it.
    4. Joe Buck is extremely talented, I just wish he didn’t know it. I’m not a big Randy Moss guy, but Buck’s parental tirade after the mooning incident almost literally made me throw up.

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