I am biased when it comes to baseball commentators. There, I’ve laid it right out there. No hidden agenda, no passive aggressive subversion, just my views, bare and open before you. That also means that there are play-by-play announcers that I like and those that I loathe.
It’s Game 6 of the World Series as I write this, and I’m triggered by one of each category (announcer and commentator) while watching the game. Some of my closest friends from college went to high school with Joe Buck. My poor opinion of him is not opposed by my friends. I dislike his inability to call a game with equal enthusiasm for both teams. As another friend recently quipped, “Why can’t MLB have robot umpires to call balls and strikes? They already have a robot doing the play-by-play for the playoffs.”
Additionally, the network that broadcasts the playoffs habitually employs masters of obvious statements to do the color commentary. For too many years, that was what’s his name, the guy whose name I’m forgotten because every season became so painful for me that I began scratching my ear canals with sharp knives? Oh, right. Tim McCarver. Now, it’s John Smoltz. Good pitcher. BORING commentator. Master of stating the obvious. For example, “One of these teams is going to have score more than the other in order to win.” Or, “One of these two teams is going home as the loser, unfortunately.” No, really?
Give us Vin Scully, Bob Uecker, or Jon Miller, if you want a good play-by-play man. They’re good. Better yet, give us Sean McDonough or Dave O’Brien. (Ned Martin was one of my favorites ‘back in the day’.) But if you’re talking the best play-by-play in TV today, then you need Don Orsillo, currently with the San Diego Padres.
For 15 years, Don Orsillo, a New Hampshire native, as the voice of the Boston Red Sox on TV, and he was the best the Red Sox has ever had at bringing the audience in, keeping us tuned to the game, and returning us the next game all season long. Throughout those years, Don was paired with the unforgettable color commentator, Jerry Remy, former 2nd baseman of the Red Sox. Don and Jerry entertained Red Sox Nation with ease and class, and no duo ever made tuning into a game more enjoyable. Petty jealousies by a producer at their network pushed Don Orsillo out, and the broadcasts stopped being as fun to watch.
Jerry remained great, and Dave O’Brien was all right, but Don was the best. When Dennis Eckersley joined the booth for three-man broadcasts, the pairing of color commentators as interesting as RemDawg and the Eck improved the program tremendously. Sadly, on Saturday, October 30, 2021, during his 7th battle with lung cancer, Jerry Remy succumbed to the disease, ending nearly 40 years in the broadcast booth.
This evening, before I sat down to write, I dug out my copy of the RemDawg’s first book, Watching Baseball: Discovering the Game Within the Game. A couple of years ago, when Remy visited Bangor for a Hot Stove session at Gracie Theater on the Husson University campus, hosted by 92.9 The Ticket FM, audience members had the opportunity to stand up with a microphone and ask him questions.
When my turn came, I thanked Jerry for coming, and I brought up “Watching Baseball.” I told him that as a fan of baseball all my life, I’d never played the game, and when I read his book, his passion for the game taught me more about it than I’d ever known before. I was able to express true gratitude to him for writing it. For 5 minutes, I conversed with Jerry Remy about the game of baseball. I loved it, and I will also cherish that.
Now, Jerry is gone, but his book is still available. I recommend it. I also recommend to the network that broadcasts the playoffs that they get Don Orsillo and Dennis Eckersley to replace Joe Buck and John Smoltz on their broadcasts. Or bring in Pedro Martinez. Or Lou Merloni. Lou is really good, too. Tell you what: Don, Dennis, and Lou, with a visit by Pedro from time-to-time. Yes, even for the national games. These men know baseball, and they are interesting to listen to. I bet fewer people would be scratching their ears out with knives.