Hello Twins fans. Pitchers and catchers will soon be reporting to spring training which means that we will be able to watch or listen to baseball games soon. I thought I’d share my thoughts on what makes a good baseball game broadcast on the radio. I’m sure I could probably teach a whole college class on broadcasting baseball. This post will be much shorter than the amount of material I could dream up for this class.
One of the things Jon Gordon made sure he tried to do when calling the games on the radio as he put it, “Make the fan feel like that they’re at the ball park, sitting in the stands with their favorite beverage.” But what does that really look like or rather what does that sound like on radio since you can’t see anything when listening to a game except in your mind.
To start with, the key to a good broadcast is let the crowd noise and the sounds of the ball park tell a part of the story. Corey Provus, the new voice of the Twins stated that his college instructors taught him that dead air was a bad thing to have in a radio broadcast. When he joined the Milwaukee Brewers radio team, he learned from Bob Uecker, the long time radio voice of the Brewers, that dead air was a good thing.
So, how can a radio broadcaster use dead air to their advantage? I think the key is not telling everytime the pitcher throws a pitch. For example it’s the middle of the game like in the sixth inning. The play by play announcer is talking about some major story that’s taking place in baseball. Then, there’s a pause. In that pause you hear the crowd and a second later you hear a pop as the ball hits the catchers glove.
“He got him! Swing and a miss!” the announcer says.
But, let’s back up to before we learn that the batter struck out. What do we know when the ball hit the catcher’s glove? Well, we know that the ball was thrown and that the bat didn’t make contact with the ball. And then we learn of the batter missing the ball for a strikeout.
This is exactly what Jon Gordon would say when a Twins pitcher gets a big out in an inning. To me, this is what it’s like for a radio announcer to make the listener feel like they’re at the ball park. They’re using the sounds of the game and crowd to tell what is going on on the field. You can put yourself right there in that imaginary seat and feel like you’re part of the ball game.
And of course when you’re doing a part of the game where there’s more action, you’re more focused on telling the action on the field. You’re telling of when a pitch is thrown and what the batter does since the crowd noise is drowning out the sounds of the ball hitting the glove or the bat hitting the ball. However, I think the key is to leave enough pauses in the broadcast to let some of that crowd noise be heard.
I think another key element is to use the right words to tell the action. If you listen to Gordon’s call of Paul Molitor’s getting his three thousandth hit you’re get the following.
Molitor for two! Molitor for three and it could be history making! It is! Paul Molitor becomes the first player to get a tripple on his three thousandth hit.”
To me, that’s using the right words to tell of what’s going on on the field. You’re telling that Molitor got his three thousandth hit and you’re telling that Molitor’s going to become the first player to hit a tripple on his three thousandth hit. You’re not telling too much, but you’re telling just enough to give the listener the facts.
Speaking of stats, I think that having too much stats in a broadcast is a bad thing. You can use stats in your broadcast to point out things, but if you put too much emphasis on stats, I think it takes away from the broadcast. If someone wanted to find out some of the stats, they can go on the internet and look them up themselves.
And oh yeah, let’s not forget the voice. A baseball broadcaster should have a clear pleasant voice to listen too. Many of the best broadcasters in baseball had a pleasant voice. Broadcasters like Jon Gordon, herb Carneal, Ernie Harwell and Bob Uecker to name just a few.
Well, it’s about time to wrap it up. I can’t wait to listen to baseball on the radio! Can you?