As they say, chicks dig the long ball. Well, this chick in particular digs the long ball call. These exclamations not only become the trademark of their respective announcers, but also get woven into the canvas of our baseball fandom. Not all are created equal. Some are succinct and to the point — the late, great Phil Rizzuto’s “Holy cow!” — and some are long and floral — “Get out the rye bread and mustard grandma, cause it’s grand salami time!” by the much-missed Dave Neihaus.
It may be the editor in me, but when I began putting together a list of my favorite calls, I realized I gravitated to brevity. Among active announcers, here are the calls I get a kick out of and the ones that make me reach for the mute button. Feel free to share your own.
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“Forget it!” Vin Scully, Los Angeles Dodgers — Vin Scully could read me the phone book and I’d listen. He harkens back to the announcers of my youth who were more concerned with the actual game on the field than filling up airtime with every inane thought that popped into their heads. Back in New York, I loved when there was a national broadcast of a Dodgers game that I could pop on the TV at bedtime. Nothing nicer than having Scully lull me into sweet baseball dreams.
“Back. Track. Wall. See ya!” Michael Kay, New York Yankees — Normally, I find Michael Kay to be a blowhard. His stories are repetitive and he spends a lot of time bringing up topics that act as fodder for his daily radio show. Yet, I do so love Kay’s home run call. As a Yankee fan, the only words sweeter than “See ya!” are “Theeeee Yankees win!”
“Bye bye baseball!” Rick Rizzs, Seattle Mariners — After the passing of his radio partner, the legendary Niehaus, Rizzs has been solid holding down the fort in the booth. He keeps the enthusiasm high for a team that most times is pretty lackluster. Some may argue that this enthusiasm spills over to the opposing team, too, but when the M’s do go yard, he’s got them covered.
“That ball is history!” Eric Nadel, Texas Rangers — Truth be told, I’m not a big fan of the Texas Rangers. No matter, I’m a sucker for a simple home run call delivered well. Nadel gets props for both and delivers the line quite often thanks to a heavy slugging Texas team.
“Adios, pelota!” Jon Miller, San Francisco Giants — There’s something about an old white dude yelling joyfully in Spanish that makes me smile. Miller reserves this one for Hispanic players, but it’s better than his usual home run call, “Tell it goodbye,” which is an homage to former Giants announcer Lon Simmons. I always thought Miller did a better-than-advertised job on “Sunday Night Baseball.” I mean just keeping Joe Morgan awake was hard enough, but Miller is still at his best calling games for the Giants local broadcast. Oh, and to spare you the trouble of Googling it, pelota is Spanish for ball.
“You can put it on the board. Yeeessss!!” Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, Chicago White Sox — Harrelson is the reason why the mute button on the remote control exists. He is constantly frothing at the mouth like a lunatic unless, of course, the opposing team has scored, and then you’d never know something had actually occurred in the game. Between his unabashed homer-ism and “folksy” style (it’s Chicago, for pete’s sake!) I have never wished harder for a person to be rendered permanently speechless.
“Back, back, back, back… gone!” Chris Berman, ESPN — It’s a pretty lame call that isn’t helped by Berman’s delivery. It’s gotten even more insufferable through the years because Berman “calls” the Home Run Derby, so we are treated to this phrase almost non-stop for hours. Even Berman gets bored with it. He’ll be interviewing a derby participant and then realize a ball is going out of the park, so he’ll halfheartedly inject it in the middle of the conversation. “So Josh, you’re shoulder must be feeling okay… back, back, back gone… since you …. back, back, gone… swung the bat so…. back, gone… well.”
“Get up, baby! Get up! Oh, yeah!” Mike Shannon, St. Louis Cardinals — I have no problem with announcers getting genuinely excited over a home run. It adds to the fun. I just don’t like home run calls that inject an obvious rooting interest. Shannon is nowhere near as unlistenable as Harrelson, but his call ranks high on the ear-grating scale.
“It’s outta here!” Gary Cohen, New York Mets — In general, I like Cohen as an announcer, especially as it’s no easy task keeping Keith Hernandez reigned in. As far as home run calls go, this one is pretty benign. It’s Cohen’s shrill voice that I object to more. It’s like nails on a chalkboard when he screeches it at the top of his lungs.
“It is high. It is far. It is gone!” John Sterling, New York Yankees — On the surface, Sterling’s call seems perfectly fine, except half of them turn out to be: “It is high. It is far. It is…. a foul ball.” Sterling’s lack of depth perception is rivaled only by his incredibly floral hyperbole. It was cute at first. “The Bam-Tino” and “The Melkman delivers” were kind of clever. Now a Yankee home run call sounds like the fan-fiction prose of a 15-year-old girl: “Russell … shows muscle! Monsieur Martin est la!” Or: “Oh, Curtis, you’re something sort of grandish! Oh, the Grandy man can! The Grandy man can!” Ew.