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The Art of Broadcasting

A career in the broadcast booth for a professional sport is something I have always aspired to attain. For as long as I can remember, I have loved listening to any sport being called on the radio because I felt that the broadcaster calling those games had a great deal of responsibility. Not only did he need to accurately describe what was going on in the game, he needed to do it in such a way that the listeners could create a perfect mental image based on his descriptions. It's like writing a novel, but doing so live, and on the fly as it develops.

The men and women who are particularly good at it have an ebb and flow to their calling style. They know the proper time for an anecdote, or a quote from a previous interview, or a story from the past. They inherently sense when the score and inning must be updated, since a new audience member would always want that information. And they weave a story much like any other storyteller would: they allow the drama of a game to build, all the while making the audience feel like a part of the action. And occasionally, they get the opportunity to do something we've all practiced time and time again (or at least I have) make a dramatic home run call.

All the great ones have made these calls, some of them becoming the stuff of legend, but I would argue that a broadcaster's worth is not judged on the strength of his most famous call, but on his ability to make every game as important as the last. To call game after game after game and do so with indefatigable enthusiasm and consistent excellence. Of course, a "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!" never hurts.

With these qualifications in mind, here are five of my favorite broadcasters, in no particular order.

Jack Buck

At this point in time, his son may have surpassed him in fame, but I don't think the younger Buck will ever approach the level of adoration that so many fans had for this legendary broadcaster. He was a mainstay in the cars and living rooms of Cardinals fans for almost 40 years, and became a beloved member of that community. His style was an energetic one, never afraid to become excited about a key moment or play. There is something very special about men like Buck, who become so associated with one team during their career that when you think about the club, you think about the broadcaster. When you think about the St. Louis Cardinals, you think about Jack Buck.

Bob Costas

A living legend, and one of the most eloquent men the game has known, Costas has been the voice of some of the most memorable moments in sports history. He is a passionate baseball fan, even going so far as to carry a 1958 Mickey Mantle baseball card in his wallet. His passion for the game is clearly evident in his broadcasts when, similar to Buck, Costas will allow himself to enjoy a big moment in a game. He is not known for catch phrases, and that may be because he has never thought to repeat himself; he'd rather simply come up with a new and interesting way to say it. His interview skills are second to none, in my opinion, and have only added to what has been a stunningly impressive set of broadcast tools. His voice, for some reason, means baseball to me.

Howard Cosell

Obviously more well known for his boxing and football broadcasts, Cosell was just as influential calling baseball games for ABC in the 70's and 80's. He was always a controversial figure, simply because his broadcasting style was never about adoration, but more analytical and direct. Cosell changed the way that sports were broadcast by simply being himself and never pulling his punches. His distinctive voice can be heard describing the action of the greatest moments in sports history, and people of all ages have been trying to duplicate that voice for decades. Quite simply, Cosell is the Godfather of modern broadcasting, and the fact that he is as well known and was as effective calling multiple sports is a testament to how talented the man truly was. It is astoundingly sad to me that, even though Cosell was an integral part of putting the NFL and Monday Night Football on the map with his broadcasts, he is not enshrined in their Hall of Fame. It's quite an oversight, and hopefully will be corrected soon. That being said, if there was a Hall of Fame for sports in general, Howard would be in about four times over. The guy was a Titan.

Chuck Thompson

My grandfather would have killed me had I not included Mr. Thompson on a list of this kind. Mr. Thompson is a legend in Baltimore, even in death. His legacy lives on in the hearts and memories of Baltimoreans who, even now, remember when his voice was not simply the voice coming out of the radio, but as necessary a component to a summer evening as sunshine, crabs, and a cold Natty Boh. The easiest way to describe his play-by-play style is to say that he was as elegant a broadcaster as there has ever been. He didn't tell you about the game, he shared it with you, bringing you along for a three hour ride that left you looking forward to the next game. You always felt like you and Chuck were sitting at the end of a bar and he was chatting you up about Orioles baseball; as if his broadcast was meant only for you. And you knew, as if it were a private joke that only the two of you shared, that when something good happened, or if the O's could pull out a win, you would hear his patented, "Ain't the beer cold?!". His death in 2005 due to a stroke was met with sadness, but also with remembrance. Chuck was as associated with Baltimore sports as any broadcaster has ever been with a city.

Vin Scully

Mr. Scully has been with the Dodgers organization longer than any one broadcaster has spent with an organization in sports history. He broadcast his first World Series at the age of 25, which is a record that still stands, and also a bit of information that makes me feel like I need to get on my horse a little bit as I just turned 26. He is undoubtedly the most well-known voice in baseball history, and his famous calls include Hank Aaron's 715th home run, Kirk Gibson's dramatic home run in the 1988 World Series, five no-hitters or perfect games (including Don Larsen's perfect game in the '56 Series), and the Brooklyn Dodgers one and only World Championship in 1955. 2011 is his 62nd season as the voice of the Dodgers, and though he has pared down his schedule a bit, he continues to call over 100 games a season. His style is very conversational, and his vocabulary is second to none. He is very much a storyteller and may be the best broadcaster in history at filling the gaps in a baseball broadcast. He has a wealth of knowledge on a wide array of topics, which serves him well in the broadcast booth. He is the last of the old guard, and when he decides to hang up the microphone, it will be the end of an era.

My most significant dream is to one day be included on a list like this one, where some young baseball writer sits down, thinks about his favorite broadcasters, and my name comes to mind. These men transcended the sports they announced. They became members of our families, trusted friends who we shared countless evenings with. For those reasons, I hope to be counted among them someday. I have studied them, emulated them, and daydreamed about what my style would be. Would it be direct and to the point like Cosell? Passionate and full of energy like Buck? Would I be the type of broadcaster who spends his entire career in one city like Thompson, or be a nationally known figure like Costas?

I hope I get the opportunity to find the answers to some of those questions.

Who's your favorite broadcaster? Tweet me @rwags614 .

A career in the broadcast booth for a professional sport is something I have always aspired to attain. For as long as I can remember, I have loved listening to any sport being called on the radio because I felt that the broadcaster calling those games had a great deal of responsibility. Not only did he need to accurately describe what was going on in the game, he needed to do it in such a way that the listeners could create a perfect mental image based on his descriptions. It's like writing a novel, but doing so live, and on the fly as it develops.

The men and women who are particularly good at it have an ebb and flow to their calling style. They know the proper time for an anecdote, or a quote from a previous interview, or a story from the past. They inherently sense when the score and inning must be updated, since a new audience member would always want that information. And they weave a story much like any other storyteller would: they allow the drama of a game to build, all the while making the audience feel like a part of the action. And occasionally, they get the opportunity to do something we've all practiced time and time again (or at least I have) make a dramatic home run call.

All the great ones have made these calls, some of them becoming the stuff of legend, but I would argue that a broadcaster's worth is not judged on the strength of his most famous call, but on his ability to make every game as important as the last. To call game after game after game and do so with indefatigable enthusiasm and consistent excellence. Of course, a "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!" never hurts.

With these qualifications in mind, here are five of my favorite broadcasters, in no particular order.

Jack Buck

At this point in time, his son may have surpassed him in fame, but I don't think the younger Buck will ever approach the level of adoration that so many fans had for this legendary broadcaster. He was a mainstay in the cars and living rooms of Cardinals fans for almost 40 years, and became a beloved member of that community. His style was an energetic one, never afraid to become excited about a key moment or play. There is something very special about men like Buck, who become so associated with one team during their career that when you think about the club, you think about the broadcaster. When you think about the St. Louis Cardinals, you think about Jack Buck.

Bob Costas

A living legend, and one of the most eloquent men the game has known, Costas has been the voice of some of the most memorable moments in sports history. He is a passionate baseball fan, even going so far as to carry a 1958 Mickey Mantle baseball card in his wallet. His passion for the game is clearly evident in his broadcasts when, similar to Buck, Costas will allow himself to enjoy a big moment in a game. He is not known for catch phrases, and that may be because he has never thought to repeat himself; he'd rather simply come up with a new and interesting way to say it. His interview skills are second to none, in my opinion, and have only added to what has been a stunningly impressive set of broadcast tools. His voice, for some reason, means baseball to me.

Howard Cosell

Obviously more well known for his boxing and football broadcasts, Cosell was just as influential calling baseball games for ABC in the 70's and 80's. He was always a controversial figure, simply because his broadcasting style was never about adoration, but more analytical and direct. Cosell changed the way that sports were broadcast by simply being himself and never pulling his punches. His distinctive voice can be heard describing the action of the greatest moments in sports history, and people of all ages have been trying to duplicate that voice for decades. Quite simply, Cosell is the Godfather of modern broadcasting, and the fact that he is as well known and was as effective calling multiple sports is a testament to how talented the man truly was. It is astoundingly sad to me that, even though Cosell was an integral part of putting the NFL and Monday Night Football on the map with his broadcasts, he is not enshrined in their Hall of Fame. It's quite an oversight, and hopefully will be corrected soon. That being said, if there was a Hall of Fame for sports in general, Howard would be in about four times over. The guy was a Titan.

Chuck Thompson

My grandfather would have killed me had I not included Mr. Thompson on a list of this kind. Mr. Thompson is a legend in Baltimore, even in death. His legacy lives on in the hearts and memories of Baltimoreans who, even now, remember when his voice was not simply the voice coming out of the radio, but as necessary a component to a summer evening as sunshine, crabs, and a cold Natty Boh. The easiest way to describe his play-by-play style is to say that he was as elegant a broadcaster as there has ever been. He didn't tell you about the game, he shared it with you, bringing you along for a three hour ride that left you looking forward to the next game. You always felt like you and Chuck were sitting at the end of a bar and he was chatting you up about Orioles baseball; as if his broadcast was meant only for you. And you knew, as if it were a private joke that only the two of you shared, that when something good happened, or if the O's could pull out a win, you would hear his patented, "Ain't the beer cold?!". His death in 2005 due to a stroke was met with sadness, but also with remembrance. Chuck was as associated with Baltimore sports as any broadcaster has ever been with a city.

Vin Scully

Mr. Scully has been with the Dodgers organization longer than any one broadcaster has spent with an organization in sports history. He broadcast his first World Series at the age of 25, which is a record that still stands, and also a bit of information that makes me feel like I need to get on my horse a little bit as I just turned 26. He is undoubtedly the most well-known voice in baseball history, and his famous calls include Hank Aaron's 715th home run, Kirk Gibson's dramatic home run in the 1988 World Series, five no-hitters or perfect games (including Don Larsen's perfect game in the '56 Series), and the Brooklyn Dodgers one and only World Championship in 1955. 2011 is his 62nd season as the voice of the Dodgers, and though he has pared down his schedule a bit, he continues to call over 100 games a season. His style is very conversational, and his vocabulary is second to none. He is very much a storyteller and may be the best broadcaster in history at filling the gaps in a baseball broadcast. He has a wealth of knowledge on a wide array of topics, which serves him well in the broadcast booth. He is the last of the old guard, and when he decides to hang up the microphone, it will be the end of an era.

My most significant dream is to one day be included on a list like this one, where some young baseball writer sits down, thinks about his favorite broadcasters, and my name comes to mind. These men transcended the sports they announced. They became members of our families, trusted friends who we shared countless evenings with. For those reasons, I hope to be counted among them someday. I have studied them, emulated them, and daydreamed about what my style would be. Would it be direct and to the point like Cosell? Passionate and full of energy like Buck? Would I be the type of broadcaster who spends his entire career in one city like Thompson, or be a nationally known figure like Costas?

I hope I get the opportunity to find the answers to some of those questions.

Who's your favorite broadcaster? Tweet me @rwags614 .