Joe Puck? Hockey icon in Bucs' booth today

Hall of Fame voice Emrick will broadcast game on radio vs. Blue Jays

February 18th, 2016

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Mike "Doc" Emrick described his first attempt at calling a baseball game as, in a word, awful. The Hall of Fame hockey broadcaster will get his second chance today.

Emrick will step into the Pirates' radio broadcast booth and call part of the Pirates' 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Blue Jays at McKechnie Field, in a free broadcast on Gameday Audio. It might not seem like an assignment for such an accomplished hockey commentator, but it's a big deal for Emrick.

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Emrick is the lead announcer for the National Hockey League's national television broadcasts on NBC. He was the first media member inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame. He's also a diehard Pirates fan, saying he was "raised on Bob Prince," the legendary Bucs broadcaster.

Emrick talked about the idea with Pirates lead play-by-play man Greg Brown. He will work an inning or two today on the radio, and he is expected to join the Pirates' ROOT Sports television broadcast on March 9 for a few innings.

"I've known Brownie for a long time, because he's a hockey guy and he likes the sport. So we'd talk about it. He knew I liked the team," Emrick said on Feb. 18, sitting on a couch just outside the Pirate City clubhouse. "I thought, 'Gee, if there was ever a case when I could be on with Brownie, that would be fun for me.' I don't know if it would be for the audience.

"But if it was a harmless Spring Training game, maybe people would be sympathetic and say, 'Well that's just Doc. Let him go for a little bit.'"

Emrick isn't sure if he'll be able to maintain his objectivity in the McKechnie Field press box. He hasn't thought of a clever home-run call yet, but he knows he won't be happy if he has to use it for whoever the Pirates are playing.

"Haven't developed a philosophy," Emrick said. "I suppose it's going to be short-lived if there's a philosophy at all."

The biggest difference between calling a hockey game and baseball, Emrick said, will be the time between pitches. That proved to be challenging during his first and only prior baseball broadcasting experience, back when he was a graduate student at Miami (Ohio) University. Emrick was called on to fill in without much time to prepare and no media guide or game notes to help fill in the gaps and help paint the picture of pitcher-vs.-hitter confrontations.

"I don't remember who won," he said, though he did recall it was between Miami and Kent State, which featured Thurman Munson. "I do remember that you can only mention the flag blowing a certain way in center field so many times without driving people nuts. But there was a lot of time to fill between pitches. So I was awful."

Emrick's second chance, he hopes, will be better.

"If I can get the count right, that'll be nice. I'm not trying to downplay this. I really want to do a good job," he said. "But I don't want to take it so seriously that it comes across to people at home like, 'He's trying to be an announcer.' I want to enjoy it, but I want people to enjoy it, too."