There were 2,468 games in the 2017 Major League Baseball season, all the way to the very last one, in which the Houston Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7 of the World Series. That's a lot of hits, outs, pitching changes, foul balls and second-guessed decisions.
It's also a treasure trove of incredibly dramatic moments that we won't soon forget.
Thanks to the sharp eyes, keen sense of timing and golden vocal cords of baseball's best broadcasters, these highlights are indelibly interlinked with the voices that described them in real time. Six of those moments stood out from all the broadcasts of 2017, and they are the nominees for the Esurance MLB Award for Best Call, TV/Radio.
Here are quick descriptions of each nominee:
"Serpico is back!"
Utility man Sean Rodriguez's nickname comes from the bushy beard that creates a resemblance to the namesake of the old Al Pacino movie. Rodriguez had earned the moniker in two memorable seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates (2015 and '16), but he had signed with the Braves as a free agent prior to 2017. The Pirates got him back, however, trading for him on Aug. 5. And on Aug. 6, Rodriguez returned to the Steel City in style, blasting a walk-off home run against San Diego in the 12th inning in his very first game back. Naturally, this was an unexpected and dramatic local moment, and Pirates radio man Greg Brown nailed it.
"I mean ... are you kidding me?"
Orioles star Manny Machado had already had a great game at home against the Angels on Aug. 18, with two home runs and three RBIs. Then he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded and his team trailing by two runs. And then he knocked it out of the park, which is exactly what O's radio voices Joe Angel and Ben McDonald did with their memorable call.
"He's a baseball player."
Game 5 of the World Series was one of the most unforgettable in Fall Classic history, with the Astros prevailing in the 10th inning by a score of 13-12. The back-and-forth gem ended on a line-drive base hit by Alex Bregman, the solid young third baseman who came through at the right time. So did the Houston radio team of Robert Ford and Steve Sparks, who fought the thundering crowd noise in Minute Maid Park and still managed to live up to the grandeur of the moment while describing it.
"The silver fox coming up big!"
Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill had a perfect game going into the eighth inning on Aug. 23 against the Pirates at PNC Park, which was dramatic enough for Los Angeles TV broadcasters Joe Davis and Nomar Garciaparra. Then Josh Bell hit a laser of a line drive. Then 38-year-old second baseman Chase Utley happened. Utley dove to his left to catch the ball on the shallow outfield grass, preserving the perfecto for the moment, although Hill would lose his no-hitter and the game on Josh Harrison's walk-off homer in the 10th inning. Utley's grab inspired excitement and a new nickname based on his dignified graying hair, provided in the moment by Garciaparra.
"The smallest guy ... went ... big!"
In the course of the aforementioned World Series Game 5 epic, the one that ended after 5 hours and 17 minutes with Bregman's sharp single to left off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, there were many twists and turns … and seven homers. One was the three-run shot Jose Altuve hit off Dodgers reliever Kenta Maeda to tie the game at 7 in the bottom of the fifth inning. Fittingly, FOX announcers Joe Buck and John Smoltz seized on the intensity of the instant, with Smoltz offering the classic reference to Altuve's amazing ability to figuratively exceed his literal height at the most opportune times.
"A swing and a drive!"
The Indians looked cooked in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, down 8-3 with two outs in the sixth inning. But after Yankees reliever Chad Green loaded the bases by plunking Lonnie Chisenhall, the stage was set for one of the most enchanting moments of the Indians' spectacular season. Shortstop Francisco Lindor's moonshot of a grand slam off the right-field foul pole got the Tribe to within one run, and seven innings later Yan Gomes ended it with a walk-off single. Not surprisingly, Tom Hamilton's radio call for the Cleveland faithful is one to remember.
The Esurance MLB Awards annually honor MLB's greatest achievements as part of an industry-wide balloting process that includes five groups, each of which accounts for 20 percent of the overall vote: Media, front-office personnel, retired MLB players, fans at MLB.com and Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) members.
The MLB Awards are an all-inclusive program, encompassing the top players and performances from both the American and National Leagues from Opening Day through the end of the postseason.
Voting led off with seven categories on Sept. 18, serving as the grand entrance of a program that unveiled nominees for Best Call, TV/Radio; Best Major Leaguer, Postseason; and Best Postseason Moment following the Fall Classic's final out. The ninth inning of voting will begin around BBWAA Awards week, which opens when the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award winners are unveiled Monday. Voting for the final five categories begins at 7 p.m. ET on the following dates:
Best Executive: Thursday, Nov. 9
Best Rookie: Monday, Nov. 13
Best Manager: Tuesday, Nov. 14
Best Pitcher: Wednesday, Nov. 15
Best Major Leaguer: Thursday, Nov. 16
MLB Awards season will culminate Friday, Nov. 17, when winners are announced live on MLB Network and MLB.com starting at 8 p.m. ET.