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You heard the HR calls, now hear the stories

Rockies broadcasters dish on origins of their trademark phrases
November 22, 2020

DENVER -- If you pick up a ball that fits in your hand, then baseball grabs you. And your next goal is to hit that ball a long way. And as soon as you sock one in the backyard, in a sandlot, in an alley, on a street, even in

DENVER -- If you pick up a ball that fits in your hand, then baseball grabs you. And your next goal is to hit that ball a long way. And as soon as you sock one in the backyard, in a sandlot, in an alley, on a street, even in a batting cage, your home run comes with the soundtrack of what you heard on radio or TV.

If you’re a Rockies fan, these words ring:

“Touch 'em all time!”

“Take a good look, you won’t see it for long!”

“Fire up the fountains!”

“Over and outta here!”

The four Rockies play-by-play voices on the KOA Rockies Radio Network and AT&T SportsNet bring flavor to home run calls. In all cases, their signature phrases are the result of preparation, but they are not contrived. They’re not necessarily employed for every Rockies home run. But in all the cases, they ring in the listener’s head.

And spark dreams.

Jack Corrigan (KOA since 2003): “Touch 'em all time!”
Corrigan has called all but 10 of the franchise’s 28 seasons. Before that, Indians fans heard his personal stamp on television for 17 years. But the origins of the call came when Corrigan’s family moved into a cul-de-sac in the West Park neighborhood of Cleveland in the early 1960s.

This L-shaped development would grow to 16 homes, featuring a high of 106 children. “It’s interesting when you can play ‘Red Rover’ with, like, 50 people,” Corrigan said.

But in the beginning, there were just a couple families. Corrigan had no microphone. But he had a plastic ball and a bat. His audience was his childhood friend, Joe Cordeno.

Cordeno became a Tigers fan when the Indians sent them Rocky Colavito in a deal that still brings cringes in Cleveland. So the two of them would listen to Hall of Famer Ernie Harwell call Tigers games. It seemed natural that when they were outside, the batter would announce his exploits.

“It wasn’t just ‘swing,’ and all that,” Corrigan said. “We’d be doing the counts and talking about guys on base. We’d have our lineups.”

While trotting around the bases -- “sewer, manhole cover, sewer, another manhole cover,” Corrigan recalls -- on a home run, a call was born.

“I said, ‘Touch 'em all time for Woodie Held,’ who was an Indians player at that time, and just started doing that when I would hit home runs in this game with Joe and me,” Corrigan said.

Corrigan fast forwarded a couple decades later to the TV booth alongside Cleveland broadcasting legend Joe Tait. While Tait is best known for his work on Cavaliers basketball games, he had quite the baseball career and was working with a young Corrigan.

“It’s the second or third game … I think we were in Kansas City,” Corrigan said. “I was just doing three innings of play-by-play. Joe was doing the bulk. There hadn’t been a home run when I was the lead guy.

“Then somebody hit a home run. I said, ‘Touch ‘em all time for Brook Jacoby,’" Corrigan recalled. "When we went to the commercial break and took off our headsets, Joe said, ‘Touch ‘em all time … Where did you get that?’ I told him the story quickly.

“He said, ‘That’s pretty good. You want to keep that.’”

Drew Goodman (AT&T SportsNet since 2002): “Take a good look, you won’t see it for long!”
Goodman had been the voice of the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, had done regional and national broadcasts of NFL and MLB games for years, and filled in on Triple-A Denver Zephyrs and Colorado Springs Sky Sox broadcasts before taking over as the Rockies’ play-by-play lead.

Much of his national MLB work had required him to be down the middle. A Red Sox home run had better not spark more enthusiasm than a Yankees homer. He acknowledged being caught by surprise when interviewing for the Rockies job, which required him to speak to a partisan audience.

“One of the first questions was, ‘What’s your home run call going to be?’” Goodman recalled. “And I said, ‘I haven’t given that, A) any thought, and B) I always believed and I still believe to this day that anything that comes out of your mouth should be organic. It shouldn’t be, ‘If this scenario occurs, I’m going to say this.’”

Goodman doesn’t remember the specific homer that birthed his call. But somehow it felt right.

“I’m pretty straightforward,” Goodman said. “I always tell young broadcasters that how you are on the air has to be an extension of what your walking around personality is. It can’t be great departure, because now you’re acting and not being yourself.”

But not every home run gets top billing.

“I use it when it’s a no-doubter, like off the bat you can tell,” Goodman said. “So I guess on a Rockies home run, I use it 40-50 percent of the time. If we all know it’s heading for the concourse, then we can do it.

“The last thing you want to do as a broadcaster is break into, ‘Take a good look, you won’t see it for long,’ and the guy catches it two steps in front of the warning track.”

Jenny Cavnar (AT&T SportsNet since 2012, play-by-play since 2018): “Fire up the fountains!”

Cavnar grew up with the Rockies. In fact, her not attending the home opener at Mile High Stadium (more on that later) on April 9, 1993, when she was 10, is family legend.

“My baseball coach dad [longtime Denver area high school coach Steve Cavnar] had two tickets to Opening Day -- but he couldn’t find a substitute teacher,” Cavnar said. “So my mom took my brother out of school and they went.

“And to this day, at every holiday, I remind my parents the profession I chose, and how it would have helped me a lot more if I had been one of those 80,000 fans sitting in the stands that day.”

Cavnar’s voice carries an edge behind her smile when she recounts the story, but she received a valuable baseball education. When she wasn’t playing softball, lacrosse and basketball, she kept the scorebook for her dad’s games and found herself with “a soundtrack in your head.”

Little did she know her audience would extend beyond herself, but she did color commentary on select radio broadcasts starting in 2015 -- the first woman to do so for a National League game -- and did some play-by-play on television in Spring Training '18.

Having grown up with the franchise, Cavnar has always been taken by the Coors Field fountains -- seven of them beyond the center-field nature area, which on every home run shoot recycled water from the system that is used to care for the field. But it wasn’t until she nervously sat in the press box the night before her April 23, 2018, TV play-by-play debut that Cavnar had her call.

“Charlie Blackmon hit a home run in the game, and I tweeted something about the fountains,” she said. “And in my mind, it clicked.”

She didn’t have to wait long. Nolan Arenado went deep in the bottom of the first. “Fire up the fountains! She’s gone!” was the call. Color commentator and former Rockies outfielder Ryan Spilborghs added, “I love it.”

As Arenado crossed the plate, she quietly added, “It only works at Coors Field.”

But she was ready for road homers -- thanks to her broadcast muse Vin Scully. (Hey, she and her husband, Steve Spurgeon, named their son Vincent.) Remember the 1988 World Series, Kirk Gibson and “She is gone!”? Cavnar updated it to, “She gone” after a 2019 Ian Desmond homer at Dodger Stadium.

“A couple hours after the game, he did send me a text,” Cavnar said. “’She gone! I love it!’”

Mike Rice (KOA play-by-play since 2020): “Over and outta here!”
Rice’s voice has long been familiar to the Denver audience, thanks to his work on an array of collegiate sports for the University of Colorado and University of Northern Colorado, and his interviews as part of Broncos and Rockies content.

So when Rice moved to Rockies play-by-play fulltime, his call had long been rolling off his tongue.

“I was calling Northern Colorado baseball for KFKA, and I’m pretty sure it was against Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D.,” Rice said. “I’m pretty sure it was the second baseman, Scott Vatter, who was at the plate.

“There it was. The call was just there. I never remember having used it.

“Anytime as a broadcaster starting out, you’re thinking a home run call is something you’d like to have," Rice continued. "But at the same time, if you force it, you risk it being corny, you risk it not working -- all of those things. So it was a combination of having thought about what might work and having it be there, in the moment.”

Rice’s experience and what he described as the uncanny anticipation of Corrigan -- “There were countless times where he would bring up a point and, literally, the next pitch the very situation would play out,” he said -- made his first year run smoothly. But one area kept him uneasy.

With broadcasters calling road games in front of video screens rather than in the booth, the possibility of misreading a long fly ball loomed.

Like Goodman, though, limiting the signature call to bona fide homers reduced the risk.

“I am always hoping against the scenario where I’m calling a home run that then isn’t a home run,” Rice said. “We all know that when you do live radio for three or four hours -- play-by-play at that -- sometimes you see a play crystal clearly and other times, for whatever reason, you don’t get a great look at it.

“The thought of missing home run calls is one that I always have. But you also know that over the course of years calling baseball, it’s probably going to happen to everybody.”

Charlie Jones: The original
Jones, a network legend for his work on various sports and the Rockies’ original television, didn’t have to wait long to nail the unforgettable call -- Eric Young’s homer off the Expos’ Kent Bottenfield to lead off the first inning of the first game in Denver.

“The 3-2 pitch … Deep left field … It is Mile High and outta here!”

Goodman, already well into his broadcast career, was in Mile High to see the moment. After seeing the video and listening to the call, it has never left him.

“Charlie had a distinctive voice, and as I recollect, [then-owner] Jerry McMorris thought big and he wanted to get somebody with a national name as the voice of the Rockies,” Goodman said. “I thought it was a really good call. … We’re talking about it closing in on 30 years later.”

Rice, also working locally at the time, said, “It was a memorable call that captured an incredible moment in Rockies history. I thought it fit the moment.”

For Jones, who died of a heart attack on June 12, 2008, it was a combination of preparation -- after all, playing baseball a mile above sea level, home runs were going to happen -- and reaction to a special moment.

“People ask, ‘Was that planned? Were you ready for it?’” Corrigan said. “I think of people who ask Al Michaels about, ‘Do you believe in miracles? Yes!’ Sitting in a play-by-play chair, I know that was spontaneous for Al, who’s got a great way with words, anyhow. But it doesn’t mean he didn’t think in his mind, ‘What would happen if they won tonight?’

“I think Charlie was sitting there with the whole thing about being at Mile High Stadium and all that. I think it was spontaneous, but in his normal preparation he probably just put the two together. It was perfect.”

Jones also was appropriately minimalist. He said nothing as Young trotted around the bases and the crowd roared and stomped, and even stayed quiet as Young celebrated with teammates. He didn’t lose the fundamentals in the excitement.

“Of course it’s the call,” said Cavnar, who, to her chagrin was in front of the TV and not in the park. “But it’s how quickly the crowd reacted. It’s 80,000 fans on their feet at Mile High.

“It never gets old for me. From E.Y.’s swing -- all of it. It’s all magical.”

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.