Baltimore Orioles: Beer’s still cold after all these years
The Baltimore Orioles had a hall-of-fame announcer in the great Chuck Thompson for years.
Today is the lone off day for the Baltimore Orioles during spring training. It’s obviously a welcome thing for the players as well as the coaches. Even during the regular season there are 21 off days built in; having one in spring training makes sense as well. Furthermore it gives me the chance to write one of my favorite recurring annual columns.
Every spring training I write a tribute to the great Chuck Thompson. As most fans know, Thompson was the voice of the Orioles for years – in a career that spanned from the 1950’s until the early 2000’s. Thompson called both Orioles as well as Baltimore Colts’ games, along with various bits of national work over the years.
Let me be clear; the Orioles have great broadcast teams on both television and radio right now. But I suspect that all of the announcers would say that they’re not in Chuck Thompson’s league. And very few are. His trademarks, ain’t the beer cold!, and go to war, Ms. Agnes! are the stuff of legends in Baltimore, even today. They’re a part of the psyche of the Orioles and their fans.
Interestingly enough, Thompson also called Washington Senators games alongside the great Bob Wolfe for four or five years. Thompson actually worked for the National Beer Company, who at that time owned the rights to Senators’ games. Once they purchased the rights to Orioles games, he returned to Baltimore and stayed there for the rest of his career – save for national work.
Thompson received the Ford C. Frick award for broadcasting and was thus inducted into the Hall of Fame. And the award was well-deserved and long-overdue. Speaking for myself, my memories of Chuck Thompson were towards the end of his career. However in listening to the stories of my father and my uncles, I knew that I was listening to a part of baseball history when I’d listen to Thompson call games. He had that smooth delivery and old world charm about his voice. And as time’s gone on, that’s never been lost.
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Part of the draw of Chuck Thompson is undoubtedly the fact that his heyday coincided with baseball and radio being so tied at the hip. Thompson and his contemporaries (of which Vin Scully is the only one left) were fans’ link to baseball every afternoon or evening. And it’s for that reason that he’s so beloved by fans of all ages to this day.
Perhaps announcers aren’t as important now as they were at that time. However Chuck Thompson is as important to the history of the Baltimore Orioles franchise as any player or coach. The way he would emphasize the second O in Orioles, or almost talk backwards in a way (“…swings from the left side does Eddie Murray…”). That’s part of the grand tradition of baseball in Baltimore. So speaking for myself, to paraphrase the end of Thompson’s Hall of Fame speech…when folks ask if I knew Chuck Thompson, I say that I did. He was a friend.