Birds Watcher contributor Jesse Morison interviewed legendary Baltimore Orioles play-by-play broadcaster Gary Thorne in Arizona.
It is hard to believe Gary Thorne has been the Baltimore Orioles play-by-play broadcaster since only 2007. Thorne’s career started when he was in high school and has spanned well beyond calling Orioles games. As the voice of the O’s, Thorne has become a beloved member of Birdland, providing entertainment night after night on MASN with his team of former Orioles in the broadcast booth.
Contributor Jesse Morrison was in attendance when the Orioles visited Arizona to take on the Diamondbacks and had the opportunity to sit down with Thorne and touch on a number of topics, including his view of the current state of the franchise.
“I started in high school,” Thorne said. “I just had an interest in radio in Maine where I grew up and as a junior in high school, I went around looking to see what might be available and I got a weekend job at a local radio station.”
With his first gig, Thorne had the chance to call several local sporting events, including some at the University of Maine.
“They happened to carry a lot of high school and University of Maine sports, and they let me do some high school basketball, and that’s really how I got started. I’ve always been a sports fan, and I loved broadcasting from an early age.”
Thorne, 71, has called many nationally televised sporting events, including the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Frozen Four, and baseball games for ESPN. He has also been on the call for international broadcasts of the World Series, Olympic hockey, and the NCAA tournament. Maybe the most significant moment of his career was when he was on the call for Wayne Gretzky’s record-breaking goal.
Thorne said his favorite career moments calling games before joining MASN were Gretzky’s record-breaker, the New York Rangers finally winning the Stanley Cup, World Series games for international television, and the All-Star game in 1999 at Fenway Park when the All-Century team was honored and Ted Williams threw out the first pitch.
Not only has Thorne been on the call for many notable sporting events but he was a sideline reporter during the infamous 1989 World Series when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit San Francisco a half-hour before game three was scheduled to begin.
“That was tough because a lot of people died,” Thorne said. “We stayed in San Francisco where there was no electricity or water services for days and we waited it out…candlelight press conferences with the commissioner. It was memorable but not good.”
Thorne’s career with the Baltimore Orioles begins.
In 2006, when the Orioles were looking for an extra television broadcaster, they called on Thorne to see if he was interested. He began broadcasting Orioles games on MASN the very next season in 2007.
“They said look, we’ve got an opening and we’re really looking for a network quality broadcaster and we’re wondering if you’re interested,” Thorne said. “We talked and worked out a deal, and here we are.”
Thorne said his favorite part of being the Orioles broadcaster over the past 13 seasons has been working with former Orioles manager Buck Showalter.
He praised Showalter and said doing the required interviews with him was enjoyable because of Showalter’s openness. Thorne said seeing the Orioles make a run to the 2012 postseason under Showalter after not making the playoffs since 1997 was a great experience.
Another part of broadcasting Orioles games Thorne enjoyed was seeing the growth of former Orioles’ star Adam Jones.
“Seeing Adam Jones go through the organization, what he meant to the city, what he did for the inner-city schools, his involvement with them was really great,” Thorne said.
Thorne said broadcasting games during a losing season is not hard for him to do because he is not a “homer broadcaster.” He wants the team to win because it is more enjoyable but said being professional, whether the team is good or bad, does not change; he still prepares for the best broadcast possible and it’s how he stays positive.
When asked how about the current state of the franchise Thorne said it will likely be a few years until the Orioles are back in contention, believing it all depends on the draft and how the team does developing players out of the Dominican Republic.
“This is going to be a 3-5 year process before they’re going to be competitive again,” Thorne said. This year they’re really just trying to see what they’ve got. Next year will be more of a rebuilding year and then hopefully three years down the road they’ll be putting people in place for a competitive team.”
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One of the things Thorne is known for during broadcasts is his iconic, “Goodbye, home run!” call after every home run, but surprisingly, he does not know how it started. “I don’t script closings or script sayings. I started using it for reasons I have no idea and have kept doing it but I honestly have no idea where that came from.”
Recently, Thorne taught a play-by-play online class for the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He said he really loves teaching and loves the interactions with the students.
As for any ideas of a potential retirement in the coming years, Thorne said he is motivated to keep going because of the games and if he gets tired of the games he will stop broadcasting. “I still enjoy seeing the best in the sport competing against one another,” Thorne said. “That to me is the excitement of all professional sports.” Thorne said he does not know when he will stop doing games but going as long as Los Dodgers legendary broadcaster Vin Scully is not in the cards.
Thank you to Gary Thorne for sitting down with Birds Watcher for a few quick words. You can view his nightly broadcasts on MASN where you can hear exactly how Thorne feels about position players pitching and that iconic “goodbye, home run!” call.