Grading the Baltimore Orioles Broadcasters, Past and Present
If I was not a lawyer, I like to think I would have gone into sports broadcasting. While some fans may not pay broadcasters much attention, TV and radio broadcasters genuinely affect my game-watching, or game-listening, experience. This article examines Orioles' broadcasters over the last 20 years and provides a subjective "grade" for each, I write this article with the caveat that all of the Orioles' broadcasters are pretty great, insofar that they get to do this for a living. Criticism of any broadcaster is not a criticism of any of these men and women as people, or about their knowledge of the game of baseball. But because this is a subjective exercise, I provide the following:
Catch Phrases: "Well, there was this one time up in Seattle where I...."
"The old hanging curveball... that pitch just spins up there and screams 'hit me.'"
"Well, there it is..."
Palmer is the GOAT for me. He is on the announcer Mount Rushmore. He is smart, witty, and funny. Every game with Palmer feels like he is sitting in my living room with me, explaining aspects of the game that only a former player would know. He has the "been there, done that" attitude, like he has seen everything. And he probably has. Palmer also earns points for longevitiy, as I remember listening to this man during grade school. MASN, please don't let Jim Palmer go.
Catch Phrases: "Are we havin' fun yet?"
"He hit it from whence it came!"
"How about ya, [insert player name]?!"
Ben McDonald is awesome. I used to be disappointed when Palmer wouldn't be on the broadcast, but McDonald has been very enjoyable. Like Palmer, watching a game with McDonald is like watching a game with a buddy at a sports bar. He is having fun, explaining parts of the game that only a former player would know, and seems genuinely happy in the broadcast booth. He also has a great rapport with Kevin Brown. The only thing that keeps Palmer a hair ahead of McDonald is (1) Palmer's longevity, which creates a subjective nostalgia for me; and (2) Palmer has more of the "been there, done that" and "not surprised" attitude, which I find funny and entertaining. But I hope Orioles fans are treated to Ben McDonald in the broadcasters' chair for years to come.
Grading Baltimore Orioles Broadcasters, Past and Present
Catch Phrases: [Insert Creative Adjective Here] Effort by [Insert Player Here] - for example, "a Herculean effort by Anthony Santander on that catch!"
I was, and still am, very upset that the Orioies did not keep the great Gary Thorne around. So while Kevin Brown had big shoes to fill as the Orioles' lead broadcaster, he has not disappointed. His voice reminds me of another broadcasting great - Joe Buck - and he describes the action with great detail and excitement, while also not stepping on the color commentator's shoes. Kevin Brown's excitement is very believable, as if he is a fan too. Heck, other networks employ Brown, so clearly, I am not alone in appreciating his work. He was an absolute joy to listen to during the playoff chase last year, and I expect more of the same in 2023.
Scott Garceau is a Baltimore sports icon. And deservedly so. While he may not be the most popular Orioles play-by-play guy, I enjoy his calming tone, knowledge of baseball, and clear loyalty to the City of Baltimore. His voice is a little boring, and I prefer Kevin Brown to him, but Garceau is just fine as a back up and is a good guy, to boot.
I contemplated an incomplete here, as I honestly have not listened to Geoff Arnold a ton. What I do recall about him is that his voice is smooth, he knows his baseball, and he calls a game well. With Kevin Brown handling television, Arnold will likely be the Orioles radio guy for years to come.
Hollander is a Baltimore guy who, you can tell, loves his Baltimore Orioles. Listening to him genuinely feels like talking about baseball with a friend. Like Arnold, I have not listened to a ton of Hollander. What I do know is his passion and genuine excitement for calling Baltimore Orioles games shines through in his work. He and Arnold are a very strong radio pairing.
Catch Phrases: "And THAT ball is gone!"
"Swiiiing and a miss, he got em"
"Adam Jones extends his modest hitting streak to two games."
Growing up in Baltimore, I did not have cable, and 9/10 games I would listen to on the radio. Jim Hunter and Fred Manfra. I was disappointed when the Orioles did not bring Hunter back after the 2019 season, as his unique play-by-play voice, excitement, and knowledge of the game make him an enjoyable broadcaster to listen to. When an Oriole would record a big strike out, and Hunter would exclaim "Swing and a miss!" or "Called strike 3!" you felt the excitement reverberating through the radio. Some say Hunter is a bit "cheesy" and a "homer when it comes to the Orioles. And maybe he is. But I still like him, and would be thrilled if he came back to do some games. Extra credit: I've met Hunter and we correspond on Twitter every now and then - he's a very nice man.
Catch Phrases: "A two-bagger!"
(When referring to a team like the Tigers) "So two outs and nobody on for the Detroiters..."
Fred Manfra has great pipes - a powerful voice that is perfect for calling play-by-play. I grew up listening to Fred and Jim Hunter, and that nostalgic factor is definitely there for me. With that said, I always preferred when Hunter was calling the game (which he did in the 8th and 9th innings), as he seemed genuinely more excited than Fred and seemed to describe the action better. Nevertheless, Manfra is, rightfully so, well-respected in Baltimore as a broadcaster.
Catch Phrases: "there's the bugs bunny changeup"
Calling strikeouts "punchouts"
It troubled me a bit to give Bordick such a poor grade. He is a beloved figure around Baltimore and will always be known as the guy who moved Ripken off shortstop. He coached baseball in the same high school division I played in in Baltimore (Go MIAA!) and seems like a genuinely good guy. But his color-commentating left a lot to be desired. Bordick added very little of substance to the broadcasts, was overly cheesy, and perhaps too often gave off a "dad" vibe. Perhaps I also held a grudge against Bordick because when he was on the air, it usually meant Palmer was not.
Catch Phrases: instead of saying "ball four," saying "he...walked him!"
"Hasta La vista, la pelota!"
"And the Orioles... are in the WIN column!"
Joe Angel is a Baltimore Orioles broadcasting legend.
Like Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer, Joe Angel was a Baltimore baseball broadcasting icon. Although he broadcasted for several teams, you could sense that Angel bled orange and black during the 19 years he called Orioles games. Before his retirement in 2018. Angel was inducted into the broadcaster's Hall of Fame after 42 incredible seasons behind the microphone. Angel's voice, tone, and inflection were so good, you felt like he was just as nervous or excited as you were when listening to him.
Overall, broadcasters can significantly add - or detract - from the fan watching or listening experience. Perhaps I take greater notice of our broadcasters than others as a genuine fan of the craft of broadcasting, but it is safe to say, over the last 20 years, the Orioles have had a lot more good than bad behind the microphone calling their games.