Coaching The Play By Play Team

17 Aug

Baseball is the one sport that is still better on radio.

A great broadcast team can bring a game to life in ways television can’t.

The best radio baseball broadcast team of all time? Bob Murphy, Lindsey Nelson and Ralph Kiner, the original Mets crew.

Oh, no I’m not a homer. Not me.

Actually there have been many good teams.

Milo Hamilton and Larry Dierker were excellent on the Astros games in the 80s.

Marty Brennaman and Joe Nuxhall were great together doing the Reds on radio.

Phil Rizzuto and anyone he worked with was entertaining on Yankees games, even when Phil wasn’t watching the game.

Today with XM you can hear all of the home teams and get a good idea of what their broadcast teams sound like.

During Mets road games, I’m forced to listen to the other team’s broadcast. Sometimes it’s painful.

They sure aren’t Howie and Wayne, the Met’s broadcasters. (That homer thing again)

Saturday night, the Pirate’s play by play and color broadcaster were clearly doing the same game. But they were holding separate conversations with neither acknowledging the other person.

They reminded me of the couple who lived next door for a while. The wife talked non-stop, the husband talked non-stop, yet neither one heard a word the other said.

After a while the broadcast became well, annoying. Just like my former neighbors.

The broadcasters should sound like they’re having one conversation and working together.

After all, this is a major league baseball broadcast.

To make things worse they had no crowd mic or stadium sounds.

The broadcast sounded sterile like it was done from sound proof studio miles from the stadium.

This started me thinking about problems I hear in the fall with local play by play.

High school and college football season is just around the corner. This is the time when many local stations hire outside help for play by play.

If you are responsible for the broadcast team, listen and keep a few key points in mind.

  • Is your audio quality clean so your broadcasters can be heard easily?
  • Is your team telling the full story of the game?
  • Are they bringing the excitement of the event through sound, like crowd noise?
  • Are they talking to each other, or are they having one-sided conversations?
  • Are they playing off what each other is saying?
  • Is your color person focused on doing color by adding depth and understanding to the play by play?
  • What kind of preparation are you requiring your team to do before the broadcast?
  • How much time are they spending discussing their coverage before going on the air?
  • Are they reviewing the broadcast afterwards and making notes for what can be improved the next week?
  • Do you have good examples of radio (not TV) play by play and color announcers that you can use to demonstrate the right way to present a broadcast on radio?
  • Remember TV and Radio are vastly different because of how pictures and replay are used on TV.
  • Does everyone on your broadcast team understand their role?
  • Have you worked out visual signs between the broadcast partners so they know when not to talk?
  • Many high school and college play by play and color broadcasters are former coaches with no radio experience, make sure you spend time directing them.
  • Do you have a plan for those nights when a game is a blow out?

Posted by on August 17, 2008 in Mets and Baseball, Radio programming


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2 responses to “Coaching The Play By Play Team

  1. Matt Treat

    August 18, 2008 at 9:35 am

    I love being able to listen to all the different broadcasts on XM. As a Met fan, you brought up Murphy, Kiner, and Nelson and they were great and sorely missed. The best in my opinion, hands down is Vin Scully. The guy is 80 years old and does the games all by himself. He’s sharp as a tack. He’s always prepared. He has unbelievable stories. And, even if you’re not a Dodger fan, you just have to appreciate what he brings to the game. Even Charlie Steiner & Rick Monday do a good job, when Scully moves over to the TV side later in the games.

    Living in Houston, I like Milo Hamilton on the broadcast, but he’s not the nicest guy in the world. I remember when Harry Carey died, he had a lot of bad things to say about him, which just is not right. However, he does have a great voice and great energy for another 80 year old.

    The worst is John Sterling and Susan Waldman on the Yankees games. Between John’s exaggerated calls and Susan’s nasal ramblings, it’s just very painful to listen to. Michael Kay on the TV side is just as bad. I’m glad I’m not a Yankees fan.

    Other good ones on the radio… Jerry Coleman (San Diego Padres), Harry Kalas (Philadelphia Phillies… I wish I had his pipes), Howie Rose (New York Mets), Joe Castiglione (sp? Boston Red Sox), Jon Miller (San Francisco Giants), Pat Hughes & Ron Santo (Chicago Cubs), Mike Shannon (St. Louis Cardinals), Bob Uecker (Milwaukee Brewers)

    Great Voices of the past… Bob “The Gunner” Prince (Pittsburgh Pirates), Mel Allen (New York Yankees), Harry Caray (St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs), Jack Brickhouse “Hey, Hey” (Chicago Cubs), Jack Buck (St. Louis Cardinals), Mark Holtz “Hello Win Column” (Texas Rangers)

    Great Article, Alan!

  2. alanfurst

    August 18, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Wow, a great list. All great story tellers. I think that’s what makes them special. I worked with Bob Prince some after he left the Pirates. He would tell story after story. It was hard to get him down to cutting the commercials. And if you worked with him after lunch, forget it. The martinis kicked in with more stories by then.


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