BIOGRAPHY: Mike Krukow enters his 16th season in the television booth, and his 11th full season on the radio side. A three-time Emmy Award winner, Krukow is the broadcast team's color analyst on KTVU-FOX 2 and FSN Bay Area telecasts, and on
 
KNBR Radio broadcasts. Krukow's playing career in the majors spanned 14 years and three teams: the Chicago Cubs (1976-81), Philadelphia Phillies (1982) and San Francisco Giants (1983-89), where his enthusiasm both on and off the field made him a fan favorite. "Kruk" was named as the starting right-handed pitcher to the 1980's Giants All-Decade Team in a vote by Bay Area media in 1999.

Noted for his deep knowledge of the game and tremendous sense of humor, he has provided play-by-play and color commentary for the popular EA Sports video game "MVP Baseball", along with FSN Bay Area partner Duane Kuiper, for the last three years.

A 20-game winner for the Giants in 1986, Krukow retired after the 89 season with a 124-117 record and a 3.90 ERA.

Krukow resides in San Luis Obispo with his wife, Jennifer, and their five children, Jarek, Baker, Tessa, Chase and Weston.
 

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THE BUDDY SYSTEM
 
Long-lasting friendship between Krukow, Kuiper comes across the airwaves
By Daniel Brown, San Jose Mercury News, Monday, June 2, 2003


It happens all the time. Whenever Duane Kuiper has the temerity to walk around San Francisco without his Giants broadcasting partner, fans stop him cold.

"The first thing they say is, 'Where's Kruk?' '' he said. "People think we're attached, that we're Siamese twins, that we cannot go one place without the other.''

Kuiper sometimes explains to astonished onlookers that Mike Krukow prefers to spend time with his wife and five children.

Then comes an awkward pause.

"Then they'll say, 'Oh really? We thought you guys were married,' '' Kuiper said.

The confusion is understandable. After 20 years of comic bliss, on the field and in the booth, Krukow and Kuiper have the kind of sweet chemistry that ought to be the envy of actual married couples.

In baseball, as in love, diamonds are forever.

"How many people get to work with their best friend?'' is how Krukow put it. "We know that every day we come to work, we're going to laugh -- hard.''

Kruk and Kuip -- nobody calls them Mike and Duane -- might be the most popular Giants this side of Barry Bonds. Two decades after they first cracked each other up in a spring training game, Krukow and Kuiper have yet to tire of the other's company.

The duo reached a ridiculous level of popularity this season when the team's official souvenir store began selling their replica jerseys, 18 years after Kuiper's last hit and 14 years after Krukow's last pitch. Sales quickly topped 1,000, prompting officials to order more.

The Kruk-Kuip bobblehead doll, which spouts the broadcasters' catch phrases at the press of a button, helped raise $2,000 at a charity auction. Electronic Arts picked the duo to serve as the voices of its hot-selling MVP Baseball 2003 video game.

Female fans show up at Pacific Bell Park toting signs that read "Duane's Dames.'' Others wear T-shirts bearing Krukow's catch phrases, such as the strikeout salute, "Grab some pine, Meat.''

"The great thing is the interaction between them,'' said retired broadcaster Hank Greenwald, who helped tutor the duo in their early days. "Here are two guys who were friends and teammates long before they stepped into the booth, and that comes across on the air. From the start, there has been a natural rapport.''

Travel partners

Unlike at home, there is virtually no chance of bumping into Kuiper without Krukow while the Giants are in another city. "He's my road wife,'' Kuiper joked. On a typical trip, they eat breakfast together, take walks, work out, do lunch and sit side by side on the team bus.

As if that isn't enough, Duane and his wife, Michelle, occasionally spend a weekend in Carmel with Mike and Jennifer Krukow during the off-season.

Life, it seems, is one long broadcast and their world one big booth. Just spend a few days with them on the road. They are off and rolling by breakfast, with the wisecracks sizzling like bacon in grease.

Reporter: "Duane, what's the dumbest thing Krukow has said on the air?''

Kuiper: "That's right, Kuip.''

This day, last month in Phoenix, starts like the others on the road: with a couple of rounds of java at Starbucks and a large stack of newspapers. They read the sports pages aloud at times, with Krukow unearthing things that Kuiper might get a kick out of and vice versa. Each box score represents something of an archaeological dig. "Rough debut for that Padres rookie,'' Krukow said, pointing out an unsightly pitching line. "Dmitri Young struck out three times again.''

"We like to point out things we wouldn't want our names associated with,'' Kuiper explains.

It is 8:30 a.m. when Krukow begins plowing through the crossword puzzle. He's wearing a Giants hat and a purple T-shirt that says, "Friends don't let friends drink white zinfandel.'' Kuiper and Krukow are across from the team hotel, the Ritz-Carlton, so they chat with the Giants players and coaches who straggle in for their morning buzz.

"People say, 'When do you start preparing for a broadcast?' '' Kuiper said. "Well, we're doing it right now. We've already read everything in the paper. And whatever I might have missed, he sees.''

Like any classic couple, they have a cute story about how they came together. On a rainy spring training day, March 24, 1983, just as Krukow was getting ready to throw his first pitch to a fearsome Milwaukee Brewers lineup, Kuiper called timeout from second base and came to the mound for a visit.

The pitcher was mystified. Nobody ever halted play before the first pitch of the game. Krukow, who had come over in an unpopular trade that sent Joe Morgan to the Philadelphia Phillies, figured Kuiper wanted to go over signs. "Instead, he walks up and says, 'Whatever you do, don't let them hit it to me,' '' Krukow recalled. "Then he patted me on the back, turned around and walked back to his position.''

The pitcher laughed. He recognized a good wisecrack when he heard one. Or so he thought. Kuiper, near the end of a career that included plenty of knee trouble, was struggling to get loose.

"It turns out he was serious,'' Krukow said, howling at the memory of groundballs zipping past his second baseman. "He would take one step, dive and miss it by 50 feet. I had a rough outing. But I had a place in my heart for this guy already.''

The elements of that day in Arizona -- a laugh and a 9-0 loss -- set the tone for their three seasons together. From 1983 to '85, the years Krukow and Kuiper were on the roster together, the Giants went 207-279 and racked up the most defeats over a three-year stretch in franchise history. Still, each credits those years for ultimately making them better broadcasters. If nothing else, they had to search through the muck for ways of keeping the game fresh and fun. They began unleashing the kind of offbeat humor that would become their hallmark in the booth.

Bad baseball, good humor

"Ah, jeez, it was like managing a funny farm,'' Frank Robinson said with a playful cringe in explaining how he handled Kruk and Kuip. The Montreal Expos manager guided the Giants in 1981-84. "They were kooky, goofy people. It was like, 'What are they going to do next?' ''

When asked for his recollections of Krukow and Kuiper, former teammate Bob Brenly put it this way: "Have you talked to their parole officers?'' Brenly, now the Arizona Diamondbacks' manager, said both were quick with a zinger from the bench -- at least on four out of five days. "On days Krukow pitched, you couldn't even talk to him. Nothing was funny about anything on those days.''

Besides providing comedy material, playing on lousy teams had a more practical effect. Kuiper and Krukow learned to stay riveted to every pitch, reasoning that the only chance they had of beating a more talented team was to be smarter. They soaked in the nuances -- the positioning of cutoff men, the proper way to back up a base -- that now make for enlightening broadcasts.

"If you did what they did, you were going to play the game right. They were a positive influence on all the young players,'' said former teammate Mark Davis, who won the Cy Young Award for the San Diego Padres in 1989. "I really looked up to them. I'll put it this way: I've collected two uniforms in my career. One is from Nolan Ryan and the other from Kruk.''

Kuiper began easing into broadcasting in 1983, when he took over Morgan's postgame show on KNBR radio. He realized he was nearing a full-time career change when a heckler let him have it during his final season.

"I was standing in the on-deck circle in 1985 when some leather-lunged guy in the stands screams, 'Kuiper! Go to the booth -- NOW!' '' he said. "I remember thinking, 'I'm going to accept this as a compliment.' A year later, I was in the booth.''

Corey Busch, then the team's executive vice president, helped orchestrate Kuiper's second career by pairing him with Morgan when GiantsVision made its debut in 1986. When Morgan bolted for ESPN after the 1990 season, and with cable interest in the Giants on the rise, Busch persuaded Krukow, who had been Morgan's occasional fill-in, to take broadcasting more seriously. By '91, Krukow was doing about 40 games a year, and his chemistry with Kuiper carried over on the air.

"First and foremost, those guys knew the game, which is what we were trying to build our broadcasts around in those days,'' Busch recalled. "We wanted them to be entertaining, too, but it was more important to be enlightening. We wanted things explained not just at the macro level but with all the nuances.''

Kuiper's transition from player to play-by-play man came effortlessly. Krukow, however, struggled early. His enthusiasm for making a point ran roughshod over the action, and he often yapped right through a pitch. "It was like trying to break a horse,'' Greenwald recalled with a laugh. "He was always ready to charge ahead with what he was going to say and not always putting a lot of thought into it.''

Krukow also tended to baffle listeners. He used the lexicon of the locker room without much consideration for whether the layman would understand what he meant by a "hanging banger'' or a "one-hop seed.'' Krukow's partners urged him to tone it down, but -- hundreds of broadcasts later -- fans seem to have met Krukow halfway. The pitcher's wildly inventive descriptions are now part of his charm.

At his best, Krukow can sound like a cross between Mr. Baseball and Dr. Seuss. Consider how he described it when Jesse Foppert made a mistake and threw an 0-2 pitch down the middle to the Diamondbacks' Dave Dellucci: "Foppert got pretty froggy with that fastball. He put one right in Dellucci's sweet hole.''

A diving stop by the Giants first baseman is rendered as, "J.T. Snow goes down to his belly to snuggle up to a line drive.''

An inside pitch that breaks a bat is a "shark bite.''

A long practice home run by Bonds is a "a big potato.''

The victim of a dugout prank is "a raving yahoolio.''

And, of course, there is "Meat.'' It is the moniker Krukow slaps on any Giants opponent who does something weak or stupid. Krukow heard that term within his first minute in a major league clubhouse, in 1976. The lanky rookie walked in the door, and George Mitterwald, the Chicago Cubs' veteran catcher, alerted his teammates to the arrival of fresh meat.

"When I first started doing broadcasting, I was talking in a vernacular where nobody knew what the hell I was talking about,'' Krukow said. "But it made sense to me. That's the way we talked about baseball on the bench and in the clubhouse.''

'He hits it high . . .'

Kuiper, meanwhile, has carved his niche with a rousing home run call. He started doing it on television broadcasts in the early 1990s, when Matt Williams was bashing majestic shots around Candlestick Park. The call comes as a dramatic trilogy -- "He hits it high! He hits it deep! He hits it out of here!'' -- and viewers embraced it from the start. Kuiper fell in love with the call, too, and began using it on the radio. At least until Bob Agnew, his boss at KNBR, phoned him after a broadcast in Denver.

"In his typical warm-and-fuzzy style, Bob says, 'By the way, I understand that Bonds hit it high and hit it deep and hit it out of there. But would you mind telling me where the home run went? Did it go to right or left or center?' '' Kuiper recalled. "I was ticked, but he was right. You have to be more descriptive.''

No broadcast featuring Kruk and Kuip is complete without a tongue-in-cheek riff on the fans in the crowd. A crooked hat or a dropped foul ball might keep the duo occupied for several innings, especially if the score is lopsided. On other days, they might fixate on a kid eating cotton candy or a senior ball dude misplaying a shot in foul territory.

"They're unbelievable,'' said Jim Lynch, who directs Giants television broadcasts and keeps an eye out for shots that might provide comedic fodder. "There are some shows that I think are driven by production people, but our show is announcer-driven. We really listen to them and try to complement what they're talking about.''

Before the Giants' game at Arizona on May 21, something hilarious takes place where, mercifully, there are no cameras. Shortly before the broadcast, Kuiper parades into the press-box restroom and proudly displays several dents on the door. It turns out that Kuiper bolted in there a few years ago just a minute before he was supposed to be back on the air. In his haste to get back to the booth, he ripped off the door handle and got stuck inside. He pounded on the door in hopes of a rescue, but it came too late.

"He didn't make it back until there were two outs in the inning,'' Krukow said, "and even after he did, he wasn't worth a damn the rest of the night.''

The two laughed hard, again, as they had since their first sip of coffee. Then they slipped inside the broadcast booth for another night of work.

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KEEPING IT REAL IN THE BOOTH

By Michelle Smith, March 29, 1998

Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper. Broadcast partners. Ex-teammates. Best friends. Mallrats.

"We call it the Great American Gap tour," Kuiper said.

"We like to go into the Gap in San Diego and tell them that the store in Atlanta had much better selection."

There are, after all, hours to kill when you spend six months of the year on the road together during baseball season. And it's sometimes tough to come up with creative ways to spend the time. There's only so much golf to play, stationary bikes to ride and movies to see.

"We rollerbladed for a year," Kuiper said. "I made the suggestion about three years ago that we start rollerblading and take them on the road. Mike was pretty excited about it."

Krukow called his partner at 9 o'clock one morning in Chicago, ready to buy his own pair of skates. By 9:30 Krukow and Kuiper were at the sporting goods store, by 9:45 the purchase had been made.

"And by 10 a.m., Mike had two broken ribs," Kuiper said.

"We were on Lakeshore, where the water comes right up and the beach is a bunch of rocks. Mike did a whirly-bird and landed right on his chest. I wasn't going to carry him back to the hotel. He had a tough game that night, he did most of it hunched over."

But it's Kuiper that gave up his skates. As Krukow shows every day in the Giants broadcast booth, it's much more difficult to dampen his enthusiasm.

The Giants have perhaps the best top-to-bottom lineup of broadcasters in baseball. There's the highly respected Jon Miller, Bay Area legend Lon Simmons, the talented and affable Ted Robinson, and then there's Kruk and Kuip, who have established themselves as an irreverent, entertaining team with a level of relatability that no one else in the Bay Area - in any sport - can match.

"People enjoy listening to broadcasters who appear to like each other," said Hank Greenwald, the Giants former play-by-play man. "They each have very different styles. Kruk is enthusiastic, Kuip is more low key. They give people a high and a low in terms of balance. It's just a very comfortable relationship."

They are two regular guys who have a genuine affection for one another, who spend three hours a day in the booth together and much more than that away from the ballpark.

They are a cross between Abbott and Costello and an old married couple. During games, Kuiper is the straight man and Krukow is the class clown, who refers to his daily duets with Kuiper as "just a couple of hemorrhoids who love to talk about baseball."

Both are fathers with young, active families. Krukow spent much of the winter taking his five children - who range in age from 8 to 18 - snowboarding. Kuiper is strictly a two-planker, "a purist," says Krukow.

"I start talking about snowboarding at breakfast and he just puts his paper up in front of his face," Krukow said.

Krukow is up with the sun, ready to unleash his enthusiasm on the day. Kuiper often tries to take a nap in the afternoon before a night game.

Both have embraced the information superhighway.

"Kuip wanted nothing to do with the Internet for a long time, now he's become a total computer nerd," Krukow said. "I'm getting ready to buy him patches for his elbows."

Their relationship has resonated with fans.

"People come up to us all the time and want to talk baseball, they approach us like we aren't anything special, we just love the game like they do," Krukow said. "With Jon or Hank, people come up and say "Mr. Greenwald' or "Mr. Miller', we get none of that. It's an aura we just don't have. Who needs it? Auras are overrated."

Krukow and Kuiper have a friendship that began in the dugout when the two of them wore Giants uniforms and passed the time by doing mock broadcasts from the bench. Each also had postgame shows on their teams' radio broadcasts at different points in their careers.

As players-turned-broadcasters, they have each proven a work in progress. And the progress is truly starting to show.

Kuiper was always a likable, if not dynamic presence. He now exudes a smoothness and confidence that have elevated his skills and his charisma as a broadcaster. The improvement has been particularly noticeable since Kuiper returned to the Giants after a year with the Colorado Rockies in 1993.

"His biggest asset is that he's totally relaxed now," Krukow said. "He has much more confidence and I think it's been about being able to achieve a good level of radio play-by-play. Not many guys can leave the game and do that, that's hard. Now the door is starting to open for him."

Kuiper also senses a level of comfort that he credits largely to his partner.

"I've definitely reached a comfort level working with Mike," Kuiper said. "As far as the radio stuff, it's just something that the more you do, if you've got any talent, the better you are going to be."

Krukow, meanwhile, spent the first couple of years sitting in the booth struggling to let go of his player's impulses.

"I think Mike is reaching the point where he thinks of himself as a broadcaster first," Greenwald said. "I think, as a former player, you have to go through that. Once you stop playing and go into the booth, your emotions aren't ready. You need a cooling off period, like detox. Not that you are supposed to lose your knowledge and insight from a player's perspective, but you have to learn to curb the impulse to start cheering."

Robinson remembers sharing the booth with Krukow during the last game of the epic 1993 season in which the Giants lost to the Dodgers and lost a playoff spot to Atlanta.

"I did the last four innings practically on my own. Mike was so emotionally devastated by the way things ended and the way it happened. At the end of the game, he just left," Robinson said. "From that day to today, that's the biggest advancement he's made. The ability to speak the truth, not just through rose-colored glasses."

Krukow believes that his sincerity is part of his appeal.

"I'm a lot more confident now than I was then. I have had a very patient audience which has allowed me to make mistakes and doesn't crucify me when I do," Krukow said.

"They know I am sincere when I broadcast a ballgame. That's a strength."

Krukow is as much a network prospect as Bob Brenly was several years ago before he landed with Fox. He could do studio work as well as anybody working at the network level now, but for now, Krukow is quite happy with the way things are.

"I like who I am working for and who I am working with," Krukow said. "I think I am good enough to do anything, but my aspirations are to be with the Giants."

Kuiper is also satisfied with his current career path.

"I'm pretty realistic about those things. I learned about being realistic as a player," Kuiper said. "I don't think I'll ever replace Vin Scully. If someone said, "How high do you want to go,' I'd say I just really want to do a good job here."

 
   
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