The National League's Best

By Jeff Zillgitt,

This feature was published on on July 26,  2005

Here's a closer look at each of the 16 NL broadcast teams.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers (Vin Scully, Charley Steiner, Rick Monday)

Even if he just does three innings a game for Dodgers contests west of Denver, Vin Scully makes the Dodgers the No. 1 broadcasting team in the National League. When he opens a game with "Hi everybody, and a very safe and sane Sunday to you wherever you may be — another glorious summer afternoon here in Los Angeles as the Dodgers will close up a very brief homestand on a high note. It always is when the Giants and Dodgers get together," you know the master is behind the microphone.

Scully is a verbal wordsmith. In the third game of a four-game series between the Giants and Dodgers, San Francisco's Felipe Alou, Moises Alou and Yorbit Torrealba were unhappy with first base umpire Adam Dowdy. The next day, Dowdy was the plate ump, prompting Scully to say, "Anytime some of the Giants come up to home plate, you realize it could be an incendiary situation. They were all over Adam Dowdy yesterday. Adam is behind the plate today."

Describing Dowdy's strike call, Scully said, "When Dowdy calls a strike, it's as if he's throwing a punch with his right hand. One good thing about it, no matter where you sit in the ballpark, Adam will let you know if it's a strike."

Scully's call of Sandy Koufax's perfect game in 1965 is beautiful — either in written form or spoken word.

Charley Steiner only adds to a Dodgers' broadcast. A guy who tells stories — straight up ones and funny ones — and a guy who holds his own when it comes to the intricacies of the game, Steiner takes his job seriously without taking himself too seriously.

Audio: Scully calls a home run by Hee Seop Choi

(Ratings — Technical: 9.5, Fan: 9.5, Entertainment: 9.5, Total: 28.5)

2. San Francisco Giants (Jon Miller, Greg Papa, Duane Kuiper, Mike Krukow, Dave Flemming)

Jon Miller is outstanding, delivering the call with a pleasant voice that shows proper excitement when necessary without going overboard. He's the best of the announcers who did not come up during the Golden Age of baseball on the radio. The Giants crew would receive higher marks if Miller didn't spend time doing TV for the Giants and ESPN. Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow provide solid analysis. Krukow explains what it means to pitch off the changeup: "He will challenge, in fastball counts, with a changeup and try to strike you out with a changeup and he will throw it anytime."

Audio: Miller gives a Pedro Feliz home run a unique twist

(Ratings – Technical: 9, Fan: 8.5, Entertainment: 9, Total: 26.5)

3. Milwaukee Brewers (Bob Uecker and Jim Powell)

Bob Uecker gets a bad rap for his "must be in the front row" Miller Lite commercial and his "jussst a bit outside" schtick from the Major League movies. And that's not even getting into his gig on Mr. Belvedere. Uecker is far mellower when calling Brewers games and is one of the best at telling funny stories. He tends to lose track of the game, but quickly compensates by telling tales. One time, he complained about balls and strikes while at bat during his playing days. Uecker turned to the ump and said, "That ball was not a strike."

"The next one is, too," the ump retorted.

Audio: Uecker is at the microphone for the first home run of Prince Fielder's big league career

(Ratings – Technical: 8.5, Fan: 8.5, Entertainment: 8.5, Total: 25.5)

4. Cincinnati Reds (Marty Brennaman, Steve Stewart)

Marty Brennaman earned high marks for his candor about the quality of Cincinnati Reds baseball. Brennaman, in his 32nd year in the Reds booth, is not shy about calling out the Reds. After an opponent knocked around Cincinnati for half an inning, Brennaman said the third out, a fly ball, "will mercifully end this inning." During the same game, he chided the Reds for their awful road record and their inability to execute a sacrifice bunt at the midway point of the season. And he's not immune to criticizing umpires. "That's awful. Talk about a stinking call."

Audio: Brennaman calls Joe Randa's game-winning home run on Opening Day

(Ratings – Technical: 8.5, Fan: 8.5, Entertainment: 8, Total: 25)

5. Pittsburgh Pirates (Lanny Frattare, Greg Brown, Steve Blass, Bob Walk and John Wehner)

Something can be said for a reserved demeanor behind the microphone, and that's what Lanny Frattare and the Pirates crew bring to the audience. Nothing is contrived. They call it as they see it. Nothing over the top, not even when the Pirates do well. They give appropriate pauses, not feeling the need to always fill the air with chatter. Greg Brown is more boisterous than Frattare, but not so much that it is annoying. On one broadcast, analyst Steve Blass explained in layman's terms the difference between a cutter and slider.

Audio: Frattare describes an extra-special home run for Rob Mackowiak

(Ratings – Technical: 8.5, Fan: 8, Entertainment: 8, Total: 24.5)

6. Houston Astros (Milo Hamilton, Alan Ashby)

Milo Hamilton's authoritative voice and descriptive call illustrate why he's one of six National League announcers in baseball's Hall of Fame. Hamilton, whose big league broadcasting career began in 1953, is known for his "Holy Toledo" home run call. Hamilton walks that fine line between appeasing Astros fans and not being a homer. Color man Alan Ashby adds a player's perspective to a solid crew. In a day when radio announcers sometimes forget to paint a picture, Hamilton let listeners know, "(Catcher) Brad Ausmus drops the fingers, telling the pitcher which pitch to throw."

(Ratings – Technical: 8.5, Fan: 8, Entertainment: 7.5, Total: 24)

7. Atlanta Braves (Skip Caray, Pete Van Wieren, Don Sutton and Joe Simpson)

Because the Braves are ubiquitous with their national TBS TV coverage and because the announcers rotate between TV and radio, baseball fans are familiar with the voices of the Atlanta Braves. Between Skip Caray, Pete Van Wieren, Don Sutton and Joe Simpson, fans get a knowledgeable and experienced crew, and they don't lose out no matter who is calling the game.

(Ratings – Technical: 7.5, Fan: 8, Entertainment: 8, Total: 23.5)

8. New York Mets (Gary Cohen and Howie Rose with Ed Coleman occasionally)

This is a solid crew that knows its team and studies its opponent. There is nice give and take between announcers, a conversation that doesn't seem forced. They cater to Mets fans without agitating opponents' fans. Cohen and Rose possess solid pipes but don't try to impress you with their voices. During one game, they explained why pitcher Pedro Martinez holds the ball in the set position just a little longer with speedsters on base: to keep baserunners from getting a good jump on a stolen base attempt or to catch them straying too far from the bag.

(Ratings – Technical: 7.5, Fan: 7.5, Entertainment: 7.5, Total: 22.5)

9. St. Louis Cardinals (Mike Shannon and Wayne Hagin)

Mike Shannon's gravelly voice is fine enough and adds uniqueness to the broadcast. But he falls just short of joining the upper echelon of the NL's top announcers. A former Cardinal, he knows his St. Louis baseball, which is a huge plus for anyone tuning in to a Cardinals game. Shannon's baseball knowledge offsets some of his goofiness, when he chuckles at his unfunny jokes, in the booth. Wayne Hagin is serviceable but falls into that category of generic voices.

(Ratings – Technical: 7, Fan: 7, Entertainment: 7, Total: 21)

T10. San Diego Padres (Jerry Coleman, Ted Leitner and Tim Flannery)

Jerry Coleman, who will be inducted into the broadcasters wing of baseball's Hall of Fame July 31, doesn't do many games any more. That leaves the call to Ted Leitner and Tim Flannery. Leitner is a big-time homer, offering sound bites like "Yeah, what a bullpen!" after a Padres reliever struck out three consecutive batters with runners at first and third. He refers to San Diego as "my Padres." Flannery, in his first year in the booth, shows potential. A former player and coach, Flannery delves into the heart of the matter, telling listeners, "To sniff out a squeeze play, the pitcher throws to first to see if the runner on third might be running to home."

(Ratings – Technical: 7, Fan: 7, Entertainment: 6.5, Total: 20.5)

T10. Philadelphia Phillies (Harry Kalas, Chris Wheeler, Scott Graham and Tom McCarthy)

Hall of Fame announcer Harry Kalas improves the overall score of this booth even though Kalas does just a few innings a game. The slow, deliberate sing-song delivery of Kalas measures up nicely with baseball's pace. Kalas conveys excitement without screaming. It's a low-key holler, if that's possible. It's a pleasure to listen to him. Kalas' voice, like Scully's, takes you to another time and place. The rest of the crew is a work in progress.

(Ratings – Technical: 6.5, Fan: 7, Entertainment: 7, Total: 20.5)

12. Florida Marlins (Dave Van Horne and Roxy Bernstein)

Dave Van Horne has called MLB games for nearly 40 years, 32 of them with the Montreal Expos. He has solid pipes, a smooth delivery and knows the game, culling from his lengthy tenure. Van Horne plays it down the middle, never overly excited or bummed out about what happens. Roxy Bernstein, 32 and in his first season calling big league games, has promise. He needs time to develop.

In a recent game between the Marlins and Diamondbacks in Arizona, the two announcers made an observation that fans at home would appreciate.

"The stats they put on the scoreboard here at the BOB (Bank One Ballpark), whenever the Marlins come up to bat, they're always negative," Bernstein said. "Right now, they have a negative stat for (Mike) Lowell up there.

"There's just no reason to have to embarrass a visiting player on the scoreboard," Van Horne said.

"Conversely, whenever a Diamondback comes to bat, it's always a positive stat," Bernstein said.

"If you went by the scoreboard, the Diamondbacks right now would have a record of 94-2," Van Horne said.

(Ratings – Technical: 7, Fan: 7, Entertainment: 6, Total: 20)

13. Chicago Cubs (Pat Hughes and Ron Santo)

Color man Ron Santo lives and dies with Cubs outcomes. He is an unabashed homer. That will either annoy a listener to no end or appeal to the listener when he says "we need a hit" or "our pitching staff." But he is a Cubs institution and listeners should understand what they're getting into when they tune in to a Cubs broadcast. Pat Hughes, who spent 12 years working with Bob Uecker in Milwaukee, deserves credit for trying to keep it level.

(Ratings – Technical: 7, Fan: 6.5, Entertainment: 6, Total: 19.5)

T14. Arizona Diamondbacks (Greg Schulte and Ken Phelps with occasional appearances from Thom Brennaman)

There's nothing wrong with this crew, but there's nothing that stands out either. It does help that the Diamondbacks have three playoff appearances and one World Series in their seven-plus years in the NL. There is some history.

Phelps, an ex-player, brings a critical and analytical voice to the booth.

"The Diamondbacks here with bases loaded, nobody out. They need to put a couple more up there, at least. Don't want to let this opportunity slip away."

Two outs and no runs later, Phelps said, "Well, there you go again, Diamondbacks situational hitting (is) not very good."

Thom Brennaman, son of Cincinnati's Hall of Fame announcer Marty Brennaman, makes occasional radio appearances, but mainly concentrates on his TV work.

(Ratings – Technical: 6, Fan: 6, Entertainment: 6, Total: 18)

T14. Washington Nationals (Charlie Slowes and David Shea)

It almost would make more sense to give Charlie Slowes and David Shea an incomplete grade. They weren't named the team's radio guys until late February and signed one-year deals. Both are veteran broadcasters and have settled into the job. The complaints are few. Having had less than a season's worth of material, it's difficult for these two to tell outstanding stories from days past. The Nats, while happy with the crew, were hoping to get Montreal's veteran broadcaster, Elliott Price, in the booth, but couldn't resolve visa and immigration issues.

(Ratings – Technical: 6, Fan: 6, Entertainment: 6, Total: 18)

16. Colorado Rockies (Jeff Kingery and Jack Corrigan)

This crew is hamstrung from the start, having little material to work with: a brief team history and a club that is almost 30 games below .500. That's not an easy task for any broadcasting team. After that, there's not much inspiring work from Kingery and Corrigan.

During a recent broadcast of a Dodgers-Rockies game, Kingery pronounced Los Angeles third baseman Oscar Robles' last name "robe-laze" and Corrigan pronounced it "robe-liss." Who's right, who's wrong and why couldn't they get it straight? It distracted from the call.

(Ratings – Technical: 5.5, Fan: 6, Entertainment: 6, Total: 17.5).


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