Sunday, December 4, 2011

Win One For The Skipper

MLB's Winter Meetings begin on Sunday and I'm very curious about what will transpire.  When Frank Wren returns to Atlanta will Martin Prado and Jair Jurrjens still be Braves?  I'm doubtful, especially with all the interest swirling around Martin.  If Martin is gone, we sure as heck better get someone really, really, really good in return.  That's all I'm saying.

On Tuesday the 6th, the Hall of Fame will announce the recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award which is presented annually to a broadcaster for "major contributions to baseball."  Frick Award voters look at a number of criteria, including longevity, continuity with a club, honors, national assignments such as the World Series and All-Star Games and popularity with fans.  To be considered, an active or retired broadcaster must have a minimum of 10 years of continuous Major League broadcast service with a ballclub, network or a combination of the two.  This year, the Brave's Skip Caray is one of the finalists. 

I would LOVE for Skip to receive this award.  Sadly, I don't think he will.  Skip has always been under-appreciated and very often overlooked as a baseball announcer.  In order to not be disappointed on Tuesday, I've set my expectations low.

Skip's calls are the soundtrack to the Braves successes in the 90's.  I still get chills when I hear those classic calls.  My heart still races with anticipation when I hear this:
"A lotta room in right-center, if he hits one there we can dance in the streets. The 2-1. Swung, line drive left field! One run is in! Here comes Bream! Here's the throw to the plate! He! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win!...Braves win!"
 What about this one?
"There's a drive, deep right center field. Nixon goes as far as he can go....He caught the ball! He caught the ball! I can't believe it. What a catch by Otis Nixon! He took the home run away."
And every Braves fan's favorite:
 "Swung...flyball...deep left center...Grissom on the run..."Yes! Yes!   Yes!  The Atlanta Braves have given you a Championship!"
Seriously, I get chills when I read these.  And I know when you read them, you hear them in Skip's voice.  That was the power and passion of Skip Caray.  He loved the Atlanta Braves as much as we did and he let us know it every game.  He was a homer.  He was one of us.  But the big difference is that Skip was at the games in the '70s and '80s too, when many fans weren't.   Skip was masterful at keeping us entertained and interested in Braves games when the team couldn't.   I don't mean to insult the teams of those eras but let's face it.  They were bad.  Remember these classics?
"The bases are loaded and I sorta wish I was too."

“And like lambs to the slaughter, the Braves take the field.”

 “The stadium is filled tonight, but many fans have come disguised as empty seats.”
It's easy to be an announcer when your team is winning.  Try doing it when your team is losing year after year after year.  Skip did it with style and ease.  Dare I say it, Skip had panache!  Yes, he could be a bit of a curmudgeon.  He was sometimes grumpy, maybe snarky, but always honest.  Skip was real.  I use to love listening to Skip's pre-game show.  Skip shared his knowledge and insight before every game.  But God forbid someone ask a stupid question.  If you did, Skip let you know it.  I never understood why people would forever ask for an explanation of the infield fly rule. You knew Skip was tired of answering that one and he let the caller know it.   I seriously think that people intentionally asked that question just to get a rise out of him.

I hope the voters remember that in the early days of cable tv, Skip, along with Ernie Johnson Sr., Pete Van Wieren and a few others, brought the Atlanta Braves into homes all over the United States.  A team that truly became America's team.  Skip Caray was heard by more listeners than any other baseball announcer of his time.  He was the first local announcer with a national audience.  He brought the Atlanta Braves into homes all over the country and helped create a nationwide fanbase.  The Frick voters should recognize this achievement. 

Tim McCarver is on the ballot for this award too.  If he wins, well, that's just salt in the wound for every Atlanta Braves fan.

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