I’ve been reading on Facebook where LCS viewers have muted their TV’s and listened to the radio broadcasts of the games. We did that in our house since we could only stand so much of Cal Ripken calling the Mets’ shortstop “William” Flores instead of his right name Wilmer. Mercifully Ripken is done for the year, as Fox has the rights to the World Series and Ripken is considering managing a team if one will have him. Tonight’s ALCS game 6 features the Royals trying to win their way into the World Series and the Blue Jays trying to force a game 7 tomorrow night. While Cal Ripken won’t be heard, Fox has employed both Pete Rose and Alex Rodriguez during the ALCS. If the Fox broadcasters are more than you can bear, and you subscribe to MLB’s gameday audio package here are sketches of the men you can hear broadcasting the games.
On the Kansas City side, Denny Matthews is the voice of the Royals. He’ll be 73 next month, and has been with the Royals since they began play in 1969. Back then he was number 2 man to Buddy Blatner, the former Angels’ broadcaster, but he became the lead voice in 1976. Only two men have broadcast longer for the same team and both are with the Dodgers. Vin Scully has done their games since 1950, and Jaime Jarrin has broadcast them in Spanish since 1959. Matthews took the Ford C. Frick award at Cooperstown 8 years ago and is under contract to the Royals for the next 3 seasons. That will make 50 years at the microphone for him.
Steve Stewart does pre- and postgame duties but also carries a few innings of play-by-play. He’s covered the game for 24 years, 8 with the Royals. Before that he was with the Reds, Orioles and briefly the Cardinals filling in for an ailing Jack Buck.
Ryan LeFebvre (pronounced La Fever) is the most colorful member of the broadcast team. He did a ton of TV during the regular season, but since Fox does not allow local TV networks to carry these games he’s been heard on the radio broadcasts. He spent 4 seasons with the Twins and this is his 17th with the Royals. I heard him do a handful of University of Minnesota baseball games before the Twins’ season started in 1997 when I was with the St. Paul Saints. I thought he was terrific, especially considering how young he was. At the time he was 26. His dad Jim played in the majors for the Dodgers.
On the Toronto side, Jerry Howarth has been with them since 1981. Earlier in his career he sounded like he was trying to immitate Vin Scully, but that tendency is more difficult, if not impossible to hear in his recent broadcasts. He’s been their lead announcer since 2005, the year the Jays lost their original voice Tom Cheek. Howarth has been a high school hoops coach since 1991, so the fact of awful officiating is nothing new to him.
That being said he was dumbfounded by the call in game 5 of the recent ALDS where Texas runner Rougned Odor scored when Russell Martin’s throw back to the pitcher struck the hitter’s bat. Surprised as he may have been, he was professional enough not to call attention to the obscene chants from the crowd, and was enough of a company man to say that “Beer cups,” were being thrown on the field as opposed to cans and bottles which my brother-in-law saw pelting down from the crowd.
Joe Siddall is Jerry’s color commentator. As broadcasters, my partner and I saw him catch with the West Palm Beach Expos in the early 1990’s. He got in some big league time with the Expos, Tigers and Marlins before calling it a career in 2000. He took to the broadcast booth in 2014 after a dozen years as an assistant with the Tigers. He does color commentary for the entire game.
Two former pitchers have birthdays today. Jim Bunning is 84 today. On Father’s Day, June 21 1964 at brand new Shea Stadium he tossed a perfect game against the Mets. The Phillies won 6-0. He had thrown a no-hitter for the Tigers in 1958. He was an All-Star 9 times over, and reached Cooperstown in 1996. After baseball, he spent a dozen years each in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. Rand Paul replaced him in the Senate in 2011 after Bunning announced he wouldn’t run again. As for Al Leiter, he turns 50 today. He was with the Mets in their last World Series in 2000 against his original team the Yankees. He had 3 World Series rings already, two with the Blue Jays and one with the 1997 Florida Marlins. He started game 7 of that World Series, and the 1999 one-game playoff between the Mets and Reds, where he two-hit the Reds 5-0. He started games 1 and 5 of the Subway Series in 2000, pitched well but won neither game. He can be seen now on YES Network and the MLB Network. Happy Birthday, Jim Bunning and Al Leiter.