A Rough Ending to game 1; Adios to a Broadcaster of Baseball’s Past

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Hi all. Game 1 of the World Series where the Red Sox beat the Dodgers 8-4 wasn’t one to write home about. Former Giants and Yankees’ broadcaster Hank Greenwald has died at age 83.
Neither starter in game 1 gave a Cy Young award performance in Boston last night. For Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, it was another bad performance on the world’s biggest stage. The Red Sox’ Chris Sale isn’t used to “spilling the soup” (a clean version of what the players say about a bad pitching performance.) However he’s done it twice this postseason, first against the Yankees and now last night. Neither man survived the fifth inning. Sale was the luckier man as his team bailed him out.
The Red Sox jumped ahead with 2 first-inning runs. Dodgers’ first baseman David Freese did his pitcher no favors by not catching a routine popup off the bat of Mookie Betts. Yasiel Puig was no help when he air-mailed a cutoff throw allowing Adam Benintendi to get into scoring position after driving home the game’s first run. In the second, Sale channeled his internal Kershaw by giving up a game-tying blast to Matt Kemp. In the home third, the Red Sox got the lead back as J.D. Martinez doubled off the wall near the triangle in distant center field. Sale only kept the Dodgers down until the fifth when they tied the game after his manager pulled him out. A trigger-happy Alex Cora only allowed his presumptive ace to walk Brian Dozier in the fifth before calling out the reenforcements. The chosen one, Matt Barnes promptly uncorked a wild pitch which assisted the Dodgers in scoring the tying run. In the home half, Kershaw put two men aboard and got an early exit. He was followed by Ryan Madson whose ability was so in question that he wasn’t used by the Royals though he was on their 2015 World Series roster. He’s approaching 40 now and once lost 4 full years between pitching a major league game. This job was clearly too big for him as he threw a wild pitch and walked Steve Pearce to fill the bases. After striking out Martinez he appeared to have gotten an inning-ending double play off the bat of Xander Bogaerts. Somehow Bogaerts beat the relay throw and the tie-breaking run scored. Rafael Devers singled another run home to make it 5-3 Boston. Manny Machado hit a scoring fly ball good for his third RBI of the night and drawing the score to 5–4. In the home 7th, Roberts made his fatal mistake. Alex Wood was brought in with two on after Pedro Baez had struck two Red Sox hitters out. With the lefty Wood in place, the Red Sox’ manager Alex Cora turned to the former Yankee Eduardo Nunez and he does what the Yankees are known for. He hit a critical 3-run home run essentially ending the game. Nathan Eovaldi and Craig Kimbrel were lights out from the Boston bull pen in the last two innings. The postmortem is particularly ugly for Kershaw whose reign as best pitcher on the planet seems to be well and truly over. In just 4 innings he gave up 7 hits, 5 earned runs with 3 walks and 5 strikeouts. His spells on the DL the last 3 seasons and his repeated bad performances in the postseason leave his future in doubt. If the current disturbing trend toward using starters only for an inning or two continues, the game’s best men may only be exposed for 100 or so innings a season and that would be bad for baseball, a game that has enough wrong with it already.
We never like to have to write a goodbye letter to a guy who broadcast the game to millions of people over the decades. Hank Greenwald, who died at 83 last night, was such a man. Like another famous Hank, Greenwald’s first name wasn’t Henry. It was Howard but he was called Hank early on, the same way Hank Williams’ given name Hiram was never used once he started making music. In Greenwald’s case the name change was in honor of his boyhood hero Hank Greenberg of the Tigers. Like so many of today’s broadcasters, Greenwald went to Syracuse University and began his career there. He broadcast for the Hawaii Islanders of the Pacific Coast League after their broadcaster Harry Kalas went to Houston. Greenwald spent 8 seasons (1979–86) with the Giants, then two with the Yankees. That’s where I heard him broadcast. With the Internet still science fiction, hearing Greenwald broadcast from San Francisco was impossible and I thought he was Hank Nobody when he began his Yankee service. He didn’t talk about his time with the Giants and with sports talk radio in its infancy his every word wasn’t dissected the way broadcasters’ pronouncements are now. The Yankees were a bad team on their way to being a disaster when Greenwald and Tommy Hutton were there. I remember Hank because his last year, 1988 was the first year my Seeing Eye dog Duffer and I went to Yankee Stadium. To my mother’s horror I repeatedly went there during the next 3 seasons. I brought along a tape recorder and a radio and re-created what I heard Hank Greenwald saying on the Yankees’ radio broadcast. Showing the kind of good sense that rats show when they leave a sinking ship, he left the Yankees before they hit their 1990 iceberg and dropped to last place. He returned to the Giants just in time for them to make the World Series. His call as they beat the Cubs to reach the World Series is considered his most memorable moment. The words were simplicity in a small powerful package–“27 years of waiting have come to an end.” The Giants’ last World Series had been in 1962. Greenwald stayed with the Giants through 1996, retiring relatively young for a broadcaster. So it was his replacement Jon Miller, not Greenwald who could be heard when the Giants, and all MLB began broadcasting on the Internet. Greenwald spent 1997 with CBS radio, then joined the A’s on TV during 2004 and 2005 on limited duty. In the peak years when men traded radio broadcasts of baseball games, very few games from the 1980’s were out on the open market. The Internet, particularly Youtube have ruined the market, so games that were once closely guarded are now available to the public. In the case of Hank Greenwald that could have been a good thing. He didn’t get the exposure or the fame of Mel Allen, Red Barber or Vin Scully. Sadly, even on youtube his Giants’ broadcasts can’t be found. What exists of the ’89 NLCS comes from the TV side. R I P Hank Greenwald.


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