Declaring a winner in radio, TV broadcasts of Sox-Cubs game Friday
BY DAN MCGRATH For Sun-Times Media May 18, 2012 11:32PM
The Cubs’ TV team of Bob Brenly (left) and Len Kasper sound like two buddies chatting amiably at a ballgame. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times
Updated: July 1, 2012 12:24PM
The Crosstown Classic brings the city’s broadcast teams together along with its ball teams. And even though there’s no coveted BP Cup at stake, there is competition.
With all four crews working the game Friday at Wrigley Field, a NATO-blockaded viewer seized an opportunity to spend two innings with each, then cede the ninth to the top performers.
Tough assignment, all right.
For a 3-2 game, the White Sox’ series-opening victory offered plenty: a home run by Paul Konerko, followed by a scary beaning; a bizarre play at second base that got Cubs manager Dale Sveum ejected; a game-winning bomb for star-crossed Gordon Beckham; and Kerry Wood’s emotional swan song.
Here’s a breakdown of a fun, full day for a baseball fan:
White Sox radio
By luck of the draw, Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson hit first and got things off to a fast-paced start. Man, do they love to talk. If nature abhors a vacuum, Farmer abhors dead air. He talks more than Jackson does when it’s Jackson’s turn at the play-by-play mike. A first-time listener might think he gets paid by the word.
One problem with that approach: The knowledge and insight Farmer gained during a long, varied career gets lost amid the blather, such as the forced banter with Jackson that sometimes sounds like two adolescents trying to one-up each other in a silly debate about who’s cooler.
And while we’re picking nits, DJ’s groany ‘‘we’ve got work to do’’ doesn’t cut it as a catchphrase. Fortunately, it didn’t come up in the first two innings, which ended with the Sox leading 2-1.
Farmer and DJ do watch the game. They absolved designated hitter-turned-left fielder Adam Dunn when he failed to track down David DeJesus’ first-inning double but chided the Sox’ infield for napping on Tony Campana’s subsequent bunt single.
Len Kasper and Bob Brenly were doing what they always do — chatting amiably, like two buddies at the ballgame — when a pitch got away from Jeff Samardzija and ricocheted sharply off Konerko’s helmet.
‘‘Oh, man, Konerko just got hit,’’ Kasper declared glumly.
Said Brenly: ‘‘That is a scary moment. I don’t care which team you’re rooting for or who your favorite player is, you never want to see anybody get hit above the shoulder.’’
Concern for Konerko influenced their call thereafter, but Kasper and Brenly are always sharp, witty and easy on the ears.
Kasper wondered why Bryan LaHair had been targeted for retaliation rather than Samardzija, prompting a feisty dialogue about the ‘‘unwritten rules’’ of baseball.
While running down a lengthy list of A.J. Pierzynski’s feats, Brenly, a Pierzynski fan, also noted that he’s ‘‘first all-time in annoying opponents.’’
And they were totally in sync in their belief that former Sox manager Ozzie Guillen abandoning Twitter is a good thing.
White Sox TV
Four years in, it’s hard to say whether the Hawk Harrelson-Steve Stone dream pairing is successful. They rarely converse the way more typical partners would.
Oh, they talk, but they usually do so on parallel tracks. It’s Hawk’s booth, and Stoney, from his perch one ZIP code over, must wedge his observations in among all that Hawk has seen, done and come to know during ‘‘my 52 years in this game.’’
I don’t think I’ve ever heard Hawk ask his analyst a question, and Stone is a really good one.
LaHair got a ‘‘he gone’’ after striking out in the sixth inning, and DeJesus was told to ‘‘grab some bench’’ after being tagged out at second on the rough-and-tumble football play that got Sveum ejected in the fifth. Those and the other ‘‘Hawkisms’’ that merit mention in the Sox’ media guide are empty calories — fun, cornball shtick. More entertaining (and head-scratching) are the occasional forays into undisputed truth, Hawk-style.
Hawk long has maintained a major-leaguer hitter has no chance to succeed unless he can hit a fastball. Expounding on the topic earlier this season, he made the blanket statement that ‘‘Cooperstown is full of guys who couldn’t hit a breaking ball.’’
Unknowable and probably not true — but delivered with the unflinching certitude of a politician vowing to lower your taxes.
Maybe Yaz told him. Yaz is in Cooperstown. And if Yaz said so, it’s so.
Pat Hughes’ easy, funny exchanges with Ron Santo tended to overshadow his consummate skills as a broadcaster. He is an ideal summer companion, Chicago’s best baseball radio voice since the late, great Jack Quinlan.
Most of the big moments Friday occurred on Hughes’ watch — the Cubs rallying to tie the score, Beckham’s homer restoring the Sox’ lead, Wood’s teary-eyed sendoff — and he described each with effortless aplomb. It was only fair, in broadcast parlance, to ‘‘keep it right here’’ and stay with him for the ninth inning, too.
Hughes has been in the booth for Wood’s entire career, so his recollections were especially poignant.
‘‘The 20-strikeout game against Houston in 1998 was the best-pitched game I’ve seen in my 30 years broadcasting big-league baseball,’’ he declared.
His partner’s views aren’t as well-formed. Keith Moreland isn’t Santo and, to his credit, isn’t trying to be. But what he brings to the broadcasts is still to be determined.
‘‘Wow,’’ Moreland said after Samardzija was allowed to hit for himself in the seventh inning and tied the score with an RBI single. ‘‘I wasn’t sure he was going to hit, and all he does is get a base hit.’’
Santo couldn’t have said it better. Or worse.