January 6, 2014

Top 10 Mets Broadcasters of All-Time (Part I)

Every Mets fan knows that the quality of the broadcasts we enjoy is second to none.  Whenever we are forced to endure a nationally televised game, or worse, whenever we are held hostage to a game with a team other than the Mets, we see the stark differences between the discussions we hear every day and the awful content others call baseball broadcasting. Mostly, what we get when we watch/listen to Mets games is objectivity. From the first days of the Mets, the goal of the broadcasters was to say what was and not be "homers" like so many other announcers. That critical analysis elevates all of the games we watch and listen to above everything else in baseball.  The men who have occupied the booth and shared Mets games with us have been almost as important as the players themselves.  Most have been really good.  Some have been great.  With that said, here is a List of the Top 10 Mets Broadcasters of All-Time.  (In the interests of brevity, I will break this count-down into rankings 10 – 6 for now and 5 -1 at a later time.  Feel free to disagree!)

#10.  Ed Coleman

Even though he's a Red Sox fan, Eddie C. has been a stalwart performer for the Mets, mostly on WFAN, for twenty years.  His laconic style sometimes bothers fans who confuse it with a lack of interest.  His most annoying habit is responding to whatever topic comes his way by saying, "there's no question . . . " when obviously there is a question or he would not be talking about it.  Still, he maintains his credibility by not rooting for any team on the air.  When a player makes a mistake or the team is playing badly, he says so.  Coleman makes the top ten by beating out such "notables" as Lorn Brown, Steve Albert, Ted Robinson, Dave O'Brien, Tom McCarthy and a cast of dozens not otherwise worthy of mention.  From here, the list gets noticeably stronger.

#9. Gary Thorne

Perhaps the best voice the Mets broadcast booth ever had belongs to Gary Thorne. He did a great job, especially when he was teamed up with Tom Seaver. He had the good fortune to be in the booth during some of the best years the team ever put together, and he was first on the radio with Bob Murphy, which made both of them better. 

#8.  Howie Rose

Howie Rose loves the Mets, but he is a pro's pro and he does as good a job on the radio as anyone in broadcasting.  His signature phrase, "Put it in the books!" is distinctive and only the inflection in his voice tells the listener whether the Mets won or lost.  Among his most famous calls was Mike Piazza's home run in the first game in New York after 9/11. "This one has a chance!  Home run!"  Classic.

#7. Tim McCarver

McCarver joined the Mets in 1983, when the team was awful.  He was just the opposite.  He brought an insight and an intelligence about the thinking part of the game fans had never heard before.  When to hit and run; how a hitter can set up a pitcher; what pitch selection is all about; who covers second on the throw from the catcher with a runner on first and no outs; who takes the relay throw from the right fielder on a play at third.  If you were listening, you learned the game from Tim McCarver. After one Mets victory in 1986 (the stadium music blasted out "New York, New York") he exclaimed, "they're spreading the news all right.  These Mets are the dominant team in baseball - in either league!"  About as close to a homer call as he ever came. I know there are some for whom he wore out his welcome.  His second guessing of Bobby Valentine was legendary. Still, he was a terrific announcer and he made Ralph Kiner better every time they shared the booth.

#6.  Ralph Kiner

For 52 seasons Ralph Kiner has done at least some of the broadcasting duties for the New York Mets. Followers of the team from the beginning remember that we was the "player" voice in the booth, giving that perspective a voice the others did not have. His foibles were endearing, once referring to the change in time zones on a trip to California as adjusting to "Pacific Coast League Standard Time."  Notwithstanding his temporary lapses, Kiner made Mets baseball more enjoyable to watch and listen to for decades.  He was always a gentleman and when the games were tough to watch, he was never at a loss for a good story.  In the 50's when he was still playing, he once dated Elizabeth Taylor.  Yes, that Elizabeth Taylor.  He told a story about how after their date, when they finished dinner he thought he valeted the car.  It was only after about an hour, (and some screaming at the parking attendant), that he realized that he had the car keys in his pocket the whole time. That was the stuff that got us through some really bad baseball in the 70's.

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