YES MEN: The Yankees Broadcast Team 2012

Baseball announcers can sometimes be like a part of your team. We spend so much time listening to their descriptions and accounts of the game, their opinions and their stories that we equate their voices with the team on the field. The team may change from season to season, but many announcers are there in your ear year in and year out. Some of them are living legends; Vin Scully comes to mind immediately. Many Yankee fans grew up with the amazing tag-team of gentle Bill White and over-excitable Phil “The Scooter” Rizzuto and what I wouldn’t give to hear them again on the Yankees YES and CBS television and radio broadcasts.

Which brings me immediately to Michael Kay and I’m not sure if I am in the minority here, but I have not despised a baseball announcer who I was forced to listen to this much since Joe Morgan. And at least Morgan played the game; only some of my bitterness toward the former Reds’ second-baseman is due to his team beating my Yankees in the first World Series I ever watched; much of it was his “know-it-all” attitude and his adherence to his opinion despite evidence on the field contradicting it. I know I rejoiced as much as “Moneyball” writer Michael Lewis did when Morgan was finally let go by ESPN.

Kay, on the other hand never played the game, never lets you forget he never played the game—as a matter of fact Kay never lets you forget anything. I watch a lot of baseball – even other teams – and what I notice and appreciate in many other broadcasts is being permitted some quiet time to listen to the sounds of the game. Michael Kay acts like he’s paid by the word; he never shuts up and he beats dead horses into glue.

I would watch other the other team’s broadcast actually if it weren’t for the team of ex-players turned commentators who surround Kay on YES. Most of the same team of announcers from last season have returned for 2012. I don’t really feel the need of the “side-line in-game” reporter so swapping Meredith Marakovits for Kim Jones really doesn’t register with me.  On the other hand, Jack Curry can oft be counted on for some inside scoop; he was the one to break the story of Andy Pettitte’s return.

But adding “Sweet” Lou Pinella to the mix this year did make my ears perk up. Even the President of YES, Tracy Dolgin, admits that the Yankee broadcast team are “homers,” but this may not be the case with Pinella up in the booth for some broadcasts. Lou was a great Yankee and a World Series winning manager and something of a hot-head; I don’t see him keeping mum should events on the field dictate a sharper point of view. In some spring training games hearing him reminisce with Ken Singleton about baseball in the 1970s was a treat and I think we’re in for more of that.

Ken Singleton, while not a Yankee on the field, has proven over time to be a fine Yankee broadcaster. He is calm, cooler than expected (he referenced cult film “Eating Raoul” this year) and always collected. His gentle manner reminds me of Bill White and that is high praise in my book.  Singleton clearly loves the game.

Yankee warrior Paul O’Neill is something of the comic relief in the broadcast booth. But his self-deprecating manner and his well deserved credibility as a great former Yankee player make O’Neill a welcome sound during games. I think we will be treated to something beyond the pale when O’Neill is teamed in the booth with his former skipper, Pinella.

Getting the pitcher’s perspective, on the other hand, is well covered by ex-Yankees David Cone and Al Leiter, both well respected pitching “brains.” Baseball is ninety percent pitching and I think it’s a very good advantage to usually have at least one ex-hurler in the booth explaining what’s going on out on the pitcher’s rubber.

Somewhere in between the great hitters that Pinella, Singleton and O’Neill were and the aforementioned ex-pitchers, the last main addition to the broadcast squad, former catcher John Flaherty, completes the team. Much like famed Brewers’ announcer Bob Eucker, Flash doesn’t know much about pitching other than he couldn’t hit it, but the former backstop knows the game and is able to explain intricacies. And while I know his banter with Kay is mostly all in good fun, I am a believer that within every joke is a kernel of truth so Flaherty earns points in my scorebook with his jabs at the over-sized talking head that is the play-by-play man, Kay.

As for the CBS radio team I have to admit that usually when I am listening to them it is not with an open mind. When I have to resort to radio it means that my MLB-TV package was blacked out from a Yankee game I wanted to see and I am angry that I have to listen to Ma and Pa. But as “luck” turned out this week as I prepared this piece, I knew I was going to be blacked out for the games vs. the Twins (I live in Minneapolis so I can’t see the home team- ever) and decided to give Suzyn Waldman and John Sterling a fair shake.

And you know what? I enjoyed their coverage. Yes, Waldman’s voice is grating and abrasive and yes, Sterling is corny and a cheese-ball, but on Thursday night when Granderson hit his third homerun of the game, not only was I looking forward to hearing Sterling’s “The Grandy-Man can” ditty, I found myself enjoying it. His play-by-play is fairly simple and standard stuff, but because of the nature of the beast of radio, Ma and Pa – proud to be “homers” – are not afforded the opportunity to ramble on with stories that don’t have much to do with the game on the field. This leads to a quiet, calmer, far more enjoyable baseball experience.

This may be their last season doing the radio broadcast and while I can’t say I will miss them exactly, I do suggest some time turning off the TV and turning on the radio and using your ears and your imagination as you listen to the game. Yes, nothing beats being at the game, but for most of us who bear witness to our team’s successes and failures via broadcast and the Yankee team of announcers is a major part of that joy.

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It doesn’t have much to do with baseball although Yankee Stadium is mentioned in one story, but my first book – a short-story collection – came out last week.  To read a few tales for free or to purchase the book go here.

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15 Responses to YES MEN: The Yankees Broadcast Team 2012

  1. David Reyes says:

    I share the exact same sentiments. Kay definitely talks way too much and annoys the living hell outta me. I really enjoy listening to Singleton, Flaherty, Cone, and O'Neill in the booth, and am definitely looking forward to hear Pinella with them throughout the season. Also, Sterling and Waldman are excellent on the radio.

  2. larschmitt says:

    The problem with listening to the radio on the net while watching, whether on TV or the net, is that they're not synced. The radio sound can be almost two pitches ahead of the TV picture. It's even ahead of live radio, which I can get from Virginia at night.

  3. Fred says:

    I listened to the 3 grand slam game last year on the radio, Sterling and Waldman are great for exciting games like that. I find them a little grating when its a close or low scoring game though, they can be a bit too pessimistic for me.

    O'Neill is my favorite active Yankees broadcaster, he's just really great to listen to. He's totally dopey and definitely rambles, but I always find him great to listen to.

  4. Rob says:

    Sterling is fine, but Suzyn's lack of baseall knowledge gets grating. Last year, every time an opposing batter got an extra base hit, Suzyn said .. 'that pitch was up'. Up where Suzyn ? … or else she was repeating what Sterling said.

  5. Matt_DC says:

    Sterling was there (with Jay Johnstone?) for some bad Yankees teams, so it was cool that he was along for the ride when they became great teams. But since then the onset of the personalized home run calls and incessant chatter with Waldman has become too much for me.

  6. Pete Bruck says:

    I disagree. Michael Kay is awesome. Incredible voice. Great insight. Fun to listen too. Yankee games are more fun with Kay in the booth. Have you spent anytime listening to other team broadcasts? Baltimore, Boston, Texas?. Yankee fans are lucky. Leiter and Flaherty are also awesome… brilliant insight in fact! O'Neil and Cone add quite a bit, especially O'Neil's sense of humor. I haven't had the opportunity to hear Pinella yet but am looking forward to it. I'd like to see (hear) more past Yankee players join the broadcasts. Keep it up YES.

    Pete Bruck
    Summerfield, NC

  7. Bronx_Knight says:

    I live in South Jersey (near Philly), but I "super-commute" to NYC, and frequently listen to the ballgame on my 27-mile drive back home from the next-to-last stop on the Northeast Corridor.

    Radio is a treat; there's a certain "purity" to listening to a ballgame on the radio. Baseball is a game of traditions, and listening to a game on the radio — which is how nearly all fans "watched" games live during the game's heyday from the 1920's to the 1950's — is a little bit like being in a time machine.

    That said, Sterling in particular can be annoying, and there is something of a dearth of higher-level discussion on the game. But it's still a treat.

  8. Mike Sommer says:

    My feelings toward Sterling (and Waldman) accurately reflect what Phil Mushnick wrote in the Post today, 4/23. I agree with everything Mushnick writes about Sterling. Both today and in the past. As anyone who has read Mushnick's reports on Sterling knows, he isn't a fan of his, and neither am I.

  9. hardfastrules says:

    Don't get me wrong: if I had to listen to Ma & Pa ALL the time, I would learn Spanish…

  10. Skybird says:

    M Kay to me is the kid who grew up in the Bronx and has a gift of keeping things real. He gives you the point of view from the "neighborhood" I enjoy his views. The Flash
    onthe other hand is monotone and very boring.

    O'neil is great. Singleton is smooth

  11. Fred V says:

    Michael Kay used to be really obnoxious…now he is often just annoying, but tolerable. I find great joy in listening to Leiter and Cone discussing intricacies of the game, and Sweet Lou will also fall into that category. All the rest are comic relief, except for Singleton who is the supporting pillar and the man with credentials worthy of my attention.

  12. Patrick M. says:

    It amazes me that YES doesn't see just how bad Kay is. There's a reason he was a print reporter and it was because he doesn't have the voice for TV/Radio. Not only is he awful doing Yankees games, he's just as bad doing Center Stage. Great concept and great guests but because of Kay I don't watch it anymore. I'm forced to put up with him doing play by play for the Yankees only because Sterling and Waldman might be worse. Unfortunately for Yankees fans, it doesn't look like Kay is going anywhere anytime soon.

  13. Sarah Keats says:

    Agree 100%.

  14. Randy Blacet says:

    I the the Yankee tv broadcasters are the best at not showing favoritism. Michael and who ever he is with know the opposing team you never hear us, or the good guys. The treat the opposing team like MLB stars. Unlike, say Ken Harrelson of the White sox. I turn on the stereo and watch the game when he is broadcasting. Well don Michael and the vrew.

  15. Charlie Ries says:

    Don't like Kay? Just watch a White Sox game. Hawk Harrelson makes EVERYONE a good announcer!