Who was the greatest baseball announcer ever? Why do I ask? No reason, sometimes I just wax nostalgic. You non-baseball fans, don’t go away, this is actually an interesting story even for non-fans.
There have been many great baseball announcers through the years. In NYC there was Mel Allen and Red Barber. This year In LA, the great Vin Scully is finishing his last year of broadcasting at the age of 88. Perhaps even more famous and beloved was Harry Caray who announced for the Saint Louis Cardinals from 1945-69 and for the Chicago Cubs from 1971 -99.
Mel Allen was known for his signature home run call “going, going, gone.” Red Barber was famous for his calm demeanor and his cry of “Oh Doctor” after an exciting play. Vin Scully is known for his unique voice and his colorful play-by-play descriptions. Harry Caray was renowned for leading the stands in singing “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch.
So who was the greatest baseball announcer ever?
None of the above.
The greatest announcer ever was Les Keiter, most noted for calling boxing matches and football, basketball and hockey in NYC.
What makes Les Keiter the greatest baseball announcer ever?
In 1958 the Giants and the Dodgers left New York for San Francisco and LA. Millions of NY fans who were also die hard Yankee haters had no way to listen to or root for their favorite team. Except for Les Keiter.
From 1958 -60 Les Keiter broadcast SF Giant baseball games to NY fans. What made his broadcasts so great was he called the games not live, but from a delayed ticker tape in his studio. His broadcasts were so well done that most fans did not know it was a re-creation and not live.
Les Keiter would see on tape only “Mays flies out.” From this information on a ticker tape he would make the call. He would make up the balls and strikes, paint a story of the pitcher stepping off the mound, going to a rosin bag, throwing over to first to check a runner and then the pitch…with a stick on a block of wood simulating the crack of the bat, Mays would hit the ball. “There’s a long drive to deep left field” (turn up crowd noise) “Ashburn goes back to the wall and…he makes the catch…Willie just got under that one a bit.”
Keiter would call a whole game this way, recreating all the aspects of a game, time outs, foul balls, close calls, crowd noise and all. You would feel like he was there calling it as he saw it. All the while the only thing he had to recreate a game was a minimal teletype print of what happened…Alou strikes out…Mota walks…Mays hits home run.
I believe the first days of baseball broadcast on radio were also done not live, but read from teletype; but nobody could turn black and white short-hand print into an exciting baseball broadcast like Les Keiter, the greatest baseball announcer ever.