As the first decade of this century seems to indicate, former MLB catchers seem to become good managers. The manager for last year’s World Series champion Yankees, Joe Girardi, is a former catcher, as was his predecessor Joe Torre, now in charge of the Dodgers. Former Dodger backstop Mike Scioscia has led his Angels into the playoffs for nearly every season this century, including one World Series championship. Other current managers who were catchers include Oakland’s Bob Geren, who has his Athletics club atop the AL West, Kansas City’s Ned Yost, Arizona’s A.J. Hinch and Pittsburg’s John Russell.
The battery mate of the catcher, on the other hand, tends not to be as successful as a manager. According to the May 17, 2010 issue of Baseball America, only one of the current 30 managers, San Diego’s Bud Black, is a former pitcher.
While pitchers may not necessarily be successful managers, they do seem to become great broadcasters. According to the May 17, 2010 issue of Baseball America, almost two dozen former pitchers currently call Major League games from the broadcast booth. Several Hall of Famers are among them, including Oriole broadcaster Jim Palmer and Atlanta announcer Don Sutton.
Here are ten of the best former pitchers serving as baseball announcers that I have had the pleasure of hearing through my subscription to MLB.TV.
10. Rob Dibble of the Washington Nationals: Dibble was an intense setup man for the 1990 World Series champion Reds, and he provides entertaining color commentary during broadcasts on MASN.
9. George Frazier of the Colorado Rockies: Frazier was known mainly for his work out of the Yankees bullpen, but he is even more effective as a voice of the Rockies on Fox Sports Rocky Mountain.
8. Steve Blass of the Pittsburg Pirates: He went from being a key starter on the Pirates championship teams of the early 70s to being one of the main reasons to watch the team on Fox Sports Pittsburg or listen to the games on WPGB.
7. Mike Krukow of the San Francisco Giants: Known as the Kruk half of “Kruk and Kuip (broadcast partner Duane Kuiper on Fox Sports Bay Area), Krukow was a decent pitcher who has emerged into a lovable, humorous announcer. My favorite remark of his is, “Grab some pine, meat,” usually spoken to an opposing hitter who strikes out.
6. Chris Welsh of the Cincinnati Reds: The reliever played for several different teams during his career, but he has found a home in the broadcast booth on Fox Sports Cincinnati. He provides sharp insight, and he has learned to work well with several different partners.
5. Jim Deshaies of the Houston Astros: He pitched with Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan during his tenure with Houston, so the lefthander obviously has many interesting memories to relate. He mixes his stories with wry humor, making him a popular figure on Fox Sports Houston.
4.Al Hrabosky of the St. Louis Cardinals: As a reliever for several teams a few decades ago, he was known during his playing days as the “Mad Hungarian” for his eccentric antics on the mound. Hrabosky doesn’t play catch with umpires or stomp and stew around the rubber now that he’s in the broadcast booth at Fox Sports Midwest and KSOK, but he still delights fans of the Red Birds.
3. Ron Darling of the New York Mets: The Hawaii-born graduate of Yale University certainly has a unique background, including a respectable career with the Mets as part of a great rotation that included Doc Gooden. That background allows him to come across as an intelligent, soft-spoken observer who has never lost his appreciation for the game.
2. Steve Stone of the Chicago White Sox: I first admired “Stoney” as the broadcast partner of Harry Caray for the Cubs. The two had a great chemistry, which was never matched after Caray passed away. Now, though, the former Cy Young winner has again found great chemistry with Hawk Harrelson doing White Sox games WGN-TV and Comcast Sports Net.
1. Bert Blyleven for the Minnesota Twins: This guy, who should be in the Hall of Fame as a pitcher, is the most delightful commentator in the game. His antics include “Circle Me, Bert,” where with a magic marker he encircles fans at the ballpark, and he counts down the number of days until his birthday with his Fox Sports North broadcast partner Dick Breemer.