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Kuiper Calls On Experience

Jason Barrett

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Sometime in the near future, San Francisco Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper might email team manager Bruce Bochy a photo of one of the two World Series rings the men have in common. It’s Kuiper’s way of reminding Bochy they’ve had some pretty good times.

“He’s one of those guys who has a way of making you feel better about yourself,” Bochy said recently in the Giants dugout during pregame batting practice. “After a long day where maybe you lost a tough game, maybe question yourself, he’s very positive in that respect.”

Over the next few days, as a television voice of the Giants, Kuiper will lead both hardcore and bandwagon fans through the last six games of the season as the Giants seek their third playoff appearance in the past five years. It’s been an up-and-down season for the orange and black. The team, which showed so much early promise, is now in a desperate race to secure a wild-card berth, and with it, a chance at October redemption.

Of course, the past two playoffs, in 2010 and 2012, led to World Series championships. You only need to glimpse the huge, diamond-studded ring Kuiper wears to see what the ultimate prize looks like.

When broadcasting, Kuiper, 64, may have feelings about the team’s chances in a particular game. But you won’t hear it in his voice.

“You can’t let that inflection in,” Kuiper said on a recent afternoon at AT&T Park as pregame activities hummed around him. Kuiper has developed a sense of knowing what goes on in major league baseball from 40 years in the game – 11 as a major leaguer and 29 in broadcasting. All his seasons behind the microphone – except for one with the Colorado Rockies – have been for the Giants. He’s witnessed both glory and struggle.

“I still think about the 2002 World Series,” Kuiper said. “I think about it all the time.”

In that series, the Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent-led Giants, managed by Sacramento native son Dusty Baker, had the Anaheim Angels three games to two and were six outs away from the championship. But they couldn’t close the deal. They lost the series in the seventh game, a heartbreaker for Giants’ fans.

“I hear broadcasters say, ‘Well, the great thing about broadcasting is you walk away from the game and that’s it.’ Maybe they do – I don’t,” Kuiper said.

He’s won nine local Emmy Awards for distinguished broadcasting and last year was nominated for the Ford Frick Hall of Fame Award in broadcasting (though he wasn’t selected).

Kuiper’s straightforward, Midwestern guilelessness has always been one of his charms and part of his modest legend. He grew up on a 300-acre dairy farm in Sturtevant, Wis., just outside of Racine. He and his brothers Jeff and Glen (both in Bay Area sports broadcasting as well) worked the fields in their youth with their father, Henry Kuiper, driving tractors, bailing hay and the like.

Kuiper had what he calls a “happy” career in the majors as a slick-fielding, solid-hitting second baseman with the Cleveland Indians and the Giants. He led the league in fielding percentage twice at Cleveland and was a career .271 hitter who famously finished with only one home run in 3,379 at-bats.

He retired as a player in 1985 and segued into a broadcasting career, though he had already been doing his own radio show since 1982.

Mainly the television play-by-play announcer on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, Kuiper also handles radio play-by-play duties when the Giants television broadcast is carried by NBC or ESPN and radio lead Jon Miller does the television play-by-play. Kuiper and all the Giants broadcasters team up on KNBR radio during the playoffs, when television broadcasts are taken by the national networks.

Giants radio voice Miller, who is in the Hall of Fame, has long been an admirer of Kuiper’s craft. “He’s just a very good professional broadcaster who really knows the game, and that what sets him apart,” Miller said. “For me, he’s one of the best. It’s (his) knowledge of the game but also the ability to let the game speak for itself and not try to become the show himself.”

When Kuiper first started playing professionally, he thought that after his career was over he’d go into coaching or managing, like most of the other guys of his era.

“About halfway through my career, I realized I wouldn’t be a good manager,” Kuiper said. “I wouldn’t be very good at telling guys what they don’t want to hear. I had a hard enough time with my kids, so I can imagine what it’s like dealing with 30- to 35-year-olds.”

The observation shows the subtle wit that regularly surfaces in Kuiper’s spare commentary. He serves up disarming honesty with sly humor and clever associations.

Kuiper casually coined a Giants marketing phrase in 2010 when he closed a particularly tight tense game with “Giants baseball – torture.”

After prolonged excitement or intensity, he’s prone to say: “I need a nap.”

His home run call, “He hits it high … he hits it deep … he hits it outta’ here!” has become one of the most dramatic in all of baseball.

Bochy said Kuiper is one of his favorite people involved with the team.

“He’s got a great way about him, a great personality, a great sense of humor, and he’s got knowledge of the game,” Bochy said. “He’ll stop by the office and we talk quite a bit about baseball. He sits behind me on the bus, and I’ll throw things at him all the time.”

The renowned sports writer Joe Posnaski, who’s currently a national columnist for NBC Sports, has occasionally written about Kuiper, who he calls “my favorite athlete.” In one column about Kuiper the ballplayer, Posnaski wrote: “He presented this wonderful illusion that if you wanted something enough, if you cared enough, you could achieve it. It’s about the greatest gift anyone can give a kid.”

Kuiper would be the first to say he’s gotten some breaks over the years, but he’s also made the best of his situations.

“Midway through my (playing) career, I had a gentlemen by the name of Ray Keppen approach me about doing a radio show in Cleveland,” Kuiper said. “It was a five-minute show, and the station WELW was so small that in order to hear it you had to be in your car driving by the station.”

He was paid $10 for each installment. “But the experience was that for three years, I talked into a microphone, and for three years I wrote a five-minute script for every show,” Kuiper said.

Frank Robinson was Kuiper’s manager in his first full major-league season in Cleveland, and the famously no-nonsense Hall of Famer became a great supporter of the scrappy second baseman. When Robinson went on to manage the Giants, he had the team acquire Kuiper to be a backup infielder and pinch hitter.

In San Francisco, Kuiper was asked to take over ballplayer Joe Morgan’s radio show.

“I’m not afraid of the microphone, and I inherited a pretty decent voice from my dad,” he remembered thinking at the time. He was up for giving “it a shot, and the Giants did.”

Kuiper did color commentary part time in 1986, and after that year, his boss told him he’d be the play-by-play guy the next year. (The play-by-play announcer describes the live events in real time, while the color person brings expert analysis, statistical information and insight. Each has its own art and craft.)

“I said, ‘I’m really kinda happy doing this color stuff,’ but he said, ‘No. You’re gonna do it,’ and that’s how we ended the conversation.”

It didn’t go well at first as Kuiper learned on the job. “It was bad,” he said. “But we had we really good fans who were forgiving enough, understanding enough, and they said, ‘Let’s give this guy a chance, he’s got a chance to get better.’ And after the ’87 season, I started to feel more comfortable.”

Working in radio allowed Kupier to develop his chops and begin to understand what the medium required. “On radio, you’re really describing the game as if you’re sitting next to blind person, and you’re telling them what’s going on,” Kuiper said.

For much of Kuiper’s television career, he’s been joined at the hip with fellow broadcaster (and former Giants teammate) Mike Krukow, who joined the broadcasts full time in 1994.

Sports Illustrated described Kuiper and Krukow as the “the best broadcasting team in baseball,” and the Sporting News said much the same. This spring, the website Awful Announcing, which covers broadcasting and sports media, ranked “Kruk and Kuip” as the No. 1 broadcasting duo in baseball.

In July, Krukow revealed he was suffering from inclusion body myositis, which results in a progressive weakening of muscles in the thigh, muscles that lift the front of the foot and muscles in the wrists and fingers. There’s no cure and little understanding of what causes it. Krukow now uses a cane and will likely need a walker or motorized scooter at some point.

“He’s never in a bad mood,” Kuiper said of his partner. “We talk on the phone all the time. If I treated him any different, he’d be upset, and I’m not going to treat him any different. I’ll do whatever I can for him, but I’m not going to treat him any different.”

Krukow calls Kuiper his best friend. “I was lucky to play with him – I saw what type of teammate he was, the way he maneuvered in the clubhouse,” Krukow said. “He was a very strong asset to any club he was on.”

Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt said Kuiper has always held the respect of the players because of his experience with the game. “He’s a player and he understands how hard and grueling a season can be and how frustrating it can be,” Affeldt said.

By the end of September, it’s been a long season, whether you’re a broadcaster or a player. The broadcasters just aren’t as physically beat up.

“It’s a book!” Kuiper said. “Some years after three chapters you want to throw it out. Lately for the Giants, the last six or seven years, it hasn’t been like that at all.”

September reminds Kuiper of his 1974 debut in the majors, and the memories come back to him easily. He was playing AAA, the highest level of the minor leagues, for the Oklahoma 89ers and having a very good year with 175 hits in 125 games. He knew he had a good chance to get called up to the major leagues when teams expanded their rosters the last month of the season, and he did.

In his mind, he’d already been playing for the Milwaukee Braves for years, since he was a kid throwing a ball against the barn while listening to games on the radio.

“But now this was reality, and I walked into Cleveland Municipal Stadium, the place held 85,000 people, and … it took literally took my breath away because this is what you lived for and dreamed of.”

At that moment Kuiper had one thought: “I don’t know how long I’m going to be here, but dammit, I’m going to have the best time of my life.” He went 11 for 22 after he was called up.

As Kuiper got up to chat with his friend Bochy standing near the batting cage, he looked back.

“My last year in the big leagues, I went 3 for 5,” he said. “I have to have had the greatest first year and the greatest last year ever.”

Credit to the Sacramento Bee who originally published this piece.

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Sean Pendergast: I Didn’t Know Brian Windhorst Had This in Him

“He destroyed Luka in the postgame after Game 3.”

Barrett Sports Media

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Brian Windhorst
Courtesy: Juan Ocampo, ESPN Images

The Boston Celtics are preparing to take the court Friday night with a 3-0 series lead in the NBA Finals, only needing to secure one more victory to obtain the 18th championship in franchise history. Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Dončić, who helped lead the team to the NBA Finals with a strong postseason performance, has struggled throughout the series and been on the receiving end of criticism about his conduct and play on the court. Seth Payne and Sean Pendergast of SportsRadio 610 in Houston spoke about how Dončić was evoking a similar sentiment to that of former Rockets guard James Harden in that he is an offensive-minded player who demonstrates minimal effort on the defensive end.

Payne expressed that Rockets fans had been frustrated that Dončić would be praised for his style of play while Harden would be somewhat castigated over the years. The plaudits that he has received though seems to have taken a turn amid this series because of the lackluster play.

“This is not a great Finals – [it] could get closed out tonight – and Luka in Game 3 was a mess,” Pendergast said. “He’s arguing with the refs, he’s arguing with his bench… yelling like a child at his coaches. Not a good look.”

The criticism of Dončić from ESPN senior NBA writer Brian Windhorst on SportsCenter with SVP gained notoriety on Wednesday night because of the tone used and the way in which Dončić was called out for carrying himself. The Payne & Pendergast morning drive show played audio of Windhorst delivering his analysis of what occurred on the court and the sentiment surrounding the team.

“Brian Windhorst, man,” Pendergast said. “I didn’t know Windhorst had this in him. He destroyed Luka in the postgame after Game 3.”

Windhorst believed that Dončić put himself in an unacceptable position fouling out of Game 3, specifically in how he looked at his bench after committing his sixth foul and stating that they “better bleeping challenge it.” Within his report, he stated that he was standing in the Mavericks tunnel and that the winners are within the Celtics tunnel and then referenced what Dončić would have to do in order to render the Mavericks tunnel the location of the winners.

“His defensive performance is unacceptable – he is a hole on the court; the Celtics are attacking him,” Windhorst said. “They are ahead in this series because they have attacked him defensively, and you’ve got a situation here where Luka’s complaining about the officiating. They have begged him – they have talked with him, they have pleaded with him. He is costing his team because of how he treats the officials.”

Windhorst continued to voice that Dončić was going to have to get over it, but the fact that he blamed the officials after the game demonstrated to him that he is not close. The performance he had in Game 3 is one that Windhorst called “unacceptable” and attributed it to a reason as to why the Mavericks are not going to win.

“So maybe over the summer somebody will get to him because nobody with the Mavericks or anybody else in his life has, and that’s where the Mavericks are at this point,” Windhorst said. “They’re never going to get to this tunnel with the trophy if he doesn’t improve those aspects of his game.”

The comments from Windhorst elicited further discussion on SportsRadio 610 about the similarities and differences between Dončić and Harden. Whereas Dončić is gaining a reputation for complaining to the officials, Payne conveyed that Harden was “surgical” in his understanding of how to create fouls during the game. Although everyone in the league “begs for calls at some point,” according to Payne, he never recalled Harden having an issue with the officials throughout an entire series.

“If they get swept out of the Finals, that’s going to be a huge story,” Pendergast said. “That’s going to hover over him all summer, like the poor performance in the Finals [and] just the complete fade. You could argue Luka would have been better off playing heroically in a seven-game loss in the Conference Finals than making it to the Finals and getting destroyed.”

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Joe Davis Discusses Landing Dodgers Play-by-Play Job, Plays Voicemail from Vin Scully

“I called my wife and I told her, ‘Hey yeah, I’m one of four people they’re considering,’ and she said, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re moving to Los Angeles.'”

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Joe Davis
Courtesy: FOX Sports

Throughout the last decade, Joe Davis has established himself as one of the preeminent play-by-play voices in Major League Baseball through his work with FOX Sports and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Davis was hired by the Dodgers ahead of the 2016 season to call road games on Spectrum SportsNet LA and became the full-time play-by-play announcer the next year following the retirement of Vin Scully. Yet Davis had learned of the potential job opening two years before he called his first game for the team when his agent asked if he had any tape of him calling baseball games. Once he asked what the purpose of providing such material would be, he learned that the Dodgers were considering him to fill the play-by-play job following the retirement of Scully.

At this point, Davis had only called a couple of Major League Baseball games and recently moved to FOX Sports after working at ESPN. Within his broadcast career, he had called hundreds of minor-league games and was surprised to be in consideration. A few months later, Davis was in the Los Angeles area for FOX meetings, and he decided to go to the Dodgers offices to introduce himself amid the process and went in assuming that the organization did not genuinely know who he was.

“Well I go and I sit down and I meet with them and they tell me that I’m one of four people that they’re considering, so now it’s like, ‘Wow,’” Davis recalled during a recent appearance on the Rich Eisen Show. “It’s still, ‘No chance. I’m sure it’s a who’s who of broadcasters, and I’ve done two games at this point.’ I called my wife and I told her, ‘Hey yeah, I’m one of four people they’re considering,’ and she said, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re moving to Los Angeles.’”

Davis’ agent received a voicemail while they were playing golf together to call Lon Rosen, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Rosen then informed him that the team wanted to hire Davis, but after a few months of negotiations, he decided to turn the job down. The rationale behind his decision was that the Dodgers were not going to allow him to continue calling national games, which is what he had always wanted to do. The team ended up calling his agent back and asked what Davis wanted, looking to materialize a deal to hire him as a play-by-play announcer.

“I go, ‘Well, we’ve been for a few months kind of discussing what I want, but okay. I want the ability to do this and this,’” Davis recalled. “Lon Rosen with the Dodgers said, ‘Okay, put it in an email.’ We’re like, ‘Okay, we will,’ and by the end of the night, we had agreed we were doing it.’”

On the day before Davis was officially announced as a play-by-play announcer with the team, he saw an unknown phone number call and sent it to voicemail. Upon playing the voicemail, he recognized that it was Vin Scully and figured he was off to a great start in the new role. They spoke the next day, and although they did not have a deep relationship, Davis cherished the time he spent with him and still implements the advice he received to this day. Eisen asked Davis what kind of advice he received from the team’s broadcaster of 67 years, one of which involved how to handle climactic moments.

“‘If your house is burning down and you’re trying to get everybody out safe, you can’t be freaking out,’” Scully said, utilizing an analogy. “‘Your heart rate can’t be spiking. If you’re going to save the cat from the top floor, you’ve got to be cool,’ and he said, ‘Think of the big moments kind of the same way as that. You got to be the coolest guy in the burning house,’ so an amazing part of doing Dodger games is they’ve been so good since I’ve been here, there’s been a lot of chances to practice that.”

In addition to his role with the Dodgers, Davis is the lead play-by-play announcer for the MLB on FOX and calls marquee matchups and events throughout the season, including the MLB All-Star Game and World Series. Davis also calls NFL on FOX games during the football season, most recently working with analyst Daryl Johnston and reporter Pam Oliver. Davis has fond memories of Scully, who passed away in August 2022 at the age of 94, and played the recording over the air upon finding the voicemail message on his phone.

“Joe, it’s Vin Scully in Los Angeles,” Scully said on the recording. “I tried to get you earlier in the day, so I start off the year 0-for-2, but I was calling just to welcome you to the family, to wish you great success, and I know you will love the ballclub and the way they treat people. I look forward to seeing you somewhere along the line, although I doubt if it’ll be on the road. Anyway, good luck. I’ll see you, I’m sure, soon, and I’ll be thrilled to wish you all the best wishes possible. I know what it was like to be 27, 28 and starting out with a big club, and I know it’ll be a great marriage, so congratulations and look forward to seeing you.”

“It is cool,” Davis reflected, “and that’s the first time I’ve listened to it in a while, and it feels good to share because it’s almost like bringing him back a little bit for people; something that people have never heard that they hopefully get to hear and enjoy today.”

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Dan Patrick: ESPN Was an ‘Echo Chamber’

“When I was at ESPN, you’re told what you’re supposed to talk about, you’re told you have to have ESPN analysts on.”

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Screengrab from OutLick.com's Don't @ Me with Dan Dakich and guest Dan Patrick
Screengrab: Don't @ Me/OutKick.com

Dan Patrick was a guest of Dan Dakich on his OutKick.com show Don’t @ Me and the two talked about several topics including Patrick’s plan to retire at the end of 2027. Patrick shared a story with Dakich about the day he first realized he didn’t want to continue at ESPN.

“There was one day when I was doing the 6 o’clock SportsCenter and I remember I threw it out to Sal Paolantonio with the Eagles. He’s doing his report and I’m not listening to anything he is saying because in my mind I am thinking, ‘I am going through the motions here, I am not getting any better.’ I remember coming home that night and I said to my wife, ‘ I don’t think I want to stay at ESPN…I don’t know, I think I might want to leave after this contract’s up, because I wasn’t getting any better.

“And that’s why I went on my own, because I needed to get my ass kicked. And we did the show for three years in my attic at my house, it wasn’t anything glamorous that I was leaving for, but I needed to jump start that again. And I accomplished it. I’m the first person to get out of Alcatraz and swim safely to the shore and live to tell about it and I’m good. I’ve accomplished what I wanted to accomplish and it’s time for somebody else to come in and do this, somebody younger.”

Dakich replied, “You’re great man, you’re not good, you’re great. And what you did was be a trailblazer…People don’t leave ESPN unless they ask you to leave. You know why I left? Other than the fact that I maybe was too controversial. I got bored. I get bored easy, and I got tired of ‘Don’t do this’ and ‘Don’t do that’ …so I go to OutKick where they let me say whatever the hell I want, and I don’t get in trouble.”

Patrick agreed with Dakich about the way ESPN dictates most of the topics and decides who can or cannot come on for analysis. “When I was at ESPN, you’re told what you’re supposed to talk about, you’re told you have to have ESPN analysts on,” he said. “It’s an echo chamber. And I just kept thinking that we needed to have people from outside instead of just our analysts on and that was not met well. It just felt like when Disney took over, the walls kind of got tighter, things shrunk, it wasn’t as much fun there…I felt like I didn’t graduate, I didn’t progress, I didn’t get any better.

“Berman left, Bob Ley left, Olbermann left, Kilborn left, Tirico left, Chris Myers left, Rich Eisen left. They all left, and I was just there going, ‘ Oh my god, I don’t want to be laughed at, I want to be laughed with. I gotta get out.’

Patrick said he turned down a five-year contract extension and that his boss “couldn’t believe it.”

Patrick said he believed he had been selfish long enough and that it was time to be able to spend more time with his family.

“You have to be selfish to be good at just about anything it feels like, and I thought I had been selfish to get to this point and I didn’t want to continue to be selfish to my family,” he said.

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