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John Sterling Could Join the List of These All-Time Baseball Milestone Calls

I can’t say that I blame Sterling for coming back to the booth. Seems like he should be there and now he will to witness some possible history. 

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John Sterling, Aaron Judge

Milestone moments in Major League Baseball don’t happen every day. The lead up to such an occasion is usually stressful. There is a nervousness in the organization, the fan base, of course the player is feeling it and so are those getting set to call the big event. There is a tremendous amount of pressure on the team broadcasters because, these moments live forever. This call will be a part of history, just as the accomplishment by the player will be. 

I started thinking about these incredible moments, when hearing that John Sterling would return to the booth for Yankees road games. The long-time voice of the New York Yankees said he was cancelling some scheduled days off, so as not to miss Aaron Judge’s pursuit of Roger Maris’ team record for home runs in a season. Judge is also flirting with a chance at the Triple Crown. I can’t say that I blame Sterling. Seems like he should be there and now he will to witness some possible history. 

There have been many huge moments in the game in my lifetime, that have also been etched in my mind thanks to the call of the broadcaster. I’m going to focus on a few of them here. Each broadcaster had a story about the lead up to the moment and some shared advice for future play-by-play announcers, who may find themselves in a similar situation. 


There are two calls of Hank Aaron’s memorable home run in 1974 that are the ones best associated with the moment. Milo Hamilton’s exclamation of “There’s a new home run champion of all time, and it’s Henry Aaron.”, resonates with many, as Aaron passed Babe Ruth that night on baseball’s all-time home run list. Hamilton’s call nailed the action as it was happening in his own style. 

The other call people think of, was the one by Vin Scully, who was the Dodgers announcer when Al Dowling delivered the pitch that Aaron hit over the left field wall. Scully’s style was more eloquence than fluff. He would take the historic action on the field and make it hit home to baseball fans and non-fans alike. He put things into perspective, gave them context beyond the field. 

“There’s a high drive into deep left-center field, Buckner goes back… it is gone!” Scully said. He then said nothing for about 25 seconds, as Aaron rounded the bases and joined his teammates at home plate. Scully felt that hearing the crowd cheering and fireworks going off told the story better than he could. When he broke his silence, he put the moment into the proper context of the times. 

“What a marvelous moment for baseball. What a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a marvelous moment for the country and the world.” he said. 

“A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol. And it is a great moment for all of us, and particularly for Henry Aaron, who was met at home plate, not only by every member of the Braves, but by his father and mother.”

Scully says he never had anything scripted for that epic home run call. “I never do that,” Scully said during an interview in 2014 on WFAN in New York.  “I really concentrate on the moment… I’m afraid that if I tried to prepare, I’d be so eager to get my marvelous words out onto the air [that] I might do it prematurely and be wrong.”

With that frame of mind, there was really not a lot of pressure on the great and iconic announcer. He just let his instincts take over. 


The Summer of 1998 was one of home runs. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were battling it out to see who would break Roger Maris’ single-season home run record. Each would pass the mark, but it was McGwire that got there first. 

Joe Buck, was the young lead play-by-play announcer on Fox’s baseball coverage. The network was set to cover the game between the Cardinals and Cubs on September 8, 1998. McGwire had already tied Maris and was looking for the record. 

Buck was asked repeatedly, for months about what he would say if he was fortunate enough to be behind the mic for the record breaker. 

“I had come up with, ‘There it goes. Here it is. A new single-season home run champion with 62. Mark McGwire as he floats around the bases and into the history books.’ I even had it written on my score sheet to make sure I wouldn’t mess it up,” said Buck after that Tuesday night game.

The best laid plans theory took over, because the 62nd home run was not a majestic, ‘no-doubter’ like many expected it to be. It barely cleared the left field wall at Busch Stadium and barely stayed fair. That’s a tough home run call any day of the week, but it was so magnified that night. Even Buck, who was only 29 at the time, adapted to the situation and scrapped the script. 

“Down the left-field line, is it enough? Gone! There it is, 62. Touch first, Mark, you are the new single-season home run king.” Buck then laid out to let the pictures tell the story his words couldn’t. 

“That home run shot was the old script-buster. Any long, drawn-out call that you had drummed up someday away from the ballpark, you could forget it,” said Buck. “That’s one of those you watch. You keep your head up, and you hope you got it right.” He did. 


The 2007 baseball season had its share of moments, but maybe none bigger than one swing of Barry Bonds’ bat. Put aside whatever feelings you may have about the legitimacy of the record, instead put yourself in the position of Jon Miller who had the opportunity to call one of the biggest moments in baseball history. 

He was asked about what he might say when Bonds hits No. 756?

“That’s about the 1,000th time I’ve been asked that question,” he said to the LA Times. “It all depends on the circumstances — where he hits hit, the crowd reaction. A lot of things will come into play.” Miller said at the time. 

Here’s the call:  “Bonds one home run away from history. And he swings! And there’s a long one, deep into the right-center field, way back there. It’s gone! A home run, into the center-field bleachers, to the left of the 421-foot marker. An extraordinary shot to the deepest part of the yard. And Barry Bonds, with 756 home runs, he has hit more home runs than anyone who has ever played the game.” 

The unrehearsed call worked for him. Television voice Duane Kuiper only prepared for one aspect of the milestone home run. 

“I write the number of the home run in big letters on either a piece of paper or on the counter,” he told The Oklahoman. “I always felt like the only thing you can really do to look bad is get the number wrong. If you get the number right, at least you’re off to a good start. If you get the number wrong, you can’t put that bullet back in the gun.”


September 11, 1985. That was the night that Pete Rose became baseball’s all-time hits leader. He broke Ty Cobb’s 57-year-old record at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium. On the call, Marty Brennaman, the long-time voice of Reds’ baseball and his partner Joe Nuxhall. 

Marty: He levels the bat a couple of times. Show kicks and he fires. Rose swings…

Joe: There it is! There it is! Get down. Get down. Alright!

Marty: And there it is. Hit number 4192. A line drive single into left-center field. A clean base hit. And it is pandemonium here at Riverfront Stadium. The fireworks exploding overhead. The Cincinnati dugout has emptied. The applause continues unabated. Rose completely encircled by his teammates at first base. Bobby Brown of the San Diego Padres coming all the way from the third base dugout to personally congratulate Pete Rose. And the kind of outpouring of adulation that I don’t think you’ll ever see an athlete get any more of. 

Brennaman told the Athletic in 2018 how he got ready for that call. Again,there was no scripting involved.

“I know guys that try to plan what they are going to say and make it clever and memorable,” Brennaman said. “I was never that good. I could never plan something like that and make it sound anything other than contrived.” Brennaman added, “We knew it was going to happen. It was just a question of when. I never gave it any thought as to what I was going to say when it happened. The only thing you hope for is that whatever you say captures the moment and you don’t stumble over your words because you know you’re going to hear it ad nauseam for the rest of your life.”

The vocabulary alone in the call made it memorable for sure. 


This one was bound to happen, eventually, right? As former Cubs’ broadcaster Jack Brickhouse once famously said, “any team can have a bad century.” That was the Cubs, suffering from 108-years of championship drought. But things would change in early November 2016 in Cleveland. The Cubs and Indians (now Guardians) were going to a Game 7 to decide it all. Think about the enormity of the final call of this game. For Cleveland it would also end a drought, not quite as long as the Cubs’, but still in the several decades range, 68 years to be exact. 

Pat Hughes is the longtime Cubs play-by-play announcer. He told Sports Illustrated on the precipice of the series, how he would handle a final call with the Cubs winning it all. 

“Here are two different conclusions to a ballgame: One has the Cubs leading 11–0 and they win the game, the other has Kris Bryant belting a game-winning three-run home run for the victory,” Hughes said. “Those are two completely different feelings and our call will be dictated by how the game finishes. You don’t want to plan out something because it may not feel the actual feeling of the moment. You always have a few thoughts that go through your mind, and if the Cubs win the World Series, I will say something about them being the World Champions. But you don’t want to script it out word for word.”

Here’s how it turned out. “A little bouncer slowly toward Bryant. He will glove it and throw to Rizzo. It’s in time. And the Chicago Cubs win the World Series! The Cubs come pouring out of the dugout, jumping up and down like a bunch of delirious 10-year-olds. The Cubs have done it! The longest drought in the history of American sports is over, and the celebration begins.”

All the elements are there. The energy, the realization that the Cubs actually won a championship can be felt. One for the ages. 

BSM Writers

Is There Still a Place for Baseball Talk on National Sports Shows?

“Its struggle has been the same since the beginning of television. There is too much baseball for any regular season baseball game or story to have national significance.”

Demetri Ravanos




Last week at the BSM Summit, I hosted a panel focused on air checks. I wish I could say we covered the topic thoroughly, but we got derailed a lot, and you know what? That is okay. It felt like real air checks that I have been on both sides of in my career. 

Rob Parker of The Odd Couple on FOX Sports Radio was the talent. He heard thoughts on his show from his boss, Scott Shapiro, and from his former boss, legendary WFAN programmer Mark Chernoff. 

Baseball was the topic that caused one of our derailments on the panel. If you know Rob, you know he is passionate about Major League Baseball. He cited download numbers that show The Odd Couple’s time-shifted audience responds to baseball talk. To him, that proves there is not just room for it on nationally syndicated shows, but that there is a sizable audience that wants it.

Chernoff disagrees. He says baseball is a regional sport. Sure, there are regions that love it and local sports talk stations will dedicate full hours to discussing their home team’s games and roster. National shows need to cast a wide net though, and baseball doesn’t do that.

Personally, I agree with Chernoff. I told Parker on stage that “I hear baseball talk and I am f***ing gone.” The reason for that, I think, is exactly what Chernoff said. I grew up in Alabama (no baseball team). I live in North Carolina (no baseball team). Where baseball is big, it is huge, but it isn’t big in most of the country. 

Now, I will add this. I used to LOVE baseball. It is the sport I played in high school. The Yankees’ logo was on the groom’s cake at my wedding. Then I had kids.

Forget 162 games. Even five games didn’t fit into my lifestyle. Maybe somewhere deep down, I still have feelings for the sport, but they are buried by years of neglect and active shunning.

Its struggle has been the same since the beginning of television. There is too much baseball for any regular season baseball game or story to have national significance. 

Me, and millions of sports talk listeners like me, look at baseball like a toddler looks at broccoli. You probably aren’t lying when you tell us how much you love it, but damn it! WE WANT CHICKEN FINGERS!

A new Major League Baseball season starts Thursday and I thought this topic was worth exploring. I asked three nationally syndicated hosts to weigh in. When is baseball right for their show and how do they use those conversations? Here is what they had to say.

FREDDIE COLEMAN (Freddie & Fitzsimmons on ESPN Radio) – “MLB can still be talked nationally IF there’s that one player like Aaron Judge or Shohei Ohtani can attract the casual fan.  MLB has definitely become more local because of the absence of that SUPER player and/or villainous team.  I wonder if the pace of play will help bring in the younger fans that they need, but the sport NEEDS that defining star that is must-see TV.”

JONAS KNOX (2 Pros & a Cup of Joe on FOX Sports Radio) – “While football is king for me in sports radio, I look at baseball like most other sports. I’m not opposed to talking about it, as long as I have an angle or opinion that I am confident I can deliver in an entertaining manner. A couple of times of any given year, there are stories in baseball that are big picture topics that are obvious national discussions. 

“I think it’s my job to never close the door on any topic/discussion (except politics because I don’t know anything about it).

“But also, if I’m going to discuss a localized story in baseball or any other sport for that matter – I better have an entertaining/informed angle on it. Otherwise, I’ve let down the listener and that is unacceptable. If they give you their time, you better not waste it.”

MAGGIE GRAY (Maggie & Perloff on CBS Sports Radio) – “While I was on WFAN there was almost no amount of minutia that was too small when it came to the Mets and Yankees. On Maggie and Perloff, our baseball topics have to be more centered around issues that can be universal. For example, ’Is Shohei Ohtani the face of the sport? Is Ohtani pitching and hitting more impressive than two sport athletes like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders? Do you consider Aaron Judge the single-season homerun king or Barry Bonds?’ Any baseball fan or sports fan can have an opinion about those topics, so we find they get great engagement from our audience.”

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BSM Writers

Who Can Sports Fans Trust Once Twitter Ditches Legacy Verified Blue Checks?

The potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.

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As of April 1, Twitter will finally make a dreaded change that many will view as an April Fools’ prank. Unfortunately, it won’t be a joke to any user who cares about legitimacy and truth.

Last week, Twitter officially announced that verified blue checkmarks will be removed from accounts that have not signed up for a Twitter Blue subscription. Previously, accounts whose identity had been verified were allowed to keep their blue checks when Twitter Blue was implemented.

But shortly after Elon Musk purchased Twitter and became the social media company’s CEO, he stated his intention to use verification as a revenue source. Users would have to pay $8 per month (or $84 annually) for a Twitter Blue subscription and blue checkmark verification. Paying for blue checks immediately set off red flags among users who learned to depend on verified accounts for accredited identities and trusted information.

The entire concept of verification and blue checks was simple and effective. Users and accounts bearing the blue checkmark were legitimate. These people and organizations were who they said they were.

As an example, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has faced criticism for how he framed domestic violence and sexual misconduct involving star NFL players, and deservedly so. But fans and media know Schefter’s tweets are really coming from him because his account is verified.

Furthermore, Twitter took the additional step of clarifying that accounts such as Schefter’s were verified before Twitter Blue was implemented. He didn’t pay eight dollars for that blue checkmark.


The need for verification is never more vital than when fake accounts are created to deceive users. Such accounts will put “Adam Schefter” as their Twitter name, even if their handle is something like “@TuaNeedsHelp.” Or worse, some fake accounts will create a handle with letters that look similar. So “@AdarnSchefter” with an “rn” in place of the “m,” fools some people, especially at a quick glance when people are trying to push news out as fast as possible.

Plenty of baseball fans have been duped over the years by fake accounts using a zero instead of an “o” or a capital “I” instead of a lowercase “l” to resemble Fox Sports and The Athletic reporter Ken Rosenthal. That trick didn’t get me. But when I covered Major League Baseball for Bleacher Report 10 years ago, I did fall for a fake Jim Salisbury account that reported the Philadelphia Phillies traded Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants. Capital “I,” not lowercase “l” in “Salisbury.” Pence was, in fact, traded to the Giants two days later, but that didn’t make my goof any less embarrassing. I should’ve looked for the blue checkmark!

But after April 1, that signifier won’t matter. Legacy blue checkmarks will be removed from accounts that haven’t paid for Twitter Blue. Some accounts that were previously verified might purchase a subscription to maintain that blue check. But those that were deemed legitimate prior to Musk taking over Twitter likely won’t. (There are also rumors that Twitter is considering a feature that would allow Twitter Blue subscribers to hide their blue check and avoid revealing that purchase.)

That could be even more true for media organizations, which are being told to pay $1000 per month for verification. Do you think ESPN, the New York Times, or the Washington Post will pay $12,000 for a blue check?

We’ve already seen the problems that paying for verification can cause. Shortly after Twitter Blue launched, accounts pretending to be legacy verified users could be created. A fake Adam Schefter account tweeted that the Las Vegas Raiders had fired head coach Josh McDaniels. Users who saw the “Adam Schefter” Twitter name went with the news without looking more closely at the “@AdamSchefterNOT” handle. But there was a blue checkmark next to the name this time!

The same thing occurred with a fake LeBron James account tweeting that the NBA superstar had requested a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers. There was a “@KINGJamez” handle, but a “LeBron James” Twitter name with a blue check next to it.

Whether it’s because fans and media have become more discerning or Twitter has done good work cracking down on such fake accounts, there haven’t been many outrageous examples of deliberate deception since last November. But the potential for Twitter chaos after April 1 is looming.

If that seems like an overstatement, it’s a very real possibility that there will be an erosion of trust among Twitter users. Media and fans may have to take a breath before quickly tweeting and retweeting news from accounts that may or may not be credible. False news and phony statements could spread quickly and go viral across social media.

Even worse, Musk has announced that only verified Twitter Blue accounts will be seen in your “For You” timeline as of April 15. (He can’t claim it’s an April Fools’ Day joke on that date.)

Obviously, that carries far more serious real-world implications beyond sports. Forget about a fake Shams Charania account tweeting that Luka Dončić wants to be traded to the Lakers. It’s not difficult to imagine a fake Joe Biden account declaring war on Russia and some people believing it’s true because of the blue checkmark.

We may be nearing the end of Twitter being a reliable news-gathering tool. If the accounts tweeting out news can’t be trusted, where’s the value? Reporters and newsmakers may end up going to other social media platforms to break stories and carry the viability of verification.

When Fox Sports’ website infamously pivoted to video in 2017, Ken Rosenthal posted his MLB reporting on Facebook prior to joining The Athletic. Hello, Instagram. Will someone take their following and reputation to a fledgling platform like Mastodon, Post, Spoutible, or BlueSky, even if it means a lesser outlet?

If and when that happens, Twitter could still be a community but not nearly as much fun. Not when it becomes a matter of trust that breaks up the party.

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BSM Writers

There’s a Lesson For Us All in Florida Atlantic’s Elite 8 Broadcast Struggle

“It is a ton of faith our industry has been forced to place in a single mode of delivery.”

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Ken LaVicka and Kevin Harlan probably don’t have a ton in common. Both of them were announcing an Elite Eight game over the weekend, that is one thing tying them together, but their experiences were wildly different. Harlan is on CBS with a production crew numbering in the dozens making certain all goes smoothly. LaVicka, the voice of the Florida Atlantic Owls, is a production crew himself, making certain those listening in South Florida heard the Owls punch their Final Four ticket. At least, that was LaVicka’s plan.

The Florida Atlantic Owls are going to the Men’s Final Four. Even while typing that sentence, it still seems odd to say. Do you know how many college basketball teams are thinking “how can Florida Atlantic make the Final Four and we can’t?” These are the types of stories that make the NCAA Tournament what it is. There is, literally, no barrier stopping any team from this tournament going on the run of their life and making it all the way.

Everyone listening in South Florida almost missed the moment it all became real for the Owls. With :18.6 to go in Florida Atlantic’s Elite Eight game against Kansas State, the Madison Square Garden Ethernet service to the front row of media seating went completely dark. 

It was on that row that Ken LaVicka was painting the picture back to South Florida. Well, he was until the internet died on him.

Nobody does a single show away from their home studio anymore without trying to avoid the nightmare of Ethernet failure. Gone are the days of phone lines and ISDN connections, all the audio and video is now sent back to the studio over the technological miracle that is the internet. It is a ton of faith our industry has been forced to place in a single mode of delivery.

Take that anxiety and multiply it by 1,000 when that Ethernet line is connected to a Comrex unit for the most important moment of your career. LaVicka had the great fortune of a Kansas State timeout to try something, anything, to save the day. In his quick thinking, he spun around and grabbed an ethernet cable from row two which, as it turns out, still had internet access flowing through it’s cables. That cable, though, was the equivalent of an iPhone charging cord; never as long as you need it to be.

One of LaVicka’s co-workers from ESPN West Palm held the Comrex unit close enough to the second row for the cable to make a connection and the day was saved. LaVicka was able to call the last :15 of the Florida Atlantic win and, presumably, get in all the necessary sponsorship mentions.

It was an exciting end to the FAU v. Kansas State game, a great defensive stop by the Owls to seal the victory. LaVicka told the NCAA’s Andy Katz he tried to channel his inner Jim Nantz to relay that excitement. The NCAA Tournament excitement started early this year. In the very first TV window 13 Seed Furman upset 4 Seed Virginia with a late three pointer by JP Pegues, who had been 0-for-15 from beyond the arc leading up to that shot. It is the type of play the NCAA Tournament is built upon.

It was called in the manner Kevin Harlan’s career was built upon. Harlan, alongside Stan Van Gundy and Dan Bonner, called the Virginia turnover leading to the made Furman basket with his trademark excitement before laying out for the crowd reaction. After a few seconds of crowd excitement he asked his analysts, and the world, “Did we just see what I think we saw? Wow!” Vintage Kevin Harlan.

One reason we are so aware of what Harlan said, and that he signaled his analysts to lay out for the crowd reaction, was a CBS Sports tweet with video of Harlan, Van Gundy and Bonner in a split screen over the play. It gave us a rare look at a pro in the middle of his craft. We got to see that Harlan reacts just like he sounds. The video has more than six million views and has been retweeted more than 6,000 times, a lot of people seem to like it.

Kevin Harlan is not in that group. Harlan appeared on Richard Deitsch’s Sports Media podcast after the video went public and said he was embarrassed by it. Harlan added he “begged” CBS not send the tweet out but to no avail. Harlan told Deitsch “I don’t know that I’m glad that they caught our expression, but I’m glad the game was on the air. I think I join a chorus of other announcers who do not like the camera.”

There’s a valuable announcer lesson from Harlan there; the audience is almost always there for the game, not you. Harlan went on to describe the broadcast booth to Deitsch as somewhat of a sacred place. He would prefer to let his words accompany the video of the action to tell the story. Kevin Harlan is as good as they come at his craft, if he thinks that way, there’s probably great value in that line of thought.

We can learn from LaVicka, as well. You work in this business long enough and you come to accept technical difficulties are as much a part of it as anything. They always seem to strike at the worst times, it is just in their nature. Those who can find a way to deal with them without everything melting down are those who can give their audience what they showed up for. Those who lose their mind and spend time complaining about them during the production simply give the audience information they don’t really care about.

The Final Four is an unlikely collection of teams; Miami, San Diego State, Connecticut and Florida Atlantic. You all had that in your brackets, right? Yep, the Florida Atlantic Owls are going to the Final Four and Ken LaVicka will be there for it. Now, if the internet will just hold out.

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