This article was written by Stew Thornley
“Hi, everybody” was the trademark opening of Herb Carneal, who spent his career in sportscasting, most notably calling Minnesota Twins games from 1962 to 2006. “Baseball lends itself to radio,” he wrote as the opening sentence of his 1995 autobiography, Hi, Everybody!, explaining, “People aren’t hanging on every pitch. They don’t have to keep their eyes glued to a television screen, and they don’t have to keep their ears tuned in to a radio either. Baseball is played during the summer, when people are out doing other things. People enjoy radio broadcasts while sitting in a boat or working in a garden. During the summer they’d rather listen to the radio on the porch than watch television cooped up indoors.”
Carneal was born on May 10, 1923, in Richmond, Virginia. His father, Charles, was not in good health and died when Carneal was 7 years old. His mother, Edith, worked as a milliner and was helped by her mother in raising Herb.
Carneal said he visited some Civil War battlefields in Virginia as a youth but was never a student of history. “Richmond was still a very segregated city when I was growing up, although I never gave the matter much thought. A black youngster around my age hung around with my friends and me all through elementary and junior high school, and played baseball and football with us just like anybody else.”
Carneal said he developed his love of baseball from his mom. His high school, John Marshall in Richmond, didn’t have a baseball team, but he played some American Legion baseball as a center fielder and pitcher, despite a “fastball that wouldn’t have broken a pane of glass.” Carneal had little time for sports when he got into high school because he worked for Imperial Tobacco Company every afternoon.
He and his mother attended semipro games on weekends and sometimes a game of the Richmond Colts of the Piedmont League. Carneal and his friends developed loyalties to the Washington Senators and went to Griffith Stadium to see them play in 1939, Herb’s first major-league game. Carneal was also a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals during the time of the Gas House Gang, and had the chance to chat with Pepper Martin at an exhibition game that was rained out. In 1942 he saw the Cardinals in the World Series at Yankee Stadium, traveling with his friends to New York, where they attended the third game and the fifth and final game.
“As a kid, I was like most of my friends, crazy about baseball and other sports. Maybe I was a little crazier than most. By the time I graduated from high school, I had decided that I wanted to spend my life in sports, but I had realized early on that it wouldn’t be as a player.”
As was the case with a future Minnesota Twins colleague, Ray Christensen, Carneal played dice baseball games with his friends and announced the outcome dictated by the dice in a play-by-play manner.
After high school, Carneal began working at WMBG Radio in Richmond, doing mostly booth announcing. At night he tried to pick up baseball broadcasts from elsewhere, listening to the announcers and dreaming of getting such a job. He got his first shot at sportscasting at WMBG, filling in for another announcer at a boxing match.
In 1945 Carneal responded to an ad in Broadcasting magazine, sent an audition tape, and landed a job at WSYR Radio in Syracuse, New York. He initially broadcast football games for a high school in Watertown, about 70 miles away, and worked his way into basketball at Syracuse University. He also announced games of the Syracuse Nationals of the National Basketball League (a forerunner of the NBA) and did the public-address announcing at MacArthur Stadium for the Syracuse Chiefs of the International League. Occasionally Carneal did re-creation play-by-play of major-league baseball games.
While in Syracuse, Carneal became part of a school of announcers assembled by the Atlantic Refining Company and did college football games around the region. He recalled a humorous story from that time. “When I was assigned the Colgate-Bucknell game in Hamilton, New York, I arrived the night before the game, had a room at the Colgate Inn, and put together my spotting board of the numbers and names of the different players organized by their positions. I used India ink, which wouldn’t run if it got wet. Back home in Syracuse, I couldn’t find my bottle of India ink. The next year, I was assigned another Colgate game in Hamilton. I stayed in the same room at the Colgate Inn and there was my bottle of India ink, still on the desk.”
After five years in Syracuse, Carneal moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1950 and called the games –from the ballpark at home and through recreations for road games — for the Springfield Cubs of the International League. His first broadcasts for the Cubs were from spring training in Haines City, Florida. “The Cubs’ stadium was a few miles south of Highway 28 in a rather swampy area,” Carneal recalled. “One day Ben Taylor, a young prospect trying to make the team, was running in the outfield and stumbled over an alligator. That’s the fastest I’ve ever seen anyone run off the field.”
Even more memorable to Carneal than an alligator in the outfield was his trip to spring training. On his way to Florida, he stopped in Richmond and met Katherine Meredith, a Richmond native who was living in Atlanta at the time and was back in her hometown visiting her aunt. Kathy and Herb had never met before, but once an introduction was made, they hit it off. Kathy visited Springfield that summer and was in the studio as Herb did a re-creation of a game. The crew always stood during the seventh-inning stretch, and as they did, Herb produced a ring and proposed. “Kathy and I were married on September 12 of that year, right after the Cubs’ season ended. When I started broadcasting games in the majors, where the season extends longer than in the minors, I was never free on our anniversary. Years later, when I was with the Twins, someone asked what we did on our anniversary. I said, ‘Every other year, when the Twins are at home on September 12, Kathy has a real treat. She gets to go to a ballgame.’”
While in Springfield, Carneal continued announcing college football for the Atlantic Refining Company. He also got his first shot at hockey, doing games for the Springfield Indians of the American Hockey League.
After the 1953 baseball season, Carneal landed a job with KYW in Philadelphia to announce different sports. Major-league baseball wasn’t part of the plan, but when the Phillies and Athletics expanded their television coverage, they needed another announcer for radio and Carneal got his chance. He became the swing man, announcing home games on WIBG for the A’s and WFIL for the Phillies. The arrangement ended after one season when the Athletics moved to Kansas City. Carneal said, “I still had a good sports job with KYW, but I was hooked on announcing baseball.”
He stayed in Philadelphia through 1956, when a sponsor shift in Baltimore created an opening with the Orioles. During a time when sponsors called the shots on announcers, National Brewing Company switched its sponsorship from the Orioles to the Washington Senators. Chuck Thompson moved with the company to Washington, and Carneal was hired by the new sponsor, Gunther Brewing Company, to work with Ernie Harwell in Baltimore.
“When he [Harwell] took me under his wing in 1957, I learned a lot about baseball and other aspects of life. In Cleveland, on my first road trip with a baseball club, a night game was scheduled, but it rained all afternoon. At 4:30 Ernie phoned to tell me the game had been postponed, but at 5:00 he took me out to the stadium anyway for the pregame meal in the press room. ‘No sense letting all that good food go to waste,’ he said.”
Another sponsor shakeup with the Orioles after the 1961 season left Carneal out of a job. Fortunately for him, an opportunity came up in Minnesota.
Actually, Carneal had two opportunities in Minnesota. He was hired by CBS Television to announce Minnesota Vikings games. (At the time, CBS assigned broadcast crews to each individual National Football League team.) He was also hired to join the Minnesota Twins broadcast crew for 1962.
Carneal worked with Ray Scott and Halsey Hall, and the three covered all the games on radio and television. Scott left the crew after the 1966 season and was replaced by Merle Harmon. The three continued on radio and television through 1969. After that, the Twins had separate broadcast crews to handle the duties. In 1970 Carneal still switched between the two media, but in 1971 he began working exclusively on radio.
He had a variety of partners through the years. Frank Quilici, after being fired as Twins manager, moved into the booth with Carneal in 1976. In the 1980s Joe Angel spent a few years with Carneal, who recalled his partner sometimes being too colorful. “Angel, who became my broadcast partner in 1984, liked to manage from the broadcasting booth, and some of his attempts at humor didn’t go over well with Midwestern listeners,” related Carneal in Hi Everybody! “Once at Yankee Stadium the message board announced that the next night would be Latin American Night. Joe read the message on the air and added, ‘I wonder what they’re going to give away for Latin American Night — hubcaps?’ On another occasion he read some information on a pitcher from Jamaica, New York. Joe said, ‘Jamaica? No, just shook hands.’”
Angel lasted three years with the Twins before moving on. In 1987 Carneal got a partner, John Gordon, who would be with him the rest of his career. Carneal remained the lead announcer, calling the beginnings and endings of games while Gordon covered the middle innings. Carneal ceded another inning, the seventh, after Kathy died in June 2000. At the Metrodome, Kathy had a seat below the broadcast booth. In keeping with his seventh-inning-stretch proposal to her 50 years earlier, Herb made a point of looking to her in the middle of the seventh inning, and they waved to one another. Carneal told the story at Kathy’s funeral and, upon returning to the broadcast booth, found that he couldn’t look down to her seat in the seventh inning. From that point on, he announced the first three innings of Twins games and didn’t resume until the eighth inning.
In 1996 Carneal received the Ford Frick Award from the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 2001 he was inducted into the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame.
“Announcers who cover games that are nationally broadcast should remain neutral, but since I’m the announcer for just one team, I think it’s okay to indicate that I’m pulling for the Twins,” Carneal wrote in his autobiography. “Although listeners can detect more excitement in my voice when the Twins are doing well, I’m not a cheerleader on the air.”
Carneal’s friendly and familiar delivery stayed a part of Twins baseball, although when he hit 70, he had to cut back at times. A heart-valve replacement in 1993 caused him to miss more than two months of the season. As he approached his 80s, Carneal scaled back and began working only a portion of home games.
“I think I’d have trouble giving up announcing completely,” he said in 1995. “I want to keep going as long as the fans want to listen to me.” The fans wanted to listen to him, and Carneal continued on the air for the rest of his life.
He was in the Twins’ plans for the 2007 season, but he had health problems that winter and spent six weeks in the hospital with edema. On April 1, the day before the Twins’ first game of the season, he died at the age of 83. He was survived by his daughter, Terri, and a grandson, Matthew.
Judd Zulgad, writing of his death in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, said Carneal could “never be called flashy or a character, but he combined his slight Southern drawl with a low-key approach that never made him seem bigger than the broadcast.”
Zulgad’s colleague at the newspaper, Patrick Reusse, concurred. “He left the happy screams to us. … What Herb Carneal did was describe precisely what was occurring in front of him and allow us to react. When you consider hysterical play-by-play is now often the norm, Herbie deserves lasting admiration for the trust he placed in all of us.”
An updated version of this biography appeared in “A Pennant for the Twin Cities: The 1965 Minnesota Twins” (SABR, 2015), edited by Gregory H. Wolf.
Much of the material in this article is derived from Hi Everybody! by Herb Carneal with Stew Thornley (Minneapolis: Nodin Press, 1996). Unless indicated otherwise, all quotations attributed to Carneal are from this book.
Reusse, Patrick, “Generations of Twins Fans Lose a Distinctive Voice of Summer,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, April 2, 2007, 1C.
Zulgad, Judd, “Hello to a New Season, Goodbye to an Old Friend,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, April 2, 2007, 1A.
May 10, 1923 at Richmond, VA (US)
April 1, 2007 at Minneapolis, MN (US)
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