At SABR 50 on Friday, August 19, 2022, SABR’s Baseball and the Media Committee hosted a special panel discussion on baseball broadcasters with two special guests: Baltimore Orioles TV play-by-play voice Kevin Brown and Boston Red Sox radio announcer Joe Castiglione, the longest tenured broadcaster in franchise history.
They talked about life behind the microphone in a panel moderated by Chuck Hildebrandt, visiting chair of SABR’s Media Committee.
- Audio: Click here to listen to a replay of the SABR 50 Baseball Broadcasters Panel (MP3; 59:48)
Here are more highlights:
On pursuing broadcasting as a career
- Castiglione: “Probably (since) about age 10, I always wanted to do it. Mel Allen was my hero growing up, the greatest broadcaster along with Vin Scully and Ernie Harwell. You take whatever route you can to get there, and I had to do it all. I was a (radio station) disc jockey, playing the hits and reading the news. I had to sell (ads) at one job, which I absolutely hated, so I could do sports. You try to move up the ladder, make contacts like I mentioned with Bill O’Donnell and with Ken Coleman’s son, and eventually, sometimes it happens. For many, it doesn’t. You have to be in the right place at the right time and, fortunately, I had a lot of people that helped me along the way.”
- Brown: “I went to college thinking I would do something in sports media, probably. I didn’t know if that was play-by-play or studio work or newspaper journalism; I tried everything. … I just started going to games, making tapes. There’s a wonderful student radio station at Syracuse where you can go and call out the university football games, basketball games, and lacrosse games, and I just fell in love with the art of live sports. But there’s no Syracuse baseball team, so my first baseball experience was in … the Alaskan Baseball League, which is one of the great college (summer) leagues in the world. I had an internship there for two months, went to Alaska, had probably been on a plane three times in my life, and just called baseball for two months, and that was it. I was in love.”
On calling games in the major leagues vs. minor leagues
- Brown: “I’ll start by saying that it’s much easier (in the majors). Much, much easier. With the minors, for a lot of teams … you’re the PR department. You handle media relations, compile the game notes, print the game notes and the stat packs, you set up any interview requests. Occasionally, you pull the tarp. I didn’t have to do it much, but many others did. … There would be 11 to 11 days sometimes because you just had to do all this tedium. You didn’t know what project your general manager might have for you that day. … Occasionally in Syracuse, there would be a buzz. We had Bryce Harper for a month my second year there, we had some Stephen Strasburg rehab appearances, Ryan Zimmerman. Those days were the days where the local media would really come out and your day would be all about coordinating with the player, the manager, and the local media. At 6:30, you’d go and sit down and have nothing in your scorebook. … Now (with the Orioles) I can get to the ballpark and have the scorebook basically done. It’s just a lot simpler, there’s so much more information. … There are good things about being in the minors and forcing yourself to do long form interviews and getting to know players a little bit more. But it’s a give-and-take, there are a lot better ways to use that time now as well.”
On calling the final out of the 2004 Red Sox World Series championship
- Castiglione: “Well, I dreamed about it for a long time. Thinking about what would I say … to call the final play. I remember we were in St. Louis, Busch Stadium, and I went in in the middle of the seventh inning to change into my champagne clothes because I thought we were going to win. Could’ve jinxed it, I guess, but we were ahead three games to none. My partner at the time, Jerry Trupiano, went down to the clubhouse and I was alone in the booth and I think I was just in a zone. I decided, ‘I can’t script what I’m going to say. I don’t know how it’s gonna end.’ All I was hoping was that it would be a definitive play. Not a checked swing … not a diving catch, (since) we didn’t have replay at the time. … I was just hoping for something very simple to end it, and it was a ground ball to the pitcher. ‘Ball stabbed by Foulke, he underhands it to first, and the Red Sox are the world champions for the first time in 86 years. The Red Sox have won baseball’s world championship, can you believe it?’ … ‘Can you believe it’ sort of became my catchphrase.”
On following a losing team all season
- Brown: “Luckily or unluckily, I had a lot of experience with this because in Triple-A Syracuse, in 2014, we had the best team in the International League. We won the North Division for the first time in 25 years. It was a thrill. The other six years we were eliminated by like May 16, so I called a lot of very bad Triple-A baseball. … It’s more fun now; no doubt it’s more fun now. I know all of you who are Orioles fans here agree and understand. … (But) there’s always something, is what I’d say. If the Orioles are losing 8-1 in the seventh inning and they bring in a reliever for his third career game, well, there’s going to be something interesting there. We have barely gotten to know this guy, he’s only pitched in two games. Maybe he just started working on a new changeup grip this year. I have the absolute pleasure to sit next to either Jim Palmer, who is in the Hall of Fame and a literal savant, or Ben McDonald, who was the number one pick and pitched nine years in the big leagues and is incredibly well connected. I can just bounce pitching off them. It’s almost a cheat; I almost don’t have to do anything but say ‘Tell me about this grip’ or ‘Tell me about this windup.’ … So I always feel like there’s something at an individual level to find. Even if the game is a blowout, try to get granular.”
On the legacy of Vin Scully
- Castiglione: “He was an amazing gentleman and a true gentleman. The best storyteller I’ve ever heard. He could spin a yarn, and of course he experienced so much in 67 years in the broadcast booth and he was so gracious. He had an elegant style. He was a very well-read guy, but very much a gentleman. Very kind and giving to young broadcasters. We were at Dodger Stadium five or six years ago, and they announced that Vin would come back for his 65th season on Dodger baseball. I went into his booth to congratulate him — at that time I had 31 years with the Red Sox — and I said, ‘Congratulations on 65 years. Amazing.’ He said, ‘Oh, you can do it, too.’ And I did the math and I would be 97.”
Transcription assistance by Dominic Varela.
For more coverage of SABR 50, visit SABR.org/convention.
Originally published: September 13, 2022. Last Updated: September 13, 2022.