Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Game

“You wanna listen to The Game?”, she asked.

It was another long, boring summer afternoon. With no kids of comparable age in the neighborhood, I was driving my mom insane with requests to play Candyland for the 42nd consecutive day.

This day, however, she came into the playroom with something new – an AM radio. She turned it to the Twins game and for each of us, a miracle occurred. Her miracle was that I sat in front of the radio, listening intently, for three glorious non-Candyland-playing hours. My miracle was that a whole new world opened.

Without a doubt, my guide in that world was Herb Carneal, and I wasn’t alone. Looking back it’s a wonder we weren’t all bored stiff in the 70’s. There were no blogs. No email lists. No bulletin boards. There was no Bill James. Nobody had heard of SABR. There were no national newspapers or baseball weeklies. If there were baseball magazines, they sure weren’t widely distributed. No ESPN, or sports channel of any kind, or even cable TV. Having any Twins game televised was a rare treat.

But there was always The Game. Three blessed hours of Herb Carneal, nearly each and every day, talking about baseball as he portrayed the game on the field with a mix of excitement and dignity. He shared his joy for the game by bringing us up to date on what was happening on other teams, who was making noise in the playoff race, what was going on in the farm system, and what had happened yesteryear. Those were the best. I bet I’ve heard the story about Halsey Hall accidentally igniting his quote-unquote blazer a half dozen times.

Each generation has a player that they identify as their own, and each generation will.
But I think it’s safe to say that the Twins will never have an announcer to whom Twins fans connect the way we did with Herb. The world is too different. There are too many other sources of information. Herb oversaw an era in which we needed him. He was the world of baseball, shaping our understanding, appreciation and love of the game for several generations.

So from me - and my mom - thank you Herb. For 50 years, you’ve been more than a voice, and even more than my babysitter. You’ve been "The Game".


Shanghai Twins (now in Tokyo) said...

A very fitting tribute to Herb Carneal. 'CCO land stretched all the way to western ND (barely); and you are right, Herb was our guide into the world of baseball.

joemn said...

Thanks for writing this, specifically, TG, and for your return to the blog game in general. You set the standard and nobody in your absence equalled it. (So, you know, do it another 42 years and you'll have that Carneal guy matched.)

Hats off to Herb, the voice not only of the Twins but of baseball itself to generations of Minnesotans, and the narrator of three decades of my Twins memories.

spycake said...

Beautiful post, John! I couldn't have said it better myself.

Looking back it’s a wonder we weren’t all bored stiff in the 70’s. There were no blogs. No email lists. No bulletin boards. There was no Bill James.

Mr. James might be surprised to hear that!

Anonymous said...

John; That was wonderful!!!

When I read the news yesterday I wondered what kind of tribute you might do today, what you might say...Mr. Carneal was a great man, and we are all better off having had the chance to hear him!

Thanks for doing what you do!


Kent Morgan said...

No baseball weeklies in the 1970s. Ever hear of The Sporting News, which was basically a baseball paper?

GMader said...

Sigh --- I miss Herb already. I suppose I've missed him the past few years, too, with his limited schedule. Chuck Brodsky (who has written some truly amazing baseball songs) has one song that cuts to the heart of the effect a baseball announcer can have --- it's called "Whitey & Harry" and is an homage to Richie Ashburn as an announcer. It's the perfect song by which to remember Herb and his voice. Find it on line somewhere and give it a listen.

Jack Ungerleider said...

Well done John. Those of who grew up in other places rooting for other teams might not have had the direct experience with Herb Carneal, but we all have that voice in our heads that is baseball play-by-play. (For me it will always be the late Bob Murphy.)