Greatest Announcers in Baseball History
Longtime seamheads marvel that New York played host to three Hall of Fame center fielders in the 1950s decade. They would be the Yankees’ Mickey Mantle, the Giants’ Willie Mays and the Dodgers’ Duke Snider, of course.
But what about the voices who called their shots, the ones behind the mics? Those same teams employed not three but four broadcast voices who would become legends themselves — Mel Allen, Red Barber, Russ Hodges and Vin Scully, all of whom became future HOFers. As Allen liked to say, "How about that?!"
Here’s where the Gotham four (and 27 co-conspirators) rank on my list of best broadcasters in MLB history…
30. Duane Kuiper and Steve Stone
Kuiper career: 36 seasons (1986-present)
Kuiper teams: San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies
Stone career: 40 seasons (1982-present)
Stone teams: Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox
Bottom Line: Duane Kuiper and Steve Stone
How can one separate these two? After all, it was Stone who threw the fatal pitch on Aug. 29, 1977, that Kuiper hit for his only big-league home run in 3,754 plate appearances. Allegedly.
A reported 6,000-plus fans were at Cleveland Stadium that night.
29. Ray Scott
Career: 13 seasons (1961-66, 1970-71, 1973-77)
Teams: Minnesota Twins, Washington Senators, Milwaukee Brewers
Bottom Line: Ray Scott
Any game with Scott behind the mic should have included a portable defibrillator just in case. I can’t recall another broadcaster who turned so few words into so much drama with a deliberate pace, well-timed pauses and impeccable voice inflection.
Twins radio-TV broadcasts with Scott, Halsey Hall and Herb Carneal were a real hoot, all right.
28. Jon Miller
Career: 45 seasons (1974, 1978-present)
Teams/network affiliates: Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, NBC, ESPN, San Francisco Giants
Bottom Line: Jon Miller
It’s a real challenge to liven up three hours of pitching changes and protective cup adjustments, but the witty Miller has done it as well as anyone over the decades. Other than Giants sidekick Duane Kuiper, nobody has called more meaningless home runs in baseball history. (Those of Barry Bonds, of course.)
I have to admit, though, his ”Adios pelota!” call has worn me out a bit. If he screamed “Tam idzie pika!” once in a while, he would be in my top 10. OK, maybe top two.
27. Tom Hamilton
Career: 32 seasons (1990-present)
Teams: Cleveland Indians
Bottom Line: Tom Hamilton
Did Hamilton rock on “Dude Looks Like a Lady” or what? Check that — wrong Tom Hamilton. Anyway, this one has had a bunch of hits himself.
If/when the Team Formerly Known as the Indians ever wins it all, I want to hear his robust voice call the final pitch. (Waiting. Still waiting.)
26. Jim Palmer
Career: 37 seasons (1984-2019, 2021-present)
Teams: ABC, ESPN, Baltimore Orioles
Bottom Line: Jim Palmer
Palmer is too bright to be a broadcaster. He should be the MLB commissioner or something. Yet the Hall of Famer doesn’t come off as God’s gift to the booth, where his delivery is as fluid as it was from 60 feet, 6 inches.
Don’t you just love when he tweaks Earl Weaver, his crusty old manager of years ago?
25. Gary Cohen
Career: 33 seasons (1989-present)
Teams: New York Mets
Bottom Line: Gary Cohen
Currently, Cohen is the best play-by-play commentator in the biz. He has lots of help — sidekicks Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez score highly themselves.
Yet three in a booth also can be a challenge, especially when two are former star players with massive egos. It’s the p-b-p guy who makes it work. Or not.
24. Ken Harrelson
Career: 35 seasons (1984-2018)
Teams: Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox
Bottom Line: Ken Harrelson
You loathed his slang and style, but I liked his straightforwardness and South Side swag. White Sox fans can agree on this much: Hawk was a heckuva lot better in the booth than he was in the general manager's office.
Now grab some bench, Wimperoo...
23. Harry Kalas
Career: 45seasons (1965-2009)
Teams: Houston Colt Astros, Philadelphia Phillies
Bottom Line: Harry Kalas
The fact that Kalas remains one of the most mimicked broadcasters in the game is a compliment. Swing and aloooong driiive ... That ball is out-ta here!
His references to the Phillies' third baseman as Michael Jack Schmidt were priceless. Really, anyone who doesn’t think that this guy belongs on the list doesn’t know Jack Schmidt.
22. Dave Niehaus
Career: 42 seasons (1969-2010)
Teams: California Angels, Seattle Mariners
Bottom Line: Dave Niehaus
My, oh my, how Niehaus lived and died with his Mariners. It was apropos that their original broadcast voice went on to become their first Hall of Fame member as well.
As longtime partner Rick Rizzs put it best, “He was not only the voice of the Mariners. He was the Mariners.”
21. Dick Enberg
Career: 21seasons (1969-81, 1985, 2010-16)
Teams/network affiliates: California Angels, NBC, San Diego Padres
Bottom Line: Dick Enberg
Vin Scully called Enberg “the greatest all-around sportscaster who ever lived.” Other than God perhaps, I can’t think of a better reference.
Other than the fact that Scully was blessed with so many Dodgers contenders and this guy was cursed with so many Angels also-rans, the gap between the two isn’t nearly as wide as some may think.
20. Al Michaels
Career: 15 seasons (1971-76, 1983-89, 1994-95)
Teams/network affiliates: Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants, NBC
Bottom Line: Al Michaels
Michaels is a baseball guy at heart — he grew up a Brooklyn Dodgers fan not far from Ebbets Field. He has an uncanny knack to connect the viewers to the participants. He also can think on his feet, no matter how wobbly they may be, as was the case in the 1999 Earthquake World Series. “Well, folks, that’s the greatest open in the history of television, bar none,” he said unfazed. “We’re still here, and we’ll be back, we hope, from San Francisco in just a moment.”
That may be the greatest performance under duress in sports broadcast history.
19. Tony Kubek
Career: 29 seasons (1966-94)
Teams/network affiliates: NBC, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees
Bottom Line: Tony Kubek
A lot of ex-jocks make a living off their names. Kubek did it with solid information, critical analysis and a selfless attitude. In 1994, out of nowhere, he gave it up with two years left on his contract. “I didn't like some of the things I saw,” he said. “I’m not averse to either side making money, but money was becoming more important than the game itself.”
For that, the man has my utmost respect.
18. Lindsey Nelson
Career: 21 seasons (1962-1981, 1985)
Teams/network affiliates: New York Mets, San Francisco Giants, CBS Radio
Bottom Line: Lindsey Nelson
It took a special talent and an even better person to be the lead voice of the expansion 1962 Mets. In the selfless, forever upbeat Nelson, who could make a 10-game losing streak sound like progress, they found their man. The guy was in the select group who could convey excitement without the ear burn.
Instead, he reserved the loudest statements for his psychedelic sports coats, more than 300 in number. More than a few current broadcasters could learn something from him. The delivery, I mean, not the wardrobe.
17. Chuck Thompson
Career: 45seasons (1947-48, 1955-87, 1991-2000)
Teams: Philadelphia Phillies, Baltimore Orioles, Washington Senators
Bottom Line: Chuck Thompson
By his own choice, Thompson was under the radar nationally for much of his career. B’more was so much in his blood, he couldn’t leave the place. His golden pipes, crisp delivery and trademark “Aint the beer cold!” were a big part of the O’s glory days.
As many of the locals would tell you, one of the greatest ovations in Memorial Stadium history came after an announcement that he had been chosen for Hall of Fame induction.
16. Ralph Kiner
Career: 53 seasons (1961-2013)
Teams: Chicago White Sox, New York Mets
Bottom Line: Ralph Kiner
For six-plus decades, Kiner’s Korner postgame wrap-up was the best (only?) reason to watch all those bad Mets teams. Sure, Ralph Korner would mangle a name once in a while — yeah, even his own — but his passion was always real and the interviews worthwhile.
The man was a Hall of Fame storyteller as well as a Hall of Fame player, and nobody respected him more than the ballers themselves.
15. Tim McCarver
Career: 40 seasons (1980-2019)
Teams/network affiliates: Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, ABC, CBS, FOX, St. Louis Cardinals
Bottom Line: Tim McCarver
McCarver was known as Captain Obvious to some seamheads. My only criticism is that the guy hung on too long. In his prime, though, he was the best analyst in the game. He showed up at the ballpark early, had a degree in Inside Baseball and consistently told us (correctly) what to expect next.
Better yet, he was the rare ex-jock who would call out the participants when they screwed up on the field or in the dugout.
14. Russ Hodges
Career: 22seasons (1949-70)
Teams: New York Yankees, New York/San Francisco Giants
Bottom Line: Russ Hodges
While Hodges was overshadowed by the likes of Mel Allen, Red Barber and Vin Scully in New York, he had the most famous call of all — “The Giants win the pennant!” times four.
As we found out later, the Jints actually stole the 1951 National League pennant with a sign-stealing scheme in the final month of the season. I say we ask Scully for a do-over and donate the proceeds to charity.
13. Marty Brennaman
Career: 46 seasons (1974-2019)
Teams: Cincinnati Reds
Bottom Line: Marty Brennaman
Players and managers came and went after the Reds' heyday, but there rarely was a dull moment while Brennaman was at the controls. There was no spin with this Marty — he was ballsy, stubborn, witty and brutally frank like this: “To be seven (games) back after 10 days of the season is an accomplishment in itself,” he said of the 1982 Reds dregs.
Fun fact: He broke in with the ABA Virginia Squires, and some believe that basketball was his best sport.
12. Curt Gowdy
Career: 27 seasons (1949-1975)
Teams/network affiliates: Boston Red Sox, NBC
Bottom Line: Curt Gowdy
Even though Gowdy was a native Midwesterner with a New York (Yankees) background, New Englanders grew to like his mellow voice and flat-line delivery, no small feat in itself.
The future Hall of Famer moved on to NBC where, as the premier broadcaster in the country, he called a record 78 World Series games.
11. Jack Brickhouse
Career: 38 seasons (1940-45, 1948-81)
Teams: Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox
Bottom Line: Jack Brickhouse
While Brick didn’t receive the fanfare of Harry Caray after him, his impact actually was greater in the Windy City. While the guy didn’t sell nearly as much beer, he taught baseball to an untold number of Baby Boomers from both sides of town.
Whether it be baseball, football, wrestling or even political conventions, he was as versatile as any broadcaster of his time.
10. Ernie Harwell
Career: 55 seasons (1948-2002)
Teams: Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, California Angels
Bottom Line: Ernie Harwell
He was known as Ernie Harwell, but W. Earnest Harwell was more like it. As a youth, he read poems in school to address a speech impediment, a talent that he put to good use on the air.
His delivery was a scrumptious souffle of breezy baseball conversation smothered in Georgia drawl with a touch of choice catchphrases. He stood there like the house by the side of the road ... Sweet!
9. Dizzy Dean
Career: 27 seasons (1941-48, 1950-68)
Teams/network affiliates: St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Crown, New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, Mutual, ABC, CBS
Bottom Line: Dizzy Dean
Dean once quipped, “The doctors X-rayed my head and found nothing.”
Don’t believe him. The one-time, 30-game winner was decades ahead of his time, a guy who would spin an opinion as well as he did a curveball even if it wasn’t always in the best English. He was an instant hit as the first color man to tell it like it was (or thought it should be). Ol’ Diz would have 10 million Twitter followers today. Easy.
8. Bob Uecker
Career: 51 seasons (1971-present)
Teams/affiliates: Milwaukee Brewers, ABC, NBC
Bottom Line: Bob Uecker
Wanna take Major League Baseball out of the Dark Ages? Hire Uecker as its commissioner then. If anyone can inject fun into the game, it’s the one who had more of it in the last 50 years than anyone connected with it.
Not only that, but beneath that self-deprecating schtick is a person who knows the game. (I would tell you that he took Hall of Famers Ferguson Jenkins, Sandy Koufax and Gaylord Perry deep in his career, but that would ruin his image.)
7. Jack Buck
Career: 48 seasons (1954-2001)
Teams/network affiliates: St. Louis Cardinals, ABC, NBC, CBS
Bottom Line: Jack Buck
The 16 seasons that Buck and Harry Caray spent together were some of the best in sports broadcast history. They couldn’t have been more different in style and substance — Buck’s dry martini to Caray’s shot and a beer — but that’s what made them click.
When Buck teamed up with Mike Shannon later, he proved that he could be the lead dog, too.
6. Joe Garagiola
Career: 50 seasons (1955-1988, 1990, 1998-2012)
Teams/network affiliates: St. Louis Cardinals, NBC, California Angels, Arizona Diamondbacks
Bottom Line: Joe Garagiola
Consider this to be a lifetime achievement award for 57 years as a tireless ambassador to the game. For decades, Garagiola was the most recognizable voice in baseball, a master storyteller whose passion for the game was as obvious as his bald head.
From Curt Gowdy to Vin Scully, from the Game of the Week to the World Series, he worked with all the greats and covered all the main events.
5. Red Barber
Career: 33 seasons (1934-66)
Teams: Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Yankees
Bottom Line: Red Barber
Baseball was made for radio because its unique pace left more to the imagination. Barber was the first to turn it into an art form. The Ol’ Redhead didn’t broadcast games as much as he reported on them in vivid detail punctuated by occasional humor.
The guy was all business, which led to some uncomfortable moments with partners, sponsors and team owners alike. See, all that mattered to him was the game and the listener. Imagine that.
4. Bob Prince
Career: 31seasons (1948-76, 1982, 1985)
Teams/network affiliates: Pittsburgh Pirates, Houston Astros, ABC
Bottom Line: Bob Prince
The Pittsburgh Baseball Club ceased to exist on Oct. 30, 1975. That was the date that KDKA caved to sponsors and fired Prince, a Pirates treasure for three decades, after which feckless team management put the bus in reverse and ran him over again. The Gunner was generous, intelligent, funny, zany and full of panache.
Above all, he was genuine and a Bucco through and through. In that unmistakable, gravelly voice of his, he could rally a market around a team like no other. Hundreds took to the streets in protest of his dismissal, and to hear the echoes over the decades, they haven’t stopped since then.
3. Harry Caray
Career: 53 seasons (1945-97)
Teams: St. Louis Browns, St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs
Bottom Line: Harry Caray
Caray made a name for himself in St. Louis, Missouri, but it wasn’t until he fled to Chi-town that he became the life of a party that never seemed to end. When Harry told Cubs or White Sox fans to sing in the seventh inning, they sang. When he suggested that they drink the sponsor’s beer, they drank it. When he jumped on a player/manager/general manager/team owner, they piled on with him.
It wasn’t long before he was a larger-than-life figure, more popular than any athlete in town, more powerful than even some team executives. How many in his profession can say that?
2. Mel Allen
Career: 33 seasons (1939-63, 1977-84)
Teams: Washington Senators, New York Yankees
Bottom Line: Mel Allen
Allen dominated World Series broadcasts like his Yankees did on the field for more than two decades. The Bronx couldn’t get enough of the most recognizable and well-paid voice of his era — How about that?! — and neither could sponsors, who cashed in on his “Ballantine blasts” and “White Owl wallops."
The guy was too chatty on the radio to suit some, but no one can deny the indelible mark that he left on the profession and a franchise.
1. Vin Scully
Career: 67seasons (1950-2016)
Teams/network affiliates: Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers, NBC, CBS Radio
Bottom Line: Vin Scully
When Scully invited seamheads to pull up a chair, he wasn’t kiddin’. His broadcasts were like fireside chats. Remarkably, on a near-daily basis even into his 80s, he blessed us with pure, unadulterated baseball talk and often did so without a partner.
His preparation was so thorough, his knowledge so immense, he knew more about the participants than their wives, girlfriends and mistresses. Sorry to disappoint you, but there’s no GOAT debate here. None at all.