Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Reason #8: The Voice.

I made the transition from fan to Superfan shortly after my 14th birthday, in August of 1989, when the Royals – on their way to winning 92 games, still their winningest season since 1980 – went on a nine-game winning streak against the White Sox, Mariners, and Angels. What made that streak special was that, for the first time in my life, I was listening to their games on the radio. (At least the ones that weren’t on TV, which in those days was pretty much all of them.)

I had no idea what a radio broadcast was supposed to sound like. I had no idea if Denny Matthews was the best or the worst announcer in the business. All I knew was that the voice on the radio described the details of the game in such a way that I could recreate the game in my own head with almost perfect detail. Which pitches were thrown, where they were thrown, how the infield was positioned, which way the wind was pushing the flags – all this information came through the set with perfect cadence, keeping me constantly informed without overloading me with information.

Listening to the Royals on the radio quickly became an addiction. I was only home in Wichita when school let out, as we still lived as expatriates in Saudi Arabia during the school year until I went off to college in 1991. But I would estimate I listened to 50 or 60 games between June and August every year between 1990 and 1994. It helped that the Royals were still competitive back then. Looking back, though, it’s clear that as much as I enjoyed the product, what really kept me hooked was the delivery.

I moved to Ann Arbor for medical school in 1995, and I remember the first time I heard a Tigers game on the radio. I tuned in and heard a broadcaster with an old, distinctive southern voice, the kind of voice perfectly suited for sleepy summer evenings sitting on the porch with a glass of Country Time in your hand. But within a few minutes I realized something was terribly wrong.

A pitch would be thrown, and all I’d hear was “ball” or “strike.” I had no idea if the first baseman was playing behind the runner or not, whether that foul ball was lined into the seats behind the first base dugout or drifted lazily in the upper deck. I remember vividly the broadcaster telling us the pitch was popped up and that the shortstop was moving under it…and then five seconds later telling us the ball landed way back in the seats. And in between, we had no idea that the popup was in foul ground, let alone whether it was catchable.

A few minutes later I realized I was listening to Ernie Harwell.

I’m sure I caught Harwell on a bad day – I would later be introduced to other Tigers announcers, and Harwell on a bad day was better than almost all of them. Harwell, I should point out, really is as nice as they say; it’s hard to find someone in Michigan who has a bad word to say about him. (The one time I ran into him in the Tigers’ press box area, he boomed out a friendly “hello!” from down the hall before I was even close enough to recognize who he was.)

But if I hadn’t been convinced already, that’s the moment I realized what a gem we have in Denny Matthews.

Don’t listen to me. Listen to Bill James, who years before I ever heard Matthews’ voice had this to say about him, in the 1983 Abstract:

“Among the pleasures of being a Royals’ fan, few rank any higher than turning on the radio each evening to receive the 7 o’clock greeting of Mr. Denny Matthews. My goal about each team is to try to bring to light something about the team which is not generally known. After years of post-season play [editors’ note: this book is 25 years old] with basically the same team, not much about the Royals has slipped through the network of the country’s information services. [editors’ note: again, this book is 25 years old] But behind their microphone, all but unknown to the nation, sits one of the most skilled and gifted men that the craft has ever produced.”

James spends the next page-and-a-half explaining, in far better terms than I ever could, what makes Matthews such a great announcer. If any of you readers have ambitions of becoming a broadcaster in any sport, it’s absolutely essential reading.

The Royals canned Matthews’ partner, Fred White, after the 1998 season. White didn’t deserve it; he wasn’t as good as Matthews, but he was better than 90% of the announcers around the country. The problem, if there was one, was that they had exceedingly similar styles. Every radio and TV broadcast in the country seems to pair a play-by-play guy with the ex-jock that mixes rare bursts of insight with a long stream of clichés and non-sequiturs. Matthews and White provided very little contrast, which was fine with me. I’m not listening to the set of an NFL pre-game show; I’m listening for someone to describe a baseball game to me, and they both did it very well.

Anyway, White was replaced by Ryan Lefebvre, and for the first year or two Lefebvre was awful, or at least awful by the standard of what Royals fans were used to. But then a funny thing happened: broadcasting game after game with one of the greatest broadcasters in the country, Lefebvre improved. He learned the nuances of the craft from one of its masters, and over time he started to sound more and more like Matthews while still retaining some individual flourishes. He started engaging in witty banter with Matthews during downtime – and with the Royals over the last 10 years, there have been plenty of 12-3 games that needed filler in the late innings. The generational gap between the two added just enough tension to make it interesting. I don’t live in Kansas anymore, and I don’t have summers off, but I do have XM radio, and I do have a 30-minute commute, and I’m just as sure to listen to the Royals in my car as I was 15 years ago.

Lefebvre won’t be working with Matthews anymore, because the Royals have been so pleased with his occasional forays onto the team’s TV broadcasts that they’re moving him over to that side permanently. Paired with Paul Splittorff, this has the potential to give the Royals one of the best TV tandems in the majors.

Splittorff has been doing color for the Royals for something like 20 years, which is amazing when you consider how many different play-by-play guys he’s been paired with. The PBP guys generally sucked, which is why there were so many of them, but Split is as serious a student of broadcasting as he was about pitching, and is one of the better color men around. (I’ve never been able to figure out how Splittorff won 166 games – most in team history – despite striking out 100 batters in a season exactly twice. One of my favorite pieces of stat trivia of all time: Paul Splittorff has more career wins than Sandy Koufax.) He’s also willing to call out the home team when they do something wrong, a trait found in precious few ex-jocks. Split and Lefebvre have worked very well in their brief times together in the past, and I’m excited to see how they do over the course of an entire season.

The additional upside here is that this takes Bob Davis out of the TV booth. Davis was as bad as Matthews is good, and I have no idea how he lasted this long. (One of the unsung highlights of last season was reading Bill Simmons’ diary of Daisuke Matsuzaka’s major league debut, and being incredibly amused by his reaction to finding out he was stuck with the Royals’ broadcast. Yes, Bill, we had to put with Davis every single game.)

The downside here is that this puts Davis in the radio booth. This may not be as bad as it sounds; I’ve heard from a lot of people that Davis is much better suited for radio than TV, or at least that he does a good job covering Jayhawks’ basketball on radio. I guess we’re going to find out how good Matthews really is. He’s already in the Hall of Fame; if he can elevate Davis to the level of a passable broadcaster, we’ll have to invent a new award for him.

The one regret I have with Matthews is that I’ve never really heard him call a meaningful game. There were the 14 wins in a row in 1994, when the Royals were in the hunt all the way until the strike killed the season. And there was 2003. But other than that, the Royals have simply never been closer to the playoffs than they were during that nine-game winning streak in 1989 that got me hooked in the first place.

Matthews’ style doesn’t exactly lend itself to animated theatrics; he’s no Dave Niehaus. The most excited – maybe incredulous is a better word – I’ve ever heard him was at the conclusion of this game on April 11th, 2000, when Rey Sanchez hit a walk-off three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to improve the Royals to 7-3; it was the third straight game in which the Royals won on a walk-off homer. (Brian Johnson hit one in the 12th the night before; Johnny Damon led off the ninth with a homer the day before that. Incidentally, those three games are what brought the term “walk-off” into the baseball lexicon. That’s right – the Royals are responsible for making “walk-off” popular, and more incredibly, they were the ones hitting them.) I believe Matthews’ call after Sanchez’s flyball floated inside the left-field fair pole was, “What is going on?” That’s about as animated as he gets.

So far as I know. Of the many, many, many things I plan to enjoy if and when the Royals start contending again, getting to listen to an excited Denny Matthews ranks high on my list. Matthews is no spring chicken; he’s been behind the radio for the Royals since day one, and even though he was just 26 when he started, he turned 65 last November. Let’s hope that the Royals turn things around while he’s still around to enjoy it. And while we’re still able to enjoy him.


Anonymous said...

Rany, thanks for the great post about Denny. He's the one voice I can't wait to hear every spring. He creates such a wonderful picture of the game that you really CAN see exactly what's going on in the game in your own mind.

After subscribing to Major League Extra Innings one year and hearing some of the ridiculous "homers" that other teams employ, it makes you appreciate Denny's laid back style all the more. I believe Denny was asked once why he didn't get more excited in the booth, and he said something to the effect of "I'll just call the game, you can do the screaming."

I also remembering hearing Denny's call of the walk off Rey Sanchez homerun. I agree that it's about the most excited I've ever heard him. If I recall, it bounced off the top of the bullpen gate before it left the yard.

I'll be sad to see Ryan be replaced by Bob Davis. I was finally just starting to appreciate Ryan's own style, but I'm pretty sure I'll never get to that point with Davis.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. You and I are the same age, Rany, and among my fondest memories from childhood are those of lying in bed with my headphones on listening to Denny as I fought off sleep. To me, his voice IS baseball. I don't live in KC anymore but I have XM, and what's almost as great as being able to listen to his voice all summer long is being able to listen to all the other broadcasters out there and to realize how much better he is than his peers. You get all the information from him but the game provides the drama. I'm sad that Lefevbre is leaving, because those guys were perfect together.

ChasingMoney said...

One of my favorite pieces of stat trivia of all time: Paul Splittorff has more career wins than Sandy Koufax.

So Splitt must have been better than Koufax then.

Minda said...

Oh my dear goodness, Rany, the further we go on this list, the more I think "YES! He nailed it!" with each post.

I am young enough that I can accurately say I've listened to Denny my whole life, including while my mom was pregnant with me, as she and my dad (plus my older brothers) listened to games every day. There isn't a whole lot I enjoy more than listening to Denny on AM radio. It's one of those things I get all starry-eyed about, but I don't have to work to romanticize the memories, the crackle and hum of an AM broadcast, and that legendary Voice. If my childhood had a soundtrack, that's what it would sound like.

I got all excited that you wrote about the "What is going on?!?" call. My brothers and parents and I are all scattered apart now, but all of us still watch/listen to every game. Whenever the Royals are in the midst of a burst of offense, we call each other, and instead of saying Hello, we say "What is going on?!?" So that call has significance to my family.

I didn't know that MY team was responsible for the term "walk-off." That makes me strangely happy.

Anonymous said...

Awesome post Rany. Listening to Fred and Denny was so comfortable, so relaxing and informing. I really missed Fred when we was whacked. He handled it with such class. His fill in roles these past few seasons just whisked me back to the glory years. This past Saturday Fred called the final game of his career during the big 12 tournament, he was given a watch and recognized during a time out. The crowd gave him a standing ovation, and he got choked up. Splitt was his partner and I think even he was touched.
Splitt has said he doesn't want to do a full season but he would be a natural partner for Denny.
I am a big KU fan and listen to lots of Bob Davis on the radio for football abd basketball, but I gotta say I am thinking this may not work out well.
Anyway, great post, only comment would be to post more, I really look forward to your insight. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Two things. I also remember the Rey Sanchez call. In fact, that is the one call that always stands out in my mind. To me it's the Royals version of Jack Buck's call of Kirk Gibson's home run in the 88 Series. "I don't believe what I just saw". It's my favorite Denny moment. 2) The only time I have ever called into a national radio show is to ask Ron Barr if Denny would get into the HOF. That was is 2002. He said no. Not enough national exposure. I'm so glad he was wrong.

Dave Farquhar said...

Rany, I remember when Yahoo was streaming MLB games for free, listening to Royals/Tigers games. Sometimes I got Denny and Ryan, and sometimes I got Ernie Harwell. I know Ernie Harwell is a legend, but there's no comparison.

Living in St. Louis half my life, I heard a lot of Jack Buck games, and I don't think Jack Buck was as good as Denny Matthews either. I never heard Harry Caray in his prime (I think he was past his prime before I was born), but I won't even use his name in the same sentence as the Royals' legend.

I vividly remember him calling the Rey Sanchez home run. Then I think of the shortstops we've had since then and it makes me sad... Here's hoping Billy Butler and Alex Gordon will see to it that Denny Matthews has some meaningful games to call before the time comes for him to call it a career.

Anonymous said...

Rany - In January of 1978 I was a 25 year old kid broadcasting Great Bend (KS) High School basketball. Back then we 'hooked up' to the studio at home games with what was called a 'loop'. A hard line telephone connection that went directly from the gym to the studio...no dialing required. Bob Davis was doing play-by-play for Hays (KS) High back then. Midway through the first quarter my 'loop' went dead. I panicked. A calm Bob Davis, while still broadcasting, wrote me a note to 'have your studio call my station at 913-xxx-xxxx' I hustled to the principals office, called the studio, gave them the number and we picked up his feed for the game. When I got back, Bob handed me a headset and during commercial he told me, 'OK , you do the call until the next break'. We went back an forth like that the rest of the game. It was one of the most memorable moments of my broadcast career. To me, Bob Davis is the ultimate professional.

Unknown said...

I have never lived in KC so I haven't gotten the chance to listen to Denny. This post did bring back some memories for me though. In 94, I had plane tickets to go see my first game ever at Royals Stadium and three days before we left, the players went on strike. I still remember the night that Sanchez hit that HR. Earlier in the game, we had been down by a bit and it didn't seem like we would be doing it again. I think we were playing the Orioles in that series and I also wanted us to sweep them since they had been very bad for us in the past. I can remember seeing the highlights on sportscenter and being in total disbelief. Not only had we done it again, but it was Rey Sanchez this time who just hit his HR for the year. Does it get anymore unbelievable than that? I don't think so.

I'd like to hear the story on how the term walk-off became commonplace with that series. It's something you hear everyday but I always thought it had always been around.

Christian M said...

Fantastic post!!! I just found your site.

Denny has been so good for so long. He is a true gem. I remember the walk off by Rey. I remember thinking the first few years how bad Ryan was, but he really has improved.

Keep up the great posts!

Anonymous said...

Rany, I can say that I have been listening to Denny call Royals games since 1975 so I have heard him call some amazing games. Other teams have announcers that are better with the glib comments, but none makes me want turn on the radio outside and play catch with my son while listening to the Royals.

Anonymous said...

Having grown up with the Brett-McRae-Otis-White-Patek Royals, I had the privilege of hearing Denny every night when every game meant something. He'd actually get excited then -- not homeriffic ecstacy, like a lot of other guys, just a... subtle and intense sort of thing, where you could tell he WAS excited, but remembering to be professional at the same time. Rany, I hope you have a chance to hear that before he retires.

My favorite comment on him from Bill had to do with how Denny always knew the count as opposed to depending on the scoreboard, and what he would say when the scoreboard had the count wrong: "The scoreboard has the count wrong." What I don't recall Bill mentioning in that passage was that it was common for us to take our transistors to the stadium; Denny was even looking out for the folks who had the game laid out before their eyes.

Anonymous said...

I seem to remember that the origin of the term "walk off" came from that 88 World Series when Gibson hit the walk-off homer. I think the story goes that someone was interviewing Eckersley after the game and all he said was: (something like) "I threw it, he hit it, and we walked off"

Unknown said...

Thanks for that on walk offs. I'd like to hear what Rany says about that. Why he thinks it was made a lexicon at that point of the Royals 3 walk offs in a row even though it had been around before then. I remember how excited I was about the fourth game, hoping it would continue. Seeing that Rey Sanchez was the one who hit the walk off for the third game is one of the most exciting things I've seen during the last ten years. I'd also probably stick in the game against the Blue Jays that was televised by ESPN where Sweeney hit a smash that ate up the third baseman but didn't make it to the fence and Beltran scored from first to win the game. Beating the RedSox last year on opening day was also a good game with all the issues about Meche. I'm sure there were others.

I have been a fan since 76 so I got to see all the great years. I just didn't get to hear Denny do the games. I think about how Rany missed many of the most significant years in Royals history. I have other friends that have also missed the late 70s due to age and I feel sorry for them.

Anonymous said...

Denny is Royals baseball. "Thanks Ryan. Hi everybody."

Ryan and Paul are an awesome team on TV. Better than any other pair in the business.

Bob is just not good - but then I'm biased. "Danny! Jacque! Raef! Kirk! Brandon!" Yuck.

Anonymous said...

Rany said the three Royals walk-offs popularized the term, not necessarily that they coined it. I think it's generally accepted to have been coined by Eckersley, but it only came into such widespread usage more recently. As to whether or not Rany is correct that it's because of the Royals, I don't really know, but I'll take his word for it.

tookee said...

I'm a little older than Rany -- I grew up listening to Denny and Fred White calling games for the late 70's Royals, even scouring the airwaves when my family moved to Denver in late '78. I have lived in several cities since -- SF, where I listened to Bill King and Lon Simmons call A's games, Hank Greenwald calling the Giants, and now live in LA with Vin for the Dodgers. Denny is in Vin's league. I was never confused or wondering what happened on the field. I never thought about Denny's "take" on the action, it simply happened the way Denny described. Maybe the truest thing I can say about him is, all these years later, when I watch a Royals game, I can only think about plays as if Denny were calling them. Baseball in my head is a creation of Denny Matthews.

Anonymous said...

Denny's pitch is what seems to make him unique; he's a raging tenor. So when he does get excited, he ends up way up the scale. The best example is the word "lined" when the game is tight and there are runners on: "LINED into right field; a base hit!" There's more energy to it because the play isn't over; the defense now has to get involved.

Strangely, I think Fred had my favorite call. Don't know the year, don't know the game, because I actually heard it in an ad for the Royals' broadcasts themselves. It was an inside-the-park home run by Bill Pecota. Talk about something that builds in a crescendo. It built slowly; I was "leaning in" to hear whether Pecota would leg out a triple. Then: "They're gonna try to SCORE him!!!" Egad, the goosebumps have arrived again.

I would love to be able to get that recording (as well as a complete set of the '85 Series). Denny and Fred were always like uncles (with whom I spent way more time than with any of my uncles).

Unknown said...

Rany, this post (and all of the others....) hits the spot.

A lot of us are too young to have heard some of the other "legends" of the game on radio...but that doesn't bother me a bit. Just listening to clips of them makes me realize....there is a reason Denny is in the Hall of Fame.

Denny is the reason I became a Royals fan....his calls were never too high...never too low. I am always able to visualize the game with his call.

St Louis can have Buck, and Chicago can have Carey....but the Midwest....Denny is our voice that we look forward to on summer nights.

Anonymous said...

I don't Ryan was ever that bad, it's just that Fred was gone, and the "new
guy" just wasn't the same.

yy said...

Well, I'm a first time commenter long time reader. This is a bit of a sore subject with me.

Like Rany, I grew up in Wichita. However, thanks to my father I was hooked on Royals broadcasts by 1978, at the ripe old age of 7. I can remember listening to calls of the 1980 playoffs. I can remember very specifically listening live to the call of the Pine Tar Game.

And here's the thing. I love Denny Matthews, and in the last 10 years he has earned the right to be known as The Voice. But prior to 1998, it is simply incredulous to act like Royals broadcasts were about Denny Matthews.

They were about Fred and Denny. I can remember in high school having vigorous debates with a Cardinals fan and a Cubs fan about the best broadcast. The Cards fan swore by Jack Buck, the Cubs fan swore by Harry Caray.

I had the unique pleasure of being able to swear by two amazingly talented men - Fred and Denny.

Try to remember that joy you had in the 80's and 90's listening to the Royals - that joy was a 9 inning experience. Again, Fred and Denny, not just 5 innings of the future HOFer.

Now, I tend to agree with the idea the Lefebvre has grown into a fine broadcaster. But the past few seasons, when Fred White was brought back into the booth by 810 to call several games a year, something dawned on me. It is actually the opposite of Rany's observation.

Ryan has not morphed into Denny-lite. Ryan is a younger Fred White. His cadences, his style of explanation, all of it is actually a lot closer to Fred White than to Denny Matthews.

Anyway, when I was growing up it was my dream to one day see the Hall of Fame honor the Royals on Radio. However, my dream was for that honor to go simultaneously to two men, not just one.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Rany. I agree wholeheartedly about Denny Matthews. I this about him when he was inducted into the HOF.

I really enjoy Denny and Ryan together, and I must say I was pretty disappointed when I heard that Ryan was moving to TV.

But, then I heard that they hired Steve Stewart. I was relieved! That meant that Bob Davis is gone! Paul and Ryan on TV, and Denny and Steve on radio. Great!!!

But then I was crushed. Stewart will only do a handful of games, and Bob Davis will be on the radio damn near every day.

I appreciate Davis' legacy as the great Jayhawks broadcaster, but his baseball work is attrocious. His voice is annoying, he screams at you, and everything happens "out there." I can't stand him. Why do the Royals insist on keeping him around????

Unknown said...

Good comment boboyoung. I regret not being able to listen to Denny as a kid. Whenever I have been in KC, the Royals are either not in season or I'm at the games. Therefore, I've never gotten a dose of Denny. I am going to be there for the first six games this year including opening day and I may have to find a way to listen to Denny while I'm at the game.

On a totally different note, I cannot stand Bob Davis. I ranked the Royals tv announcers as some of the worst in the league and that had to do almost entirely on Davis. The fact that they are taking him away from the broadcast booth is a relief for me. I hear that he is great for Jayhawks games as well and have heard that before this post by Rany but it didn't matter much to me since he was so bad for baseball. I always liked Paul for the same reasons that Rany mentions. Mainly that he'll get on the Royals for bad play. I like that in an announcer. I think that Bob just brought him down and that Ryan will make things much much better.

Anonymous said...

Bob Davis has not even described the type of pitch being thrown on radio when he has filled in. Maybe that is because he was used to TV; he needs to get better at describing what happens.

Am I correct in remembering the early 80's, when the Royals road games would be on channel 4, that Denny and/or Fred would alternate with Denny Trease?

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Bob Davis is a nice man, and the story from the poster about the high school basketball game seems to confirm that.

That being said, Bob Davis is a complete abomination as a baseball broadcaster. Poor delivery, lack of information, voice like fingernails on a chalkboard...I could go on, but why?

This is particularly bad news for me because baseball to me is best enjoyed on the radio in the car, on the back deck, in the pool, etc.

I agree with the poster who questioned why the Royals insist on keeping him around. He is almost universally disliked by fans and critics alike. I've never talked to anyone who liked him (including a couple of Royals employees I know).

Anyway, I've still got Denny for half the game, and that's as good as it gets.

Anonymous said...


Great post as always! You really touched on a great memory for many Royals fans, me included.

My family likes radio announcing so much, we mute the TV and play the radio feed for commentary. It's great, except for the few second delay between audio/visual.

Anonymous said...

I think it shows the depth of Royals fans' feelings about Denny that less than 24 hours after you posted it, this post already has more comments (27) than all but your introductory post and your post about "The Park."

I moved to the Detroit area in 1985, and had the same reaction that you had to Ernie Harwell. He grew on me over time, but hearing this Hall of Famer made me appreciate Denny even more.

As others have said, before Fred was canned, it was more about "Fred and Denny" rather than Denny alone, but even when Fred and Denny worked together, it was clear that Denny was the better broadcaster.

Denny is still a pleasure to listen to. I have noticed that in about the last seven or eight years, by about mid-June I can tell exactly how well the Royals' season is going by the tone of Denny's voice. If they're not doing well (which has been the case for more than a decade now) his voice sounds very gravelly. That was not the case in 2003--there was an exceptional excitement in his voice. Nor was it the case last year, which was the best indicator to me that there is hope for the future.

Bob Davis is a fine broadcaster--of college football and basketball games. His style simply is not cut out for the pace and flow of major league baseball games. His most annoying trait, which is probably not nearly as noticeable in the faster paced college sports, is that he begins nearly every sentence with the word "and."

Unknown said...

I couldn't agree more. Your description of Matthews was right on the money...and Ryan's start in KC was very rough with excitement coming at the wrong places.
Having listened to Denny for 30+ years myself, I must say he has improved as well. His description has always been stellar, but I remember hearing replays of Game 6 and 7 of the 85 Series and there was very little emotion for the excitement it should have produced.

If you can retrieve a few of the games from the 2003 season (especially the first nine games), you can hear some excitement that has been missing for too long in Royal-land.

Love the posts...as always, I feel more informed.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I cannot agree more that Bob Davis is simply irratating to listen to. I used to pass on the TV broadcast and listen to radio for the simple fact that Bob Davis was invovled. Now it looks like it will be the other way around.

Anonymous said...

This post just could have said the following and made it's point:

"Listen to Denny Matthews and then listen to Hawk Harrelson. 'Nuff said."

But, of course, Rany went into a little bit more detail and we are all the better for it -- just like we are better for having Denny.

P.S. According to Hawk's last Sprint Training broadcast the White Sox have "a ton to be excited about this year." If he were announcing himself for that comment he's probably say...well, I'm not going to subject you to what he'd say because it's so damn annoying to hear, let alone read.

Anonymous said...

Denny is absurdly good at what he does. I've listened to every broadcast team in baseball, over the course of multiple seasons and the only other radio broadcaster on the level of Denny is Vin Scully. He is the absolute best at what he does, level headed and collected, he becomes part of the game. Royals baseball wouldn't be the same without him.

Anonymous said...

Man it would be cool if Denny could see this thread, I wonder if he truly realizes the many people that appreciated his work. I always have and also am a huge fan of Fred White. While going to school in the KC area in the late 90's I was fortunate enough to arrange an interview with Fred for a broadcasting class. Instead of doing 10 minutes over the phone Fred offered to take me out to lunch, spent almost two hours with a person he had never met, and answered every question. The problem was that I was such a huge Royals fan I asked about 80 percent of my questions about the team and not much about Fred's broadcasting experience. He never called me on this even though it was pretty obvious. Then he politely picked up the tab for lunch and I had a great memory. Later that year I also traveled to Lawrence KS and met Bill James at his office, which was also an amazing experience. Sorry to hijack the Denny thread but just wanted to give some love to Fred White, my all time favorite announcer.

Nathan Hall said...

Denny Matthews is truly a treasure. I would rather listen to him call a game than watch it on TV. One thing I particularly like about him is that he doesn't seem to be trying to sell enthusiasm like some announcers, who think you'll care more about the game if they yell a lot for no particular reason. Matthews knows that if you're tuned in, it's because you like baseball, and he's there to share it with you, rather than push it at you.

Listening to him in the car or at home on a spring evening was one of the most pleasant formative experiences of my childhood.

Darrel said...

I first started listening to the Royals on Radio when I was a teacher in Longton, Kansas and my wife and had no TV. It was so long ago, 1972, that Buddy Blattner was on the air with Denny. Through the years, I have enjoyed listening to Denny and his special take on the game. The Royals couldn't have done better than they did for themselves than they did when they signed him for their broadcasts.

My favorite call was a Greg Pryor homer against the White Sox many years ago. It was a long extra inning game, somewhere around the 16th inning or so. Seems like Pryor was leading off, but I could be wrong. Denny was tired, and he didn't react when Pryor first hit the ball. He just said something like "There's a long fly ball to deep left field and it is GONE!" It was a rather dramatic end to a rather boring game as it turned out. I also listened to the Pine Tar Game and it's 1 inning aftermath, but don't remember much about the call. I do know that Denny immediately knew what was going on, that it was the pine tar they were checking. That shows something else, he pays attention to the details, even when he's talking about the worst outfielder the Royals ever had (Lonnie Smith), or any one of many other things he talks about when the game is out of hand.

He deserves the Hall of Fame,

Nathan Hall said...

By the way, I liked Fred White too. If the Royals canned him because he was too much like Matthews, it might have been their dumbest move of the late 90's.

Nathan Hall said...

One last point...is it possible Kansas City has the best baseball/football tandem of radio announcers? Mitch Holthus, with the Chiefs, is excellent, providing an intelligent, accurate and exciting account of every play. And Len Dawson is simply the best color man I've ever heard, in any sport. He's constantly telling you what the quarterback is doing right or wrong, what the defense ought to be looking for, etc. He informs you from his experience of things you wouldn't have thought of on your own, a dearly needed lesson for former-player broadcasters everywhere.

Anonymous said...

@ Nathan:

And before Holthus, we had Kevin Harlan. Kansas City has had an embarrassment of riches on the radio waves.

MT Royal said...

I started listening to Denny and Buddy, and later Fred & Denny, in 1969 when my parents made me go on Sunday afternoon rides in the country in northern Kansas. Has it really been almost four decades?

The greatest call in Royals history, and maybe baseball history, though, was Fred's on that glorious October night in 1980: "There's a high fly ball... deep right field... THERE SHE GOES! HOME RUN! HOME RUN BY BRETT, and the Royals lead! (Pause) George Brett just hit it in the upper deck off Gossage, and the Royals lead 4-2."

Denny in the 9th: "The 0-2 pitch to Willie Randolph... STRIKE THREE! Kansas City, you have a World Series!"

Denny in Toronto, 1985: "...and in the deafening silence of Exhibition Stadium, the Kansas City Royals are Champions on the American League!"

Anonymous said...

Mitch Holthus!?

nathan, you must be kidding.

Holthus is the antithesis of Denny Matthews: in your face, loud, obnoxious, a complete homer, and the master of the contrived catch phrase (Touchdown, Kan-sa-city!!!, or referring to Larry Johnson as the Centaur.)

I don't know how Lenny does reach over and punch him in the face.

I despise Holthus more than Bob Davis, if that's possible.

Anonymous said...

Listening to Denny and the Royals is one of my favorite childhood memories. That said, my favorite Denny line actually came in a garbage game last year against Tampa Bay. It was a Sunday game and there were a ton of runs, errors, and all around bad baseball and it had been like that all weekend. At one point, Ryan said, "What HAVEN'T we seen this weekend, Denny?" Denny responded without hesitation, "Good Baseball". I almost had to pull over. He's the best.

Anonymous said...

I like Splitt as an analyst, but not as a play-by-play guy. Some of the most akward moments on the TV broadcasts last year were when Splittorff and Davis swapped rolls midway through games. Davis has no credibility as an analyst and Splitt isn't exactly a play-by-play tour de force.

Davis is a major homer, which translates better to radio than television. Now I won't think, "What game is that guy looking at?" every time Davis makes absurd claims of the Royals being shafted by bad calls. I'm more likely to give him the benefit of the doubt since I most likely won't be seeing it for myself.

A Ryan/Splitt team is likely to be very entertaining as long as Ryan does all the PBP.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for doing a post on Denny. I'm a few years older than Rany is, and I DO remember Denny doing meaningful games in 1980 and 1985. Believe it or not, Denny CAN get animated and excited. Not tottally nutty excited, but excited nonetheless.

However I digress. The one thing I really wanted to say is this: I have NEVER known a summer without Denny calling the games for the Royals, and it is probably the singular thing about summer that I enjoy the most because it really does take back to the days of my youth.

One Day in the not so distant future we will witness Denny's last broadcast. Royals baseball will NEVER be the same, and I am NOT looking forward to that day. But all things must come to an end eventually. Such is life.

bfos said...

I sure hope that the last several years of awful baseball in KC has worn on Denny, because in 6 or 7 years that I've been a die-hard Royals fan, I have yet to grow fond of Mr. Matthews.

Nothing would drive me more nuts than for him to lazily describe a soft fly ball off the bat of a Royal...the outfielder settling easily under it.....home [yawn] run.

And "the 2/1/no outs to go" has to be one of the worst moments in world series radio history. I know that this will offend many people. Anything, ANYTHING, associated with the Royals during that special time is going to be held close by any fan. But, the call itself emberasses me every time I hear it in the company of anyone else.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I just got through reading all of the posts and it brought a smile to my face the entire time. I never knew other people remembered the Rey Sanchez GW HR call. I remember that night, listening to the game. I still think of that call every now and then "What is going on here?!" And I always imagined him turning to Ryan and saying that (lol!). It was so nice to see I'm not the only one!
After my Dad and my h.s. baseball coach, Denny Matthews has been the biggest baseball influence for me. I hope he knows how much we appreciate him. Thank you.

Bob Davis's most memorable Royals call- "And Quinn falls down!"