Not this year.
What I'd love to say, quite simply, is:
GET OUT THE RYE BREAD AND MUSTARD, GRANDMA! IT'S GRAND SALAMI TIME!!
More precisely, I'd like to hear that. Just one more time. From legendary Seattle broadcaster Dave Niehaus, who, sadly, passed away two weeks ago.
|Dodgers legendary play-by-play man Vin Scully is magic behind the mic. Let's hope he stays there for a long time. (Getty Images)|
Not only that, I'd also gladly leave the house on Black Friday this week, and hit the 6 a.m. sales, if there was even a chance that I could hear one voice above the crowd.
It would be Ernie Harwell's, telling me I'm "called out because of excessive window shopping."
At Thanksgiving, we pause from the early Christmas advertisements to count our blessings -- which we should do every day, all year. We know this. But this time of year, it is forced on us. There is no forgetting.
And in the baseball world, there are few greater blessings than the company of a great radio broadcaster on a warm summer's evening as dinner sizzles on the grill (or the boat rocks gently in the lake, or the car zips across the miles).
I bring this up now simply because, my, oh my (as Niehaus often said), the great ones are leaving us in rapid-fire succession, far too quickly. Niehaus. Harwell. Philadelphia's Harry Kalas in April of '09.
Bob Uecker gave us a scare last April when he was forced to take a leave from the Milwaukee broadcast booth and undergo heart surgery. He came back later in the season, then wound up having a second heart surgery last month.
Uecker generally is one of the funniest men in the game, but this isn't funny.
Here's to a solid winter of rest and recovery for Ueck so that he's healthy and strong for 2011.
Seasons come and seasons go, and we know that generations change and nothing lasts forever.
But if there is some kind of deal to be made here and now to make the Dodgers' Vin Scully a permanent fixture, we'll take it, whatever it is.
At 83, Scully has reached the point where he contemplates retirement annually. Fortunately for the rest of us, he keeps putting it off. His poetry will be in motion again in Los Angeles in 2011, just one more reason to purchase the MLB Extra Innings television package if you don't live within the Dodgers' television broadcast area. (Another Thanksgiving blessing, that we live in an era in which so many resources are available to us).
If you can't be there in person, for my money, Scully aside, baseball remains at its best on radio, in the hands of those who use the English language the way Matisse deployed his brush strokes. Even in this age of high-definition television, the game is confined on the screen. You cannot see how all of the defenders are aligned.
Of course, you can't on radio, either. But that's the point. If you can't see it all in front of you, you might as well listen as you're working in the garage. Or as you're sitting on that back porch looking up at the stars. The great ones fill you in as part of the ongoing conversation. "The outfield is straight up." "Blair is shaded toward right field."
Time was, if you were lucky, maybe you'd get a rendition of High Hopes when the game was finished. We still miss you, Mr. Kalas.
I cannot say that I knew Dave Niehaus all that well. But as with every great broadcaster, you sure feel like you do.
Besides, I saw all I needed to know about him one day during the early summer of 2009, when San Francisco played an interleague game in Seattle and Randy Johnson was in his final season. In search of career win No. 299 at the time, a couple of hours before Johnson was scheduled to start, the former Mariner sat in the visiting clubhouse manager's office with Niehaus and his partner, Rick Rizzs, chatting for probably 15 minutes.
To anybody who knew Johnson, this was like watching a tiger sit passively in the jungle while prey walked within a few steps of him.
"In the old days, you never got near him on the day he pitched," Niehaus noted a little while later.
True. And his point was Johnson, at 45, finally had mellowed.
That, too, was true. But he wasn't mellow with everybody. That afternoon told me everything I needed to know about the great regard the Big Unit had for Niehaus, a Seattle landmark nearly every bit as important as the Space Needle.
I've long believed, especially as the game moved toward an era of nomadic players jumping at free agent contracts, that a good radio man eventually becomes as important to a franchise as anyone. A nightly conduit to the fans, men like Marty Brennaman in Cincinnati and Jerry Coleman in San Diego are there year after year, as opposed to, say, Pete Rose or Dave Winfield.
In a world in which things are changing more rapidly than ever, they bring consistency -- and sometimes, when the magic meets the moment, greatness.
But the great ones are fading away and, with them, an era. In today's short-attention span age, when scores are available over the Internet and teams jump radio stations every few years for a few more bucks, will the next generation have the same influence and stir the same feelings as guys like Niehaus, Kalas, Harwell and the great Jack Buck once did?
I do not know the answer to that question, but it's pretty clear to see an era is passing. So before the Christmas shopping begins and I go in search of a bargain Harwell would appreciate ("two for the price of one!"), I'll take a moment here to assess what we're losing, a toast to what we have and a prayer for Uecker's health.
We're surrounded by blessings. Let's just make sure we pause long enough to appreciate them.