Swung On and Belted!

Who needs Yogi Berra?

IT COULD BE SAID that those of us barely articulate enough to ask for fries with our burgers have no business calling into question the announcing bad habits of those who make their livings with their mouths. On the other hand, maybe we can justify the occasional criticism. After all, a lot of us in the Northwest spend a lot of time within the sound of Seattle Mariners announcers. I myself probably have listened to Dave Niehaus more than I have to my own wife since April 6, 1977. Many have been the occasions when I've tried to listen to them at the same time, to my credit always managing to recall nearly verbatim what Niehaus had to say.

So the following aren't really intended as criticisms so much as Post-it notes for the folks known as the broadcast "producers," the unseen horse whisperers at the shoulders of the thoroughbreds behind the microphones.

NIEHAUS, OF COURSE, is legendary in this market. If money weren't the issue, a great case could have been made for naming Safeco Field after this man, who has been more important to our appreciation of the franchise than any player. But he has a pair of persistent misuses that he'll probably never give up. The first is characterizing the guy coming to the plate as "the hitter." Obviously, the player is actually "the batter" until he hits, and we see the problems this can lead to when Niehaus says "and now Jeff Cirillo will come to the plate as the hitter." The other, which occurs much less frequently, is Niehaus' understanding of the term "irony." He uses "ironically" to mean "coincidentally" or "the same as," as in: Babe Ruth used to pull the ball for home runs and, ironically, so does Barry Bonds.

Neither of these beefs compares with the enmity many reserve for the overblown fly-ball calls of longtime Niehaus sidekick Rick Rizzs (to his broadcast partners variously aka Rizzer, Rizzy, Rico, Ricky, Ricardoanything, it seems, but Rizzs). It could be a pop fly to the skin of the infield, and Rizzs, if he's broadcasting on radio, would carry on as though the ball had a chance to land on the railroad tracks. (To his credit, Rizzs after several seasons has ceased letting us in on the idea that those occasional train whistles we hear are, in fact, from trains.) His other transgression is the occasional redundancy, the most annoying being the phrase "when I was growing up as a kid."

I'm aware that I'm one of the few defenders of Ron Fairly. Many listeners seem to take his detachment as some sort of hostility toward the local franchise. Would that all the announcers were as willing and able to place game-by-game accomplishments within the context of a century or so of baseball. The former Dodger mainstay can (and probably will someday) tell you what Ruth ate for breakfast the morning he hit his 60th. But Fairly has that one bad habit: adding the words "that of" when not called for, as in: Babe Ruth didn't play much night baseball, unlike that of Barry Bonds.

WELL, NOBODY EXPECTS ex-ballplayers to be raconteurs to rival talk-show hosts. David Valle's saving grace is that he knows situational baseball and can explain the game. His problem has to do with a few pronunciations that even Dizzy Dean could have mastered. Valle, for example, persists in using "ex-specially" for "especially," perhaps with the belief that to be "ex-special" is to possess specialness (specialitude? speciality?) that surpasses mere "especial" status. He made up another new one (new to me, anyway) when the M's were playing at Yankee Stadium in late April. The ex-catcher was observing the apparent visual splendor of that facility known only to Ron Fairly as "The House That a Guy Who Had 12 Pork Chops for Breakfast the Morning He Hit His 60th Built." Then Valle seized upon a description I didn't think I'd live long enough to hear, rhapsodizing about "the magnificence-ness" of the place.

I can't wait. Tomorrow I'm at that fast-food drive-up: "Gimme the deluxe bloato burger and ex-specially let me experience the magnificence-ness of your large side of fries."


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