There is no replacing Vin Scully, but somebody has to broadcast the games. Looking back on 60 years of Los Angeles Dodgers’ English language broadcasters (I don’t speak Spanish and have never listened to the Spanish language broadcasts, so that is not being considered here) other than Vin, the Dodgers have had a history of awful to barely bearable broadcasters, and it is with great trepidation that I wait to see who becomes the lead guy for 2017.
When I listen to a ball game, I see three things that a broadcaster needs to bring to the job: He has to be interesting, He has to be accurate, and he has to be exciting. In 60 years, the
Dodgers have had one broadcaster who has fulfilled those three requirements, and he is retiring today. With one brief exception, none of the other eleven fellows who have done Dodgers’ play-by-play on TV and radio since they became the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1958 have fulfilled that obligation, and I’ve heard them all, beginning in April of 1958 when the Los Angeles Dodgers played their first ever game, against the San Francisco Giants in Seals’ Stadium in Frisco’s Mission District broadcast by Vin and Jerry Doggett. In addition, the Dodgers, who never sought to burden Vin with a “color” commentator sitting next to him, have consistently employed such people to fill in the holes that the second string broadcasters have been incapable of filling, with very erratic success.
Of the eleven broadcasters who have called LA Dodgers games besides Vin, only three have been able to fulfill even two of the three criteria for broadcasting competence, Ross Porter, Joel Meyers and Charley Steiner. Ross Porter was the team’s number two announcer for 28 years, and while he excelled in accuracy and in being interesting, he failed on the third plateau, of being exciting. Current number two broadcaster Charley Steiner is also interesting, and while he is exceptional in conveying excitement, he doesn’t meet the accuracy standard. The one guy that pretty much met all three was Joel Meyers, but his short-lived tenure with the Dodgers – doing only cable tv for only two seasons – is unfortunately easy to forget.
The Dodgers employed several long-term broadcasters that struggled to meet even one of the three criteria, and it has been a great mystery that the team that has employed Vin Scully for 67 years would surround him with such incompetence. The worst of them all was Eddie Doucette, who did games on the teams pre-cable pay TV outlet, ON-TV, in the
early 1980s. Doucette was almost without question the worst major league baseball play-by-play announcer that I ever was unfortunate enough to hear broadcast games. His predecessor on ON-TV, Geoff Witcher, however, was only slightly better, stilly failing on the interesting and exciting levels, but at lest being slightly more accurate than Doucette. The biggest mystery of all has been how the team continues to employ Rick Monday, who also fails totally at all three, though not quite as badly as Doucette did, but who also cannot pronounce the names of half the players in the game.
In the LA Dodgers’ early years, I never thought much of Vin’s two-inning fill in, Jerry Doggett, but compared to many of the people who followed him, thinking back he was more than competent, though never, ever exciting. Don Drysdale was an LA icon, the first LA native to become a star with the Dodgers, and then a long time broadcaster for several teams and networks, but most notably here with first the Angels and then with the Dodgers. Big D was interesting, he was exciting, but he also failed that accuracy test. Mike Walden also had a very short tenure with the Dodgers, and that was due to his last of competence in any of the three required areas, though he did have a pretty good radio voice. Eric Collins was an ok announcer on TV, though totally unexciting, and the guy who replaced him, Joe Davis, is only slightly better. But that brings up another issue. The greatest announcer ever did it all and did not need the annoyance or interruption of a single color commentator, but the powers that be have seen fit to burden their current TV backup guy, first Collins and now Davis, with not one, but two-color commentators, Nomar Garciaparra and Orel Hershiser, and where one is one too may, too is unbearable. Perhaps Davis would be able to reach acceptable plateaus in all three areas if he did not have to fight for airtime with two airbags as he now has to do.
Over the years, the Dodgers have generally had better luck with their color commentators than with their play-by-play choices, but as I firmly believe, a solid, knowledgable play-by-play announcer is far better on his own that having to share time with some ex-player who may know the game well, but who lacks the communication skills and professionalism of a trained, experienced broadcaster who did not get the job because of his fame and name recognition. Sure, Garciaparra and Hershiser are fairly competent, but that cannot be said for all their predecessors, especially the disgusting anti-Semitic bigot Steve Lyons who the
Dodgers for whatever reasons kept in their employ year after year. Others came and went, and no one ever really knew the difference, from Duke Snider to Tony Hernandez to Ron Cey to Kevin Kennedy to Don Sutton to Jerry Reuss, as the list went on.
So, all this begs the question – what now? Well, Charley Steiner is by far the second best announcer the team’s had in the past 25 years, and he deserves to be number one, on radio and on TV. Give Davis Steiner’s current role, and if you must, put Hershiser with Steiner and keep Garciaparra with Davis, and get rid of Rick Monday. Unless of course a new, young version of Vin Scully can be found, but what are the chances of that?