Thursday, October 2, 2008

Great news, friends

My Thursday morning was brightened considerably by the news that Lanny Frattare is stepping down (or was not signed to a new contract, depending on whom you believe) after 33 years of torturing Pirates baseball fans (those who are left). Lanny always referred to us listeners as "friends," even though nothing could be further from the truth. For baseball fans of my age, Bob Prince and Nellie King were our friends, people we could count on for the truth about what was going on down on the diamond. To me, Lanny always came off as a fake and smarmy company man who employed a grating over-reliance on statistical minutiae (This is the third straight Thursday night game in which Jack Wilson has taken a called first strike in his initial at-bat.) OK, I made that last part up, but it's not far from accurate. Lanny always seemed to have his employers' backs, but he never once, over 33 years, came off as a guy who had, or cared to have, a true connection with the fans. I've never been overly impressed with the other Pirates announcers, but at least they're tolerable. Steve Blass and Bob Walk know the game. I'm a little bit on the fence about Greg Brown. The guy's a screamer and seems to have a near-orgasmic experience every time somebody hits a TRIP, TRIP, TRIPLE. Once, after a Pirates victory, he even hollered something to the effect that "THE PIRATES ARE NOW JUST ONE GAME OUT OF FOURTH PLACE!!!" But you have to give the guy credit for maintaining his enthusiasm while watching the handiwork of possibly the most mismanaged franchise in the history of professional sports. Although I wish he would turn down the volume a notch, at least I get the feeling that Brown is a guy you'd be glad to sit with in a bar while downing a couple of beers and watching a game on TV. If I were seated next to Lanny, I'd have my neck on a swivel, waiting for another stool to open up. I haven't mentioned the other broadcaster, John Wehner, and I won't. Seems like a nice guy. We'll leave it at that. I haven't heard who will replace Lanny in the booth next season, and I don't really care, because after 40 years of listening to and watching baseball, I've never heard anyone I liked to listen to less than Lanny.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those who grew up with Bob Prince probably will never like anyone else. Pittsburgh loves its "character" sportscaster -- Myron, Prince, even Fedko. I lost interest in baseball a long time ago, but I will say that I met Lanny at spring training in the early 80s when I attended with my father-in-law, a big Buccos fan. I was wearing a red Toledo Mud Hens baseball jacket and Lanny, walking past on the field, yelled "Hey, Mud Hens!" Then he came over and explained that he had broadcast some Mud Hens games and talked to both me & my father-in-law for about five minutes, about nothing in particular. My father-in-law was thrilled. So I know that, at least 25 years ago, he was accessible.

October 2, 2008 at 3:15 PM  
Anonymous mike said...

Although I won't shed a tear about Lanny's retirement, the thought of Greg Brown being the "voice of the Pirates" makes me shudder. If there is a worse play-by-play man in baseball, I hope the Pirates hire him. At least the team would have the market cornered on something.
I met Lanny a few years back and found him to be a really nice man. I appreciatted his fondness for history. My only regret is that he is not taking the Nutting family with into retirement.

October 2, 2008 at 3:56 PM  
Blogger Roger said...

We moved here in 1974, arriving on September 1 of that year. I immediately started listening to Pirates games (KDKA?), with Bob Prince announcing. He was without any doubt, the worst play-by-play announcer I had heard to that point, perhaps any since that time as well. He spent so much time with non-baseball issues, the listener had no idea what was happening on the field.

I think he broadcast the next season too, 1975, before retiring. Somebody undoubtedly knows the history better. The point is that I heard him for the month of September 1974, and I think the next season. He was a complete waste of time.

Now, I understand Bob Prince to be a legend in these parts. Perhaps he was a good announcer earlier in his career. But, as time passed, he degraded, and old-time listeners just put up with his nonsense, overlooking his poor play-by-play skills. Being new to the area, and having listened to other announcers elsewhere, he was a real flop.

For those who hoot-holler about how great Bob Prince was, I venture to say you grew up with him, or had listened to him for many years before his retirement. When the skills had diminished, you just kept listening because you liked him earlier. Am I right?

For me, the play-by-play announcer is to say enough that I can envision the play in my head. I need enough details to know something of what is happening. My imagination will fill in the blanks. This was Prince's problem -- he provided so few details that the field play could never be imagined. He just spent too much time talking about unrelated matters. For those who knew him, he may have been entertaining. But, his job was to do play-by-play of the baseball game, not just ramble with unrelated talk to entertain.

Having said that, I would think baseball is one of the most difficult games to broadcast. There is soooooo much dead time to fill. As a matter of fact, this is the problem with baseball -- period! There is just too much dead time. Pro football is becoming the same way -- play one play, then stop for a couple of minutes, then play a few more plays, then stop. I can't stand to watch more than part of a quarter any longer. The Thursday night high school football games on FSN are more entertaining, and move more quickly.

October 2, 2008 at 9:58 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Jeez... you really went hard on the guy... well, considering i have never heard anyone else call a game, I don't have a reference point... I never thought of him as all that bad.


October 3, 2008 at 10:39 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

Just trying to provide a counterpoint to all the Lanny worship accompanying his departure. You listen to a guy like Jon Miller on ESPN, and then you think, "How were we stuck with this guy for 33 freakin' years?" At least I do.

October 3, 2008 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Just to be clear... Does Frattare say "Raise the Jolly Roger?"


October 3, 2008 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

I believe that's Greg Brown. I think Lanny's catch phrase was "There was NOOOOOO doubt about it." You see, I try not to listen to them, if I can help it. In fact, I sometimes turn off the sound and just watch the games in silence. It's much better that way.

October 3, 2008 at 11:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



October 3, 2008 at 1:21 PM  

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