Thursday, August 21, 2008

TBG's Sounds of Summer: Baltimore Orioles


Game: Texas Rangers at Baltimore Orioles
Date: August 8
Network: Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN 2)

Play-by-Play: Jim Hunter
Color Commentator: Jim Palmer
Almost Prettier than Jim Palmer: Amber Theoharis

M'man Josh warns:

Try'n get the Orioles when they have their "A" team of Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer, or at least their "B" team of Thorne and Buck Martinez. Sundays when Thorne is doing national radio and they have Jim Hunter can be painful, especially if he works with Rick Dempsey. Hunter does every Sunday and sometimes gets a weekday series, and Palmer basically never travels unless it's to a big city where they have his proper hair dye.

I ended up with a Friday night home game, but Gary Thorne was nowhere to be found. Thorne was one of the first play-by-play voices on ESPN when the network grossly overpaid for baseball's weekday broadcast rights in 1990. The weird thing is that he's a screamer of the highest degree and notorious for injecting contrived drama with his maudlin inflections, but I like the guy. It probably helps that I still have a VHS copy of a 1990 Red Sox vs. A's game, in which he called a rare Felix Jose home run. Plus, Thorne (briefly) called bullsh*t on Curt Schilling. Approve.

Chemistry: I'm old enough to remember when Jim Palmer was a spokesman, sex symbol and broadcaster. See, in MY day, the middle-aged hotties multi-tasked. Anyways, 25 years of acclaim, regard and women half his age have turned Palmer into something of a "color commentator emeritus". Consequently, his spectacular ego is a show unto itself. Hunter took Palmer's condescension in stride (during an especially long-winded Palmer point, a graphic for an in-game promo popped up…Palmer said, "I'll let you do this, so we can get back to my thoughts.") Later, during the trivia segment, Hunter ventured a guess to which Palmer, in a hilariously dismissive tone, responded, "No! No way!" It was like watching Ron Burgundy and Veronica Corningstone for the first time. Grade: 5/10

Knowledge: Hey, did you know that Palmer once played baseball? He dropped his first old-school reference in the bottom of the first, when he explained that teams should pitch to O's star Nick Markakis in the same way that teams approached George Brett. First Earl Weaver reference: top of the 2nd, for those scoring at home. Palmer's not much of an analyst ("The reason you have seven players behind you is because they have gloves. They'll help you") and it doesn't help Hunter's credibility when claims, "[Juan] Castro's not much of a hitter, but he'll get you that timely hit." No, he won't. Grade: 4/10

Enthusiasm: Palmer was a LOT more animated when he was sharing a three-man booth with Al Michaels and Tim McCarver in the 1980s. He seemed absolutely bored at times and I'm certain I heard his voice crack on a couple of occasions. Hunter was actually OK. Grade: 5/10

Bar Stool Q: I don't want to oversell this, but an evening of drinking with The Legend of Jim Palmer would probably be the greatest night of my life. I see him as a guy who takes bottles of hand sanitizer and cans of Lysol everywhere. He probably demands restaurant seating "away from my fans" and travels with dozens of autographed 8x10 headshots for the ladies – all of whom he derisively calls, "doll-face". And, I'm not going to lie…the prospect of some soccer mom sloppy seconds intrigues me. I imagine Hunter's role on road trips is to fetch Mr. Palmer his martinis and weed out the cougars from the cattle. Grade: 10/10

Camera/Production: Thank you, high definition! In the stands, I was able to clearly see a female fan texting friends during the entire 4th inning AND saw a group of three women posing for pictures in their seats during a Melvin Mora at-bat. Lots of silly, meaningless on-screen "stats" (the O's are 24-13 in the first games of a series this year; 2-0 vs. Texas!) And, speaking of superfluous, Dick Vitale joined the booth in the 3rd inning. Dick Vitale. His reason? He's taking his grandkids to every ballpark. Seriously. Although, watching Jim Palmer visibly recoil every time Vitale put his hand on Palmer's shoulder was HIGH comedy. Points, also, for Vitale making a reference to his and Palmer's work on The Naked Gun. Grade: 5/10

Homerism: In the first inning, Palmer was already moaning about Rangers SP Luis Mendoza getting calls "three inches off the plate" from the umpire. Then, no lie, Mendoza started getting squeezed by the same ump, before melting down entirely. My guess is that Mr. Palmer sent a note down to the ump, voicing his displeasure with the early strike zone. He's a Hall of Famer, y'know. Hunter was absolutely pro-Orioles, but not obnoxious about it. Grade: -5.5

Commerciality: MASN airs a series of "fantasy camp" commercials in which on-air personalities teach fans how to call a game, interview a player, etc. Some of these aren't bad, but there's one with Amber Theoharis where her acting and line-reading skills are positively pornographic. The Inn at Charles Town Races & Slots ran an ad that ended with the tagline: "West Virginia…wild & wonderful!" And, the overpriced, untalented hacks at Northrop Grumman want YOU to work for them.

Toyota Trivia Question: "Who was the last Baltimore Oriole to win a batting title?" (My answer: Frank Robinson; Correct answer: same) Hunter's answer: Melvin Mora. Remember, Jim Hunter…your ignorance makes Mr. Palmer look bad. Mr. Palmer doesn't like to look bad. Mr. Palmer NEVER looks bad. 9 for 16

Final Grade: 23.5

3 comments:

Josh said...

1) Who told you to do a game when Thorne is calling the LLWS? You're doing other teams' games from June and all of the sudden you decide to do an Orioles game NOW?

2) In case Jim Hunter ever reads this, I don't actively dislike him. He is a homer of the highest degree, as is Dempsey, which is why it can be painful. Palmer is a homer only for himself.

3) I can't believe this occurred during the Dick Vitale game. My dad called me to make sure I was watching (I was).

4) Palmer doesn't actually go on road trips unless it's a trip he wants to make to like, Chicago or NYC. He's too good to ride on a plane with the rest of the MASN crew, I presume.

5) Charles Toooooooooooooooooooooown, racists and sluts. I mean...it is West Virginia.

6) Jim Palmer won three Cy Youngs, y'know.

That Bootleg Guy said...

Thorne's got the LLWS? I thought that was the only reason ESPN kept Musburger around. Considering Thorne was the #1 weekday voice for ESPN's MLB, I'd think this is a small demotion.

Palmer is so insufferable that I'm ready to give him his own reality show. This is the same guy who tried a "comeback" after he was elected to the Hall of Fame.

Now that I think about it, Palmer's reality show should co-star 1993 Lenny Dykstra ("Loosen up, Jimmy!..."It's *Jim*.") Hilarity!

Anonymous said...

The trouble is since John Miller left- none of the Baltimore announcers can shut up. The beauty of calling a baseball game is the silence - if they would just shut up and call the game - less color analysis - and Palmer, well he is the worst. Just take a breathe once in a while. for now - I just turn off the sound. its bad on the radio and the TV - go back and listen to the greats - they would have pauses so yu can just imagine the stadium based on the sounds. Ahh- nobody in baseball gets it.