Old, new radio voices join to say goodbye

October 07, 1991|By Ray Frager

"It's the old completion of the circle," Ernie Harwell said yesterday, writing the caption to go with any picture of Memorial Stadium's last baseball day.

Harwell -- who called the first major-league game as the team's voice -- was speaking about his presence during WBAL Radio's broadcast of the Baltimore Orioles' finale. It indeed did complete circle, much like the one formed by current and former Orioles at game's end.

In broadcasting, though, the old and new stars can perform on the same field. Thus, we not only had Harwell paying a visit, but also Chuck Thompson and Jon Miller on the air.

Thompson opened the game by saying: "It is one of the most emotional moments I've ever spent behind a microphone," and apologizing for his flu-weakened voice -- it sounded fine to me -- with "The voice is not quite what it could be, but who cares? Nobody minds anything this afternoon. . . . It's kind of a love-in."

The love-in kicked into gear during the latter stages of the pre-game show, when Miller presented highlights from the Orioles' past.

And, once the game began, it was fitting to hear those phrases -- yes, they're cliches -- coming from Thompson that would have clanged in the ear if someone else were saying them -- "southpaw cutters" for left-handed hitters, "Bengals" for Tigers, "no room at the inn" for bases loaded.

There was some clanging, though, from Ken Levine. The rookie announcer kept reminding listeners that this was the "final game ever" from Memorial Stadium, a redundant phrase on its own. In a typical Levine aside, the announcer mentioned a resemblance between Orioles starter Bob Milacki and the "Leave It to Beaver" character Lumpy Rutherford. After the game, Levine joked that he wanted the wallet version of the 360-degree photo of the Orioles circle.

It's not that those comments weren't funny; it's just that they seemed inappropriate yesterday.

Entirely appropriate was the pairing of Miller and Thompson after the game, a combination listeners never get to hear because of conflicting schedules. Their best moment? They jointly called Rick Dempsey's pantomimed home run.

Long after the game came an even better moment -- Dan Rodricks' "900 East 33rd," a brilliantly conceived and executed remembrance of Memorial Stadium.

Finally, just as Harwell wrote the caption yesterday, Miller provided the tag line:

"The captains and kings [Miller then listed several prominent Orioles past and present] will be with us yet, lest we forget, lest we forget."

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