Rex Barney returned to the microphone Monday night after missing the Orioles' 10-game homestand in early June. Barney, 70, suffered a mild heart attack Memorial Day weekend, and he spent the next two weeks resting and rooting for the O's. A former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher, he is in his 28th year as an Orioles broadcaster and announcer, and his favorite two words, thank youuuu, are a Baltimore hallmark. The Sun's Jason LaCanfora spoke with Barney before Monday night's game.
Q: How is your health, and how does it feel to be back?
A: I feel great. It's great to be back. I'm here because of my love for the fans. I get more inspiration from them than they do from me. Do you have any idea what it means to me when little kids walk up to me and say, 'Are you Rex Barney?' and when I say, 'Yes,' they say, 'Thank youuuu,' and then run away? Those types of things mean so much to me.
Q: How did you get into broadcasting?
A: Because of the great Red Barber. One day we were talking in the diner car -- we used to travel by train in those days -- and Red said: 'Rex, when you get done playing, think about broadcasting. You're educated, you know baseball and you speak well.' Well, I forgot about what he said because I thought I'd be in the major leagues for another eight years. A few years later I was out of the game, and I started doing radio.
Q: Do you wish you were remembered more as a player than a broadcaster or announcer?
A: Sure. I never fulfilled the expectations of Rex Barney and I will anguish over that all my life. Guys like Stan Musial and Ted Williams tell me I threw harder than anyone else they ever faced, but I never got it done. I won 15 games [in 1948], threw a no-hitter, four one-hitters. Some nights I still wake up in a cold sweat dreaming about pitching in ballgames. They are nightmares. Why could I do it on some occasions and not others? I should have been a 20- to 25-game winner for eight or nine years. I should have been a Hall of Fame pitcher. But I didn't do it. It wasn't for a lack of work. I worked as hard as anybody, I just didn't get it done.
Q: How did you come up with your signature calls?
A: I got 'Give that fan a contract' from an announcer in Durham, N.C. I thought it was corny, but I suggested it at a meeting we had years ago, and all the sophisticated people said, 'That will never work in the major leagues.' We tried it, and it went well. But the second year we cut it one day. Well, we got so much mail and phone calls wondering why Rex didn't say, 'Give that fan a contract.' It's been back ever since. 'Thank youuuu' came from my mom. The three most important things in our house were respect, please and thank you. Now young children are running around the house saying 'thank youuuu,' and their parents thank me for teaching it to them. That is great.