O's pick Hunter as lead voice CBS Radio announcer to fill Miller's spot

February 06, 1997|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN SPORTS MEDIA CRITIC

There are three things Orioles fans should know about the team's new radio voice, Jim Hunter, right off the bat.

First, he is not Catfish Hunter, the Hall of Fame pitcher who won 224 games for the Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees.

Second, he is not a homer.

Third, he is not Jon Miller.

Hunter, who officially joined the Orioles' broadcast team yesterday, doesn't necessarily want Baltimoreans to forget the popular Miller, but to give him a chance to be the voice of their team.

"I'm not stupid. I know what Jon Miller meant to this city. The guy is a great announcer, easily one of the top two or three in the business. I know what I'm replacing," said Hunter.

"I'm not Jon and to compare me to him is not right. I'm me and I'll do a good job. The way I look at it is, somebody was going to be sitting in that chair. He [Miller] decided to go and when they [the Orioles] called me, he was already gone. I'm looking at this as a tremendous opportunity. I'm not frightened in the least."

Hunter signed a one-year contract with a two-year option with WBAL (1090 AM), the Orioles' flagship station. No financial terms were disclosed, but Orioles executive director of broadcasting and marketing Michael T. Lehr said the contract was "competitive" with other clubs.

Miller, who will join the San Francisco Giants this spring, was paid a reported $450,000 by the club and by WBAL; Hunter's services will be paid for by the station alone.

In exchange for his release from the final three years of a five-year CBS Radio contract, Hunter will call six Saturday games for the network this season, but will work exclusively on Orioles games from 1998 on, though he will be allowed to continue as host of NFL broadcasts and any non-Orioles postseason games for CBS.

Still to be determined is how innings will be divided amongHunter, Fred Manfra and Chuck Thompson, though WBAL station manager Jeff Beauchamp made it clear yesterday that Hunter will be the lead voice on the broadcasts.

"We have always been blessed in Baltimore with the best voices in the game, from Chuck Thompson and Bill O'Donnell to Jon Miller. We have Fred Manfra, who's a Baltimore boy, and Jim Hunter is a great addition to that tradition. The standard 'N continues," said Beauchamp.

Hunter said he was first contacted by Orioles officials in early December, about a month after Miller's 14-year term with the team ended in controversy. More serious talks began last month, leading to yesterday's formal announcement.

Hunter, 38, a New Jersey native and resident, has been a fixture on CBS Radio for 15 years, calling baseball for the last 10. His father was a producer of New York Yankees telecasts, and Hunter was approached by the Madison Square Garden Network, which now carries Yankees games. He says that he was interested in calling games of the team of his youth, but the Orioles' offer was too good to pass up.

"This is one of the premier jobs in baseball. If you ask any broadcaster doing baseball for any team, if they're honest about they'll tell you that this is a premier organization to work for. If you look back and go all the way back to 1954 and see the kinds of guys they've had working for them, you'll know what I'm talking about," said Hunter.

In fact, Hunter said he got a phone call Tuesday night from Hall of Fame announcer Ernie Harwell, who was the Orioles' first play-by-play man before going to Detroit in 1960. Hunter said Harwell, who also calls CBS Radio games, told him that coming to Baltimore was the best thing he could do.

Hunter said he was not concerned with comments that team owner Peter Angelos made upon Miller's departure that Miller did not "bleed black and orange," meaning that he did not appear to be a partisan for the team.

Hunter said that he would not root for the Orioles on the air, but would be an "advocate."

"That [homer] isn't me. I told them that right from our first meeting in January. I said, "Look, if you want a guy to go on there and root openly and change the credibility that I've developed, then I'm not your guy.' That's not what they want and they told me that," said Hunter.

"I'm going to be with these people more than I will my family over the next seven months. I can't see just by being a person how you can't want the team to do well. If Roberto Alomar makes a splendid defensive play in the ninth to save a run and the Orioles win 2-1, of course I'm going to get excited, but I'm not going to tip the scales and get ridiculous."

Said Lehr: "He's going to be an advocate for the team, but he's going to be a professional. This guy has all the assets you're looking for in an announcer."

Terps missing in action

Wondering why last night's Maryland-North Carolina State men's basketball game wasn't on television last night? You're probably not alone.

The answer has two parts, but is really simple: Not every ACC game can be shown on television, and last night's was just one that fell through the cracks.

League spokesman Brian Morrison said that of the 72 conference games played by the league's nine teams this season, only seven were unavailable for telecast, and the Terps-Wolfpack contest was one of them.

Morrison said Raycom, the syndicator that owns the television rights to all ACC games and each of the league school's home games, made the judgment when the schedule was made last summer that last night's game would not be seen.

If you think back to preseason predictions that had Maryland in eighth and N.C. State in last, which would have made the game a match between two teams playing out the string, Raycom's call makes sense.

However, all of Maryland's remaining games will be televised.

Pub Date: 2/06/97

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