For new Orioles voice Hunter, a silent, then a sound start

Media Watch

April 03, 1997|By Milton Kent

Jim Hunter's first moments in the Orioles' radio booth yesterday were, to say the least, memorable.

After Fred Manfra's generous introduction, welcoming the new lead voice to the area, Hunter sheepishly admitted that he hadn't turned his microphone on.

If that's the extent of Hunter's problems in Baltimore -- and except for one blown call in the eighth, things went smoothly yesterday -- he'll have a long and healthy run behind the mikes of WBAL (1090 AM).

Next to new Orioles shortstop Mike Bordick, Hunter was probably the most scrutinized person at Camden Yards yesterday as he took over for Jon Miller, who left in November for San Francisco. Television announcer Michael Reghi probably would have been under a similar microscope had he not had to miss yesterday's opener for a Cleveland Cavaliers commitment. He'll make his debut tonight.

So, let's get the obvious out of the way immediately: Jim Hunter is no Jon Miller. Hunter, a staple of CBS Radio's Game of the Week coverage for the previous 10 seasons, has said all along that he knew that he couldn't supplant Miller, and he's right.

But, as inevitable as the comparisons between Hunter and Miller are, they are also unfair to the newcomer. For one thing, everyone who bemoans Miller's absence compares the 1996 Miller, who had 14 seasons to ingratiate himself with Baltimoreans and was with his fourth team, to Hunter, who took the Orioles' job amid controversy that accompanied Miller's departure, and is working for his first club.

Hunter, who perhaps does not carry Miller's wonderful flourishes, is a perfectly acceptable baseball announcer, and, given time, will be a perfectly acceptable summer acquaintance. The difference between the two for a listener may be akin to whether a person prefers a hot-fudge sundae with whipped cream and a cherry or just as it is. The taste, in either case, is good.

What Hunter may lack in showmanship, he makes up for in baseball knowledge. He made a good observation in the second inning on Jeffrey Hammonds' strikeout, when he noted that during spring training pitchers throw more fastballs to get their arms into shape, but that Hammonds had been fooled by Kevin Appier's off-speed stuff.

Hunter wasn't terribly challenged yesterday in his play-by-play innings, but he has proved himself able throughout the spring to deliver the needed information, namely score, count, fielder and runner positions and the like, in a timely fashion.

One decided difference from Miller's tenure, and to these ears, a plus, is that there is genuine and pleasant interaction among Hunter, Manfra and Chuck Thompson, who worked the fourth and fifth innings yesterday, after Hunter did the first three. When dTC Miller was here, his voice was, generally speaking, the only one you heard during his innings, but yesterday, Manfra, who did innings six and seven, and Hunter and Thompson drifted in and out of each other's patter without intruding.

Hunter's one flub of the day was a doozy, though nothing that hasn't happened to announcers before. In the Kansas City eighth, Eric Davis crushed a pitch to center, where the Royals' Tom Goodwin scaled the wall and pulled the drive back in.

Hunter, however, called the play a home run, then had to backtrack. One could easily allow for Hunter's unfamiliarity of the ballpark and for the drama of the moment, but the prudent thing to do would have been to wait a couple of seconds to get the call right.

Snipers may leap on that call and hark back to Miller's immediate recognition of the Derek Jeter home run in the American League Championship Series as fan interference and use the two as proof that Hunter isn't up to Miller's standards. That's a load of hooey. Over time, Jim Hunter won't make anyone forget Jon Miller, but he'll carve out his own territory here, and that will be just fine.

Pub Date: 4/03/97

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