The Mets are blessed to have and have had a slew of excellent broadcasters over the years. Starting with WOR-TV, Channel 9 to SNY, on radio beginning with WABC to WCBS, (WHN, WJRZ, WFAN, WOR and a few other stations in-between) the sound of Mets broadcasts has always been one of the strengths of the franchise.
SNY has the pleasure of featuring the current outstanding broadcasting trio in Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling. Cohen is the perfect “straight man” for the two ex-players, Hernandez, the former first-baseman and the former pitcher, Darling. Combine those two and their experiences with actually playing the game while Cohen brings an ability to smoothly carry the broadcast, yet stay out of the way of the other two or even “egg” them on at the right time. It makes for a must watch and a must listen, even if you’re not watching all the time.
The other night, I was reminded of “that other” outstanding Mets’ broadcasting trio that graced the airwaves during games.
It was the 50th anniversary of Tom Seaver’s historic 19-strikeout game and WFAN radio ran the actual radio broadcast featuring Bob Murphy, Lindsey Nelson and Ralph Kiner. This was just the latest of many highlights that the trio got to broadcast since they started in the inaugural 1962 season.
Unlike the GKR trio, these three gentlemen worked both the radio side and the TV side so the three of them were never really all together during the game, but it didn’t matter. Two would work the TV side, while the third did the radio call. In either medium, Murphy, Nelson and Kiner were a must listen. Also, you had two broadcasters and one ex-player among the three, but both Murphy and Nelson knew how to use Ralph’s insight and experiences to enhance the broadcast when they were together.
Murphy had the first two innings and Kiner took over in the third. Murphy came back to work the fifth and sixth and Nelson had the last three innings including the final call. Any video of the actual game apparently does not exist but Murph had the final call on television while Kiner got ready for his famous post-game show, “Kiner’s Korner.”
(If you would like to know about “Kiner’s Korner,” check out the book that my co-author, Mark Rosenman and I wrote about the famous post game show, titled, “Down on the Korner.”)
Because of Kiner’s issues with Bell’s Palsy in the latter part of his broadcasting career, people forget how good a baseball broadcaster he was. Kiner is well known for his lovable “malaprops,” but he had a brilliant baseball mind and he was able to bring that to the airwaves. The Hall of Fame baseball player had instant credibility with the players and was able to develop his interviewing and broadcasting skills as he got more experience with the medium.
Kiner’s interviewing skills were on full display in “Kiner’s Korner,” as he was able to bring out things from the players that they may not have said to anyone else. Kiner was also a three-time local Emmy Award winner.
During his portion of the game, Kiner had a moment where catcher Jerry Grote had to go out to the mound to talk with Seaver. (They still had 4 mound trips remaining….lol….) After Grote returned, Kiner threw out a rhetorical question to the audience concerning the re-transmission of the signs. Kiner asked, “Why do they still go over the signs after they just met?” The Hall of Famer pointed out that, even after a meeting on the mound, Grote would display the signs so the infielders would know what pitch was coming so they could position themselves accordingly. Kiner added that the outfielders would get tipped off by the infielders with a hand behind their back indicating what pitch would be thrown.
Kiner was surrounded by prime broadcasting talent and it didn’t take long for the three to mesh.
Murphy and Nelson were not native “New Yorkers” when they began broadcasting games in ’62, but they quickly became “adopted sons.” The Tulsa born Murphy brought a little of his Oklahoma accent to the broadcasts and was known for the “happy recap,” a phrase he used after a Mets’ win. Nelson was born in Tennessee, so his sound was definitely not “New Yawk,” but both had worked professionally before they came to New York.
Murphy was with the Red Sox in the 1950’s and worked alongside Curt Gowdy. He moved to the Orioles in in 1960 where he replaced Hall of Famer Ernie Harwell. Nelson had worked NBC’s broadcasts in 1957 and was on the call with Curt Gowdy during the 1969 World Series for the games at Shea. (Local broadcasters used to join Gowdy for their team’s home games during World Series telecasts. Editorial comment: Something FOX Sports should think about bringing back) Nelson did many football games beginning with calling Tennessee games. He was well known for being on the lead call of the Cotton Bowl on CBS for 26 years and was the narrator of the “Notre Dame Football” that was a weekly syndicated feature that ran locally on WPIX, Channel 11.
There are some tie-ins between the heralded trios. Cohen worked with Hall of Fame broadcaster Murphy on radio when he started broadcasting Mets’ games in 1989 and is one of the top baseball broadcasters to date. (Cohen could end up alongside “Murph” in Cooperstown one day) Darling and Hernandez have indirect ties to Kiner in that they made more than one appearance on “Kiner’s Korner.” Nelson is also a Ford Frick Winner and a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
What struck me all these years later is how long the Mets’ trio stayed together. It was a 17-year run of doing both TV and radio until Nelson left after the 1978 season to broadcast games for the San Francisco Giants. Murphy went to radio only in 1982 until he retired after 2003. Kiner’s role lessened as the years went on but he was on some broadcasts until 2013. The current trio would’ve been starting their 15th season together.
When I started listening to Yankee games on radio, their team was Mel Allen, Red Barber (who also hosted a post-game show called “The Red Barber Show”) and Phil Rizzuto, all of who worked both mediums. Jerry Coleman and Joe Garagiola Sr. came in for a few seasons before Frank Messer, Bill White and Rizzuto became the steady trio for 14 seasons starting in 1971.
MLB Network radio is also broadcasting classic games so you can get to hear some of the other great “voices of summer” that painted a picture with words.
Karpin’s Korner appears every Friday on nysportsday.com