|Dialing home with ESPN anchors|
By Bob Halloran
Special to Page 2
When it comes to home runs, television sportscasters make more bad calls than "Crank Yankers." In fact, that's rather appropriate when you consider that a home run is hit when somebody "cranks" one. Therefore, home run calls are really just crank calls (made when somebody is dialed in, makes a connection and goes long distance).
Some are simple, like Kenny Mayne's "home r-r-r-un," or Dan Patrick's "gone."
Some are a little more subtle, like Karl Ravech's "don't go there" or "hang'em and bang'em," or Reece Davis' "logs on and is part of the Go Network."
Some have limited usage, like John Anderson's "behold the power of cheese," which he only uses for Milwaukee Brewers home runs, and Scott Reis' "oops, I did it again" -- used only when someone hits two homers in a game, and my own description for when there are several homers hit in one game: "It's like a jailbreak. They're all going over the wall!"
Some depend on the delivery, like Steve Berthiume's, "Say hello to my little friend!" which is a resurrected line from "Scarface," and Steve delivers it with the Al Pacino Cuban accent. And some are like Dennis Miller's rants. I don't really understand them, but I like them anyway.
Occasionally, I hear ESPNEWS anchor John Seibel, who tells me he has 39 home run calls, say: "Don't mess with the Jesus!" I had no idea what that meant, but I'm in the unique position of being able to walk right up to him and ask, so I did.
"It's a line from The Big Lebowski," he says. A movie that has nothing to do with baseball. A line that has nothing to do with hitting a home run. But for some reason, John saw the movie and thought to himself: "Hey, I can use that." It's the same kind logic that inspired Pat Boyle's "Don't disrespect the Bing.." So an obscure line from "The Sopranos" is now being used to describe a home run.
To come up with a home run call, I've always found it best to work backward. It helps to think of a way that a home run is commonly described, and then find a way to "twist" it. A home run is a "big fly," so a home run hitter is a "big fly swatter," and a really long home run might be "the biggest fly since Jeff Goldblum."
And if you're swatting flies, then you could be "the newest member of the SWAT team." Hitting home runs is also known as "going yard." So a home run hitter is doing "yardwork," or for Seibel, a guy hitting a homer is "going to the shed, pulling out his weed-wacker, his rake, and his pooper-scooper to do some serious yardwork."
A guy who hits a home run is going to "touch'em all," right? So, after a lot of thought, I created the home run call: "Like a fat guy in a bakery, he's gonna touch'em all!" Home runs are hit deep. Sometimes thoughts are deep. So, I'll frequently say: "He hits that one so deep, it's Freudian!" Just recently, I had the idea of a home run "leaving the park." So, now if you're ever watching ESPNEWS, you might hear: "Like a dog without a leash, that one's leaving the park."
They're not all gems, but with 15 games a day for six months, the intermittent home run call can make watching approximately 4 billion home runs a little more interesting. It's the responsibility of the anchor to know when a home run call has failed miserably, like my own "mama pajama," "bad dog, I told you not to leave the yard," and "boom shaka-laka." (Hey, you never know until you try).
Matt Winer tells the story of his former co-anchor who started saying "walks the dog" for every home run in the highlights. After about a hundred of these, that guy's news director poked his head into the sports office one day and said, "No more 'walking the dog,' " and then the big dog simply walked out.
Matt's got a good theory of home run calling. He's come up with a couple of lines with interchangeable parts. For instance, he'll say: "That's out -- like the Regis look." The simple phrase "that's out" allows him to stay current with any fad that goes out of style. With any luck, he'll soon be able to say: "That's out -- like Anna Nicole Smith." But unfortunately, that day hasn't arrived yet. Matt also says: "Like the Treaty of Versailles, that one's history!" Again, he can precede the phrase "that one's history" with any historical event of his choosing. "Like Sherman's march through Atlanta," "Like the Boston Tea Party" or "Like the acting career of Pauley Shore, that one's history!"
Here's a list of home run calls that could be history, or they could be part of the very near future:
"That's the ultimate driving experience."
"Ooh, yeah! That's the spot! Mmm, I love it when you pitch me there!"
"He's mighty, mighty. He's letting it all hang out!"
"It's go time."
"You go, ball."
"He flies the green."
"Like a kid going home crying to his mommy, that one's not coming back!"
"I am the Alpha dog!"
"Cost of a baseball: six dollars. Hitting it over the fence: priceless."
"Hit long and prosper!"
"It's a hard knocks life."
"Mama, say knock you out!"
"If that ball could talk, it would say: 'Ouch, you spanked me. Do it again!' "
"That ball was hit so hard that when people saw it they said: 'Boy, that ball was hit hard!' "
"Nobody's going to be shagging that fly, baby!" (to be said with an Austin Powers accent)
"If home runs were candy, Barry Bonds would be a toothless, fat man with problem skin."
"He's smacked more Homers than Marge Simpson."
"He swats so many flies, spiders are protesting."
"Just like a valet, he parks that one."
"Call the next of kin. That one's a goner."
Feel free to respond to Page 2 and comment on which ones you like, and which ones you don't. Be prepared to defend your opinions, and I certainly wouldn't mind if you offered a few ideas for home run calls of your own. Who knows? If I use it, you might get your name mentioned on international television. But don't count on it.
Bob Halloran is an anchorman for ESPNEWS.