Today is the Baltimore Orioles’ lone off day during Grapefruit League play. At first I was a little surprised that it was this early on, however the schedule’s a bit different this year in that spring training ends on a Sunday and Opening Day’s on Thursday. So the players will have some time off right before the season starts.
So with no game to cover I wanted to get to the business of a column that I write in some form every spring training. Nobody honors the past quite like the Orioles, and a big part of that past resides in the broadcast booth. Do the words ain’t the beer cold?!, or Go to war, Ms. Agnes! mean anything to you?!
Chuck Thompson called Orioles games on both TV and radio from the 1950’s until finally retiring for good after the 2000 season. Thompson retired from full time duty in 1983, however came out of retirement a few years later to work games part-time on the radio. Speaking for myself, that’s how I remember him and how I was introduced to his work.
Simply put, nobody was as good as Chuck behind the mic – NOBODY. He had that smooth delivery which brought along with it thoughts of hometown, summertime, vacation, and good times. His call of games could lend to the belief that one was sitting on the front porch sipping lemonade while following the game, or perhaps laying on a beach in Ocean City – down-y oshun!
Chuck Thompson came of age in the baseball broadcasting business when the concept of the hometown announcer was a huge idea. Back then precious few games were televised, and people followed the team on radio if they couldn’t get to the game or if the team was out of town. Thompson acted as a liason of sorts between the team and the fans. This is still an important aspect in the jobs of the men who cover baseball today, however in an age of mass media and online columns (including this one!) people find different ways to follow teams.
When you use the term the voice of the Orioles people of a certain age immediately think of the great Chuck Thompson. He was to Baltimore what Vin Scully was to Los Angeles. And Mel Allen to New York, Ernie Harwell to Detroit, Jack Buck to St. Louis, Jack Brickhouse/Harry Caray to Chicago, or Harry Kalas to Philadelphia. All of those men were of similar age and broadcasting characteristic. And all of them seemingly came to represent the cities and teams that they served.
Speaking for myself, I loved Chuck Thompson’s aforementioned catch-phrases. Everyone did. However I think the thing I remember the most about him as how he always seemed to emphasize the second O in OriOles. It’s little things as such that endeared broadcasters to their hometowns. Chuck Thompson walks in lockstep with Orioles fans of a certain age. He represents not only Orioles baseball, but summertime. And he’ll nary be forgotten, even as the years go on.