Results tagged ‘ Chuck Thompson ’
The Baltimore Orioles recently had radio announcer Joe Angel retire. Angel was an institution among Orioles fans, and he definitely had what they call the “golden pipes” behind the mic. However when Angel first came to the Orioles (in the first of his three stunts), he was working with a name that was and still is legendary: the great Chuck Thompson.
I do a tribute column to Chuck Thompson every year in Spring Training. Simply put, Chuck was the best. THE ABSOLUTE BEST IN THE BUSINESS. His name wasn’t as well know perhaps as the likes of a Vin Scully, Jack Brickhouse, Harry Caray, or Mel Allen. But he was Baltimore’s version of those guys – and THAT made him the best!
I was only privileged to hear Thompson towards the end of his storied career, mainly while he worked part-time for the Orioles. However his prowess behind the mic was no less prevalent than in his heyday. He had that smooth delivery and that conversational tone that made you feel like he was describing the game for you in your living room.
And his trademarks – who could forget that?! The title of this article is an obvious play on his best-known catchphrase, ain’t the beer cold?! That would come out anytime the Orioles would win. During a game if they would make a frat play, Chuck would drag out his other catchphrase, go to war, Ms. Agnes! Allegedly that was an ode to an old race horse named the Ms. Agnes. When you use either one of those phrases with people of a certain age in Baltimore, they know exactly to what and to whom you are referring.
Part of the reason that Chuck Thompson and so many others (such as the names I mentioned above) were so special to Baltimore and their respective cities is because radio is how people followed the games. Often times they weren’t televised. And if they were, it might only be one game a week – which may or may not have featured your team.
So the voice of Chuck Thompson was how fans followed the Orioles. The same is true of Harry Kalas in Philadelphia, Jack Brickhouse in Chicago, and Red Barber in Brooklyn. They were the voices of baseball, and thus the voices of summertime – good times, vacation, etc. That’s powerful.
Many of the Orioles’ games aired on Home Team Sports by the time this 80’s kid came along. For the most part, one game per series would appear on over-the-air television (with two on HTS). However I also had a father who famously and out of principle refused to pay the nominal up charge to include HTS in our cable package. So I spent a lot of nights and afternoons listening to games on the radio. In that sense I’m somewhat of a throwback to previous generations, as those voices with whom I grew up mean something to me.
I found it ironic a few years ago when the O’s were down in DC to play the Washington Nationals on Memorial Day. My route to the ballpark that day took me through a Washington Harbor, where I noticed a large boat docked near The Sequoia (the former Presidential Yacht). The boat was named The Miss Agnes, and it was listed as being from Baltimore. As a kid who grew up listening to Chuck Thompson call games on the radio, I got a kick out of that. It was also cool to see in Washington, because Thompson called Washington Senators games for a few years in the early 1960’s.
We’re still here Chuck, keeping the beer cold one draft at a time!
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.
I thought it was a great gesture for the Baltimore Orioles to honor their MLB Hall of Famers with statues in the outfield picnic area in 2012. All of the ceremonies were very well done, and I feel like the fans really got a kick out of them. And it didn’t hurt that it coincided with the re-birth of the Orioles as a winning franchise. However there’s still one Oriole Hall of Fame member who doesn’t have the recognition he deserves at Camden Yards.
I write a column on this topic every year towards the end of spring training, and quite honestly it’s one of my favorite ones to write. The great Chuck Thompson was the voice of the Orioles on both television and radio for years and years. While he also did some play-by-play work for the Washington Senators in the 1950’s, he was a voice and a persona that belonged uniquely to Baltimore. Granted he did some national work, but he was always Baltimore’s voice.
Thompson of course called Orioles games, as well as Baltimore Colts’ games. Odds are that any big time Baltimore sports moment until the 1980’s featured Thompson behind the mic. He retired in 1983, but returned to the radio both part-time a few years later before retiring in 2000 for good. And it’s in those latter years of his career that I remember him in my own youth. However as great of an announcer as he was even then, he really came to life for me from the stories told by my Dad and my Uncles of him from years before.
We all know the catchphrases…ain’t the beer cold, and go to war, Ms. Agnes! Those were vintage Chuck Thompson phrases, which represented summertime, BBQ’s, the beach, and Orioles baseball to us all. Speaking for myself, I always loved how at times Thompson would reverse his words in terms of how one might have otherwise said something. “…bats from the left side, does Eddie Murray,” as opposed to “Eddie Murray bats from the left side.” It’s little things like that which make hometown announcers in baseball the best. And Thompson was no exception.
So my issue is that short of his name being in the Orioles’ hall of fame, there’s no recognition of Thompson or his role in the organization at the ballpark. And I think that’s a shame. The Washington Nationals aptly dedicated their press box in honor of the great writer, Shirley Povich. That’s exactly the type of thing I’d like to see the Orioles consider doing. Because Chuck Thompson was an institution in and of himself. He was as much a part of the great Oriole teams of yesteryear as any of the players or coaches. It was through his voice, that fans followed the team. And to those of us who didn’t grow up watching games on our iPads or phones, that still means a lot.
So I would love to see the Orioles do something along the lines of what the Nationals did for Shirley Povich. Or perhaps simply name the radio booth in honor of Thompson. As the 1993 winner of the Ford C. Frick award, he is an MLB Hall of Famer. And thus he should be viewed as such.