Behind The Mic: Ranking The Area Voices, Part 2

We talk Joe Buck, The Best Radio play-by-play men in the area, plus a Q & A with one of them.

We're in the hot, lazy days of August, so it's time to have a little fun. Four-part series, ranking the play-by-play and color men in this area. This is based solely on their local work, since national assignments apply to a lot of these men. First: A look at the radio play-by-play men in the New York/New Jersey area. Enjoy.

9. John Sterling (Yankees/CBS) 

Look, John, it's too easy to pick on you. I don't want to do this anymore than you want to hear it. Please, sir ... just call it a day. From the inane catch-phrases to the botched home run calls to the overblown, constant presence of cheesy advertising throughout the games (admittedly not your fault) to the banal sense of entitlement you seem to have, to the constant desire to make sure the game is 100% about you.  Just ... just stop. Now we can begin to heal, and perhaps someday move on.  Like you refuse to.

8. Wayne Hagin (Mets/WFAN)

Baseball is the only sport which can typically feature two different play-by-play men calling the games, and sadly, Hagin sticks out like a sore thumb calling a few innings here and there with Howie Rose.  He's clearly too big a personality to play second banana, and it doesn't help that his personality simply isn't New York.  Not everyone can be a Lindsey Nelson or a Bob Murphy and make it in New York as an outsider, and Hagin simply is the weak link among the Mets broadcasting team.

7. Matt Loughlin (Devils/WFAN)

Loughlin is miscast in the play-by-play role.  A solid reporter for FSN's Devils and Mets telecasts (his sparring sessions with "The Maven" Stan Fischler during Devils intermissions are legendary among fans) Loughlin just doesn't have the right cadence for play-by-play. A for effort, as clearly none of it is ego for Loughlin, he clearly has a strong passion and knowledge for hockey. Something simply doesn't feel right on his calls, however.

6. Gus Johnson (Knicks/ESPN Radio)

I've never quite understood the fascination with Gus Johnson that much of the blogosphere has. Okay, he yells a lot. Mike Emrick does that better. He comes up with funky nicknames and catch-phrases. Other announcers do that better too. I simply don't get why he's become so popular. Fact is, he's merely an average play-by-play man, and he isn't as good at basketball as he is at football.

5. Bob Wischusen (Jets/ESPN Radio)

Wischusen is kind of in the line with a Bob Papa, simply a solid play-by-play man who does the job well.  He's fairly non-descript, which sort of mismatches him with the type of team the Jets currently employ, but he never misses a beat and calls the game the right way.

4. Chris Carrino (Nets/WFAN) 

Now, I'm no basketball guy, but lets give Chris Carrino a little credit. The man is forced to work Nets games year after year and he stays as passionate as he was when the team was in the NBA Finals. Truly deserving of a lot of the credit for keeping anyone's attention glued to the club.

3. Kenny Albert (Rangers/ESPN Radio)

Albert is clearly a rising star in sports, and it's great to see him still doing hockey with the Rangers, like his father did for so many years on WFAN. Not only does he trade off between three sports across the year, but he knows them all by the back of his hand (for further proof, see below).  He calls a great game on ESPN Radio.  Hockey's a hard sport to call on radio, but he keeps it entertaining and detailed without getting too over-the-top. He also has a great pacing, in a sport where you have a lot of play-by-play men talking a little too fast, Albert gets everything right in his own calm manner.

2. Bob Papa (Giants/WFAN)

His call of the Giants Super Bowl victory is now legendary, and it's great news that it is. Papa is a terrific play-by-play man. He's always great at keeping it simple, but not afraid to get into detailed football talk. Like the best of them, can often be very critical. I remember very dim years for the Giants where a weaker football market might have fired a guy like Papa for his candor, but I think the Giants know they've got one of the best around.

 

1. Howie Rose (Mets/WFAN, Islanders Radio Network) 

Howie is a better baseball announcer than hockey - though ironically, he will likely go down in history for a hockey call - and he doesn't ever quite do his audience service on the simulcast of the TV feed of Islanders games, but I'd bet my bottom dollar that any Mets fan worth his salt want to go back to the halcyon days of Rose with Gary Cohen more then anything. It was two years in Mets radio history, after the legendary Bob Murphy passed, where they had the modern version of Kiner, Nelson and Murph working together, 162 games a year, while the inane Ted Robinson and Fran Healy blathered away on Fox Sports Net New York.

Anyway, back to the present day.  Rose is constantly engaging, funny, full of Mets history and exciting. He's quick to criticize when things are questionable, but also does well at pointing out strengths. Baseball on the radio is one of the few sports broadcasts where the games don't often have a color analyst, and Rose bounces off the not-as-talented Wayne Hagin well.  He's exactly the man you want calling the Mets first no hitter, or the Mets next World Series, or the Mets next playoff appearance ... well, let's just hope we can stay over .500.  Regardless of record, Rose does it better than anyone

 

Joe Buck: Shinhunter 

As if New York fans needed another reason to dislike Joe Buck.

During batting practice at Yankee Stadium before FOX's telecast of Yankees/Red Sox, Alex Rodriguez was taking batting practice and ... oh, I think Mr. Buck tells it better. Let's just use the transcript of his long-winded non-apology apology yesterday:

"Chris Myers talked about Alex Rodriguez getting hit with a batted ball during batting practice, well there's more to the story ... So during batting practice, Alex Rodriguez was fielding ground balls at his position while the team was the team was taking live swings in the cage. A-Rod - in between taking ground balls off a fungo bat - turned to say "Hi" to somebody over by the dugout. When he got his head back around he was drilled in the low left shin on a ball hit by Lance Berkman.  The other part of the story is, the person he was saying hello to was me. So, in the interest of full disclosure, I played a small role in Alex Rodriguez getting hit during batting practice."

Buck then went on to mock Tim McCarver for having a funny voice. Now, give Buck credit for admitting the awkwardness of the moment. He added a little later, "at some point, my heart rate will return to it's normal 90 beats per minute."  But just be quick, get it over with, and apologize to the fans.  Nothing more needs to be said.

Five in a New York Minute with ... Kenny Albert 

Five in a New York Minute is a semi-weekly feature on Behind the Mic, in which we go rapid-fire, 5-up 5-down, with some of the big names in sports media.  This week's contestant is MLB on FOX, NFL On FOX, and New York Rangers radio play-by-play voice Kenny Albert.

Steve Lepore: You've worked both Yankee Stadium and Citi Field in recent weeks. What are some of your likes and dislikes about the two parks?

Kenny Albert: I am a traditionalist and loved working games at the "old" Yankee Stadium as well as Shea. Plus, my parents first met at Shea (May 8, 1964), so I had a very deep connection to that ballpark. However, I have really enjoyed my experiences at the new parks. At Yankee Stadium, I enjoyed a tour of both Monument Park and the Yankees Hall of Fame last season, and I had an opportunity to check out the Mets Hall of Fame at Citi Field this year. The press facilities at both ballparks are terrific. I have attended a few games as a "fan" with my family at both ballparks, and the variety of foods blows away the prior Stadiums. I also found the employees at both ballparks to be VERY fan-friendly.

SL: Why do you think the Mets season started to go downhill the way it did?

KA:  An on-going theme throughout the Mets season has been the disparity in their record at home vs. on the road. That has been the biggest reason -- to me -- why the Mets are not higher in their division. They have won only two road series all season -- in Baltimore and Cleveland. The last team to go an entire season without winning a road series within their own league: the 1909 Washington Senators!

SL: Regardless of what happens at the trade deadline, do you have to make the Yankees World Series favorites?

KA: Yes...I think the Yankees are favorites to win the AL pennant. You never know what can happen in a short series, as the Yankees have found out in some recent Octobers. But the defending champions are the defending champs until they get knocked off.

SL: Are the Jets as better than the Giants as the media/"experts" seems to think?

KA: The Giants have flown "under the radar" during the early portion of training camp, which is unusual. There are so many peaks and valleys during an NFL season. I would love to see both teams go deep into the playoffs. Remember: last season, the Giants were 5-0...and missed the playoffs. And...Rex Ryan gave a consolation "We have no shot at the playoffs" speech to his team in December, and Gang Green made it to the AFC Championship Game!

SL: Have the Rangers done enough to put themselves in position to make the playoffs next season?

Yes. The Rangers came as close to making the playoffs last season (shootout loss in Game 82) as a team can without qualifying. They have added a 30-goal scorer up front (Alexander Frolov), a quality back-up goaltender (Martin Biron) and depth (Todd White, Steve Eminger). The young defensemen (Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Michael Del Zotto, Matt Gilroy) gained a valuable season of experience, and there are 3 or 4 key prospects who will have a legitimate shot to make the squad and contribute.

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