SBJ/March 19-25, 2012/Media

How Gowdy assembled a loss-proof baseball booth for Mets

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John Ourand
There’s a cliché in sports TV that everyone hates announcers when their team is losing.

That’s not the case in Baltimore, where Orioles fans have suffered through 14 consecutive losing seasons and see a 15th losing year sitting on the horizon. Telecasts of Orioles games on MASN are among the best in MLB thanks in large part to the regional sports network’s broadcast team of Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer.

That cliché almost certainly won’t hold true in New York this season, either, where the Mets are predicted to struggle. As the expected losses pile up, SNY’s broadcast team of Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez will be called on to keep the telecasts lively and fun.

I called Curt Gowdy Jr. — the executive who put together SNY’s much-praised broadcast team — and asked what he looks for when he chooses announcers and why some announcers are able to excel when the teams they cover lose so much. Gowdy cited a number of reasons, but they all came back to his philosophy of the “three E’s.”

“I want our announcers to educate our viewers, enlighten them and entertain them,” he said. “That’s what Gary, Keith and Ron do best.”

Gowdy believes much of a booth’s popularity comes from preparation and repetition. Announcers who are in the booth for most games are better able to develop connections with viewers, he said, than ones who work half the games or less.

“Viewers want to feel like they know their broadcast team,” Gowdy said. “When they consistently see their broadcast team every single day, there’s a closeness, there’s an affinity, there’s a real feeling of trust among them.”

Since its start in 2006, SNY’s Mets booth has become one of the best in baseball, best known for the way it calls games, blending analysis with storytelling and banter. When Gowdy assembled SNY’s booth, he looked first for a strong play-by-play announcer — which he found in Cohen. “Gary Cohen is meticulous in his preparation,” Gowdy said. “He’s a guy who’s able to be the quarterback in the booth to engage his analysts.”

Gowdy then took a chance on Hernandez and Darling. He saw potential in both former players: Hernandez, who had done a few Mets games on MSG Network, and Darling, who had a forgettable year covering the Nationals on MASN in what was his first full-time job in the broadcast booth. The former Mets teammates gave the booth what Gowdy called “instant chemistry.” During his career, Hernandez was a Gold Glove fielder and had a big bat; Darling, a Yale grad, was an effective pitcher.

“You automatically have two analysts who are able to bring in different viewpoints about the game of baseball,” Gowdy said.

Gowdy rounded it out with Kevin Burkhardt, a sideline reporter who has a bigger role than most sideline reporters in that he often appears in the booth.

So, what other local baseball booths does Gowdy enjoy?

• Thorne and Palmer, MASN: “Gary has a lot of experience in baseball play-by-play, and Jim Palmer, as a Hall of Fame pitcher, has a lot of insightful analysis.”

Brian Anderson, FS Wisconsin: “He’s easy to listen to, and he sticks to the nuts and bolts of broadcasting a game. He engages his analyst as well.”

Vin Scully, Prime Ticket/KCAL-TV: “Talk about a storyteller. Any young play-by-play person who wants to be able to tell a story should listen to Vin Scully.”

Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow, CSN Bay Area: “They are well-prepared and disciplined. They are entertaining. They’ve got a great grasp on the history of [the Giants].”

Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy, NESN: “They really play to that New England audience. Jerry, growing up there, is a big plus, in my opinion. Don gives you all of the true fundamentals that you need. They also have a lot of fun together. I like that about their broadcast team."

Len Kasper and Bob Brenly, CSN Chicago, WGN: “Bob Brenly has a wealth of knowledge. Len is quick witted.”
Added Gowdy: “All these guys also understand the importance of letting a telecast breathe.”

And that’s especially important if, or when, those losses start adding up.

John Ourand can be reached at jourand@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ourand_SBJ.

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