TBG's Sounds of Summer: Oakland A's

Game: Los Angeles Angels vs. Oakland A’s
Date: July 13
Network: Comcast SportsNet

Play-by-Play: Glen Kuiper
Color Commentator: Ray Fosse
Token Girl Near the Dugout: Jaymee Sire

As most of y’all know, in spite of my unabashed adoration for the A’s, I’ve never lived in the Bay Area. As a result, I don’t have any sepia-toned romantic attachments to their past broadcasters. Through old VHS season highlight tapes, I know that Lon Simmons’ “Tell it goodbye!” home run calls were the standard for the late 80s/early 90s team. And, the late Bill King’s “Holy Toledo!” catchphrase ruled the A’s radio airwaves until his death in 2005. I say all this to demonstrate how I actually can be unbiased about a game that involves the goddamm Angels.

Chemistry: Kuiper and Fosse have been a full time duo since the start of last year. They play off of each other pretty well, but Kuiper doesn’t do a good enough job of driving the broadcast. Kuiper defers to Fosse way too much, letting the former A’s catcher prattle on with his uncomplicated analysis. In the 4th inning of this game, A’s starter Justin Duchscherer put two runners on, slowing the pace of the game to a crawl, which was made worse by the amount of dead air in the booth. Say something, Glen! Grade: 6/10

Knowledge: Fosse’s strength as a color commentator lies almost exclusively with his insights on catcher footwork, positioning and pitch recognition. He’s surprisingly just OK in breaking down other aspects of the game, often stating the obvious or simply narrating a replay for the viewer. Kuiper seems almost reluctant to overstep his play-by-play boundaries which, to a point, is understandable, but a more frequent dialogue with Fosse doesn’t necessarily have to be a debate. Grade: 5.5/10

Enthusiasm: A’s LF Jack Cust hit one out and was serenaded with one of Kuiper’s typically unpolished home run calls (“That baby’s hit well aaaaaaaand GONE!”). Kuiper’s voice lacks real urgency, though and he doesn’t tailor his delivery to convey tension or drama. Fosse probably loves the A’s a little too much, but the liveliest he got here was several seconds of howling laughter when he found out that Supercuts was sponsoring the Dick Williams bobblehead promotion later that month. Supercuts? But, the 1970s A’s didn’t GET haircuts! Get it?! Grade: 5.5/10

Bar Stool Q: I actually met Fosse on an elevator in Anaheim during the summer of ’99. I’ve had my fill, thank you. It’s not that he’s not a nice guy (he is)…it’s just that he’s an old school ex-ballplayer who I’m sure still subscribes to the cone of silence policy outside the clubhouse. I mean, if I can’t get the poop on those psychedelic ’70s A’s teams, what’s the point in buying him a beer? Kuiper’s clearly a company man, too, but since his company is my company, he can come along. Grade: 4.5/10

Camera/Production: The on-field microphone (pretty sure it’s on the screen, behind home plate) didn’t appear to be on for the first few innings. A’s crowds aren’t big, but they’re loud and with all the dead air, it was like listening in on a morgue, at times. The number of crowd shots (mostly of fans wearing giveaway Dave Stewart jerseys) got tedious, quickly. Points though for the “flashback” segment that featured Mark McGwire’s 1992 Home Run Derby eruption. Personally, a fun memory and made more enjoyable since the broadcasters raved about his strength and power without mentioning the elephant in the room. Grade: 4/10

Homerism: Fosse isn’t as bad as the Angels’ Rex Hudler, but, then again, the Wonder Dog is in a class by himself. In the fifth inning, Duchscherer was obviously getting squeezed by the home plate umpire, yet on one pitch that missed the corner by a good six inches, Fosse exasperatedly sighed, “I don’t know where THAT was.” Earlier in the game, the first few innings of Fosse and Kuiper were an extended oral resume of Duchscherer’s All-Star credentials (“I don’t know HOW he’s lost five games!”) Grade: -6.5

Commerciality: The A’s “100% Baseball” ad campaign isn’t as clever as in past seasons, but my son gets a kick out of it. The recruiting spots for the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Department were…quite something. And, the new “Get Your Smokey On” commercials is another fine marketing moment of African-American slang getting manipulated…10 years after everyone stopped saying it.

AFLAC Trivia Question: “Which A’s pitchers won 20+ games with Oakland in more than one season?” (My answer: Dave Stewart, Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue; Correct answer: same) Pfft…challenge me, AFLAC 4 for 9

Final Grade: 19

Aaron Cameron blogs about baseball, music, movies, food, MFWNTAKs and the whole damn Bootleg Family over at That Bootleg Guy.