HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
April 9, 2006

The loss of a summer love

By Matt Kane

Everybody remembers his or her summer love.

Last week, thousands of Minnesotans and midwesterners lost one of their summer loves when legendary Twins’ radio broadcaster Herb Carneal died.

Like a kiss from those summer loves of the other kind, when Twins fans first tuned their radio dials to WCCO every March for spring training broadcasts and heard Carneal, it always felt, ohhh, so good.

I’ve written before in this column about how I love little more than listening to ball games on the radio while driving, and a lot of that had to do with listening to Carneal describe bunts, bloops, and backhands for so many years.

His voice was so soothing to the ear. When lying in bed at night listening to the Twins during a West Coast swing, Carneal’s grandfatherly voice made for many sweet dreams.

Carneal hadn’t been on the air as much in recent years, but when he did call an inning, it just felt better and more right than the other innings, when Dan Gladden and John Gordon were calling the game.

Gladden and Gordon do a fine job, but when comparing them to Carneal, there is no comparison.

Current Twins television color man and former Twins pitcher Bert Blyleven described listening to Carneal best at Thursday’s memorial service.

It was “like you were actually there, sitting behind home plate,” he said.

Blyleven is correct. All Carneal did was describe the plays, his words acting as a guideline to each listener’s imagination.

Some moments just stick in a person’s head. From the 1991 World Series, Twins fans will never forget Jack Buck telling the television audience, “And we’ll see you tomorrow night.” Carneal’s declaration, “And the Twins are baseball’s world champions” after Gary Gaetti threw to Kent Hrbek for the final out of the 1987 World Series is another one of those moments.

It’s kind of ironic two of the more memorable baseball phrases came from two legendary hall of fame broadcasters.

It is sad, when you think about it, that the voices of our and our parent’s youth are fading away.

Mel Allen, who I knew more as the host of “This Week in Baseball,” passed away in 1996; Harry Caray, who I remember for trying to pronounce people’s names backwards, died in 1998, and Buck went to the press box in the sky in 2002.

We will never hear a live broadcast from Allen, Caray, Buck, or Carneal again, but, thanks to the job they held down, we will always be able to listen to them.

“We make pictures as we go through life. Then we’re gone and the pictures remain,” former Tiger’s broadcaster and close friend to Carneal, Ernie Harwell, was quoted in the StarTribune. “The picture that I have of Herb Carneal is a composite picture of a dedicated worker, a true friend, and a devoted family man.
“He left us a real legacy that we will always remember.”

We will always remember Carneal, because he was that grandfatherly voice that played over the Midwestern airwaves, and because that’s what baseball fans do, they remember.

Baseball fans remember Bobby Thomson’s famous, “shot heard round the world” in 1951, but why? Because of the radio calls, that’s why.

“There’s a long drive … it’s gonna be … I believe …the Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! … I don’t believe it. … The Giants win the pennant!”

These were the words of Giant’s announcer Russ Hodges, who passed away in 1971. Hodges makes the home run what it is, not vice versus.

And, to me, Carneal, as much as any player, made the Twins.

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