In April, 2001, El Guapo and I were taking in a Mets game on a lazy weekend afternoon, when the following exchange took place between Gary Thorne and Tom Seaver.
Thorne: Lemme tell you about Pittsburgh...
Seaver: Go ahead.
Truly a watershed moment in Mets History.
It really makes you think about what the qualifications must be to announce a Baseball game. And through the years we have followed the Mets, we've heard some of the best and quite a bit of the worst you can get out of an announcing team. Let's take a look at some of the men who we listen to as we watch, or listen, as some of us prefer, to our team.
Gary Cohen, SNY TV
Now, Cohen sounds just like what a good announcer should sound like. Crisp, clean and to the point. I really feel comfortable listening to him announce games. His calls are never over the top (well, unless Benny Agbayani was involved), and he does an excellent job playing the straight man in the booth to the clown that is Keith Hernandez (Or Ron Darling, depending on the day). For years, he was the radio voice, and as a radio listener, I can certainly say that the Mets Radio broadcast suffers without him.
Howie Rose, WFAN Radio
Let's face it, Rose is and will always be remembered for a certain Hockey call made on May 27, 1994.
Rose is where we start to get into some trouble. Rose is now the #1 man on the Radio. He was, for many years, the host of Mets Extra, the Radio version of the Pre/Post game show, and was fired in 1992 or 93 for being overly critical of the team. He then spent many years on TV, jockeying for time during the Dark Ages of Mets Broadcasting, when the TV team consisted of Rose, Tim McCarver, Fran Healy and Rusty Staub. Now you know why I always listened to the radio.
But Rose seems to be much more at home on the Radio. He doesn't have to fill in with idiotic banter, and as far as being too opinionated, well, some men you just can't reach. But he peaked in 2004/05 when he was teamed with Cohen in the Radio booth. Thoroughly enjoyable listening. He's still decent, but I much prefer him over Tom McCarthy.
But you will never, ever get another moment out of him like "MATTEAU! MATTEAU! MATTEAU!"
Keith Hernandez, SNY TV
I think Keith Hernandez just lives his life in complete "I'm Keith Hernandez" mode. He truly plays the role of the clown on the air, and much of his charm comes from his love of mindless banter and idle chit-chat. Nobody knows more about the game of Baseball, and what a specific player could be thinking about at a specific game moment like Keith Hernandez. As a player, he had the reputation as a thinking man's player, and it came across in his performance. Now, with nothing more to prove, he can just kick back and say whatever he feels.
Well, until he offends somebody...
Ron Darling, SNY TV
Darling's purpose in the booth is mainly to counter Hernandez and provide an ex-Pitcher's perspective to the game, which he does quite well. He and Keith were, of course, ex-teammates, forever bonded by a 1986 World Championship, and they're both lionized by Mets fans because of it. In fact, few remember that Darling was the starting pitcher in Game 7 of the 1986 World Series, and by his own admission, he pitched rather poorly in that game. We hadn't heard much from Darling since his retirement in 1995 until he resurfaced as an announcer for the Washington Nationals, and then was hired by SNY for the '06 season.
Darling and Hernandez in particular seem to have a good rapport in the booth, and as El Guapo noted, they often joke around about their playing days together. It's fun during Spring Training. It can get a little annoying when they start talking about Mentos during a blowout.
Tom McCarthy, WFAN Radio
Because there is usually one announcer who is universally disliked by Mets fans, and the other four are generally liked, it's McCarthy who is the fall guy. His calls aren't necessarily bad, and he seems to get along well with Rose on the radio, but I swear to God when I listen to him announcing, it's almost as if Gilbert Gottfried stepped into the booth. And he came to the Mets after several years of working for the Phillies. That right there should give you bad vibes.
Ralph Kiner, SNY TV (occasionally)
The absolute King of Unintentional Comedy. Kiner has been butchering the English Language for as long as the Mets have been in existence. His quips are legendary. Kiner's Korner is ingrained in all of our minds. His comments page on the UMDB alone tell you how loved and revered Kiner is among Mets fans. Yes, his ability to call a game has been compromised by Bell's Palsy, and his appearances in the booth are always few and far between, but always enjoyed. The Mets are holding a night for him on July 14th this season. Nobody deserves it more.
And those who are gone, but surely not forgotten...
OK, we all wish we could forget Fran. It's hilarious now, when you turn on FSNY, and there's Fran, randomly interviewing some Lacrosse player on the "Regional Sports Re-Port!" or talking to a retired basketball player on "Halls of Fame."
Every Mets fan has that moment when Fran simply threw them over the edge. For me, it was in July, 2000. The Mets were playing a game in Toronto, and Mike Piazza hit a Grand Slam over an advertisement in the outfield that read "PIZZA PIZZA." And no less than 20 times over the course of the rest of the game, Fran kept repeating, "And Mike Piazza...Hit a Ga-Rand Sa-Lam! And he hit it OVER THE PIZZA SIGN!" And who can forget that "THE NEW YORK METS 22 YEAR OLD SHORTSTOP IS CREATING ALL KINDS OF EXCITEMENT!!!" Fran would never hesitate to beat a fact into your head repeatedly.
Bob Murphy, Emeritus
I was at Murph's last game in 2003, and I admit that I cried. And I cried again when he passed away the following summer. I know I'm going to sound a little cheesy when I say this, but Murphy was the voice of my childhood, and the first voice I remember associating with the Mets. Murphy was the perfect announcer because he always remained positive about the team without being a homer (hear that, Sterling?). You knew he rooted for the Mets, but it was always something gentle, like the Happy Recap. Of course, like Kiner, Murphy had his moments with the English Language, and as a comment on the UMDB said, "If there was ever a man on this earth who looked like Porky Pig it's Bob Murphy," but all of those things just added to his charm. Sultry Summer nights are not the same without him.
I'll close with another anecdote. Again, it's April of 2001. El Guapo and I are watching a Mets game, I believe they were playing Montreal. Fran was announcing, and Keith was in the booth, filling in (so they were in "MUHN-tree-al"). Keith had been talking about the times he had hit 2 Home Runs in a game. He had mentioned that one of the times was the day his divorce was finalized. Almost as if on cue, Lee Stevens of the Expos cranked a HR, his second of the day (most likely off Trachsel). This, of course, prompted Fran to yell with glee, "HIS SECOND HOMER OF THE DAY! AND HE'S NOT EVEN GETTING A DIVORCE!"