Breaking Down Two Great Calls

This is about Vin Scully and Jack Buck, but I kind of got lost along the way. Hey, it happens. Three years ago, I posted (with a great deal of help from my editor Larry Burke) the 32 best calls in sports history. In going back to find it, I realize that those 32 calls were taken down at some point.

So, I repost those calls. Then I get to Scully and Buck. I did include the links from the original story when they were not dead:

32. Verne Lundquist on Christian Laettner’s shot to beat Kentucky.

“There’s the pass to Laettner. Puts it up. Yes!”

31. Gus Johnson on Gonzaga’s win over Florida in the Sweet 16.

“It’s over! Gonzaga! The slipper still fits!”

30. Chris Cuthbert and Harry Neale on Tie Domi’s sucker-punch knockout of cheap shot artist Ulf Samuelson.

“You live by the sword, you’re apt to die by it.”

29. Bill White on Bucky “F—–“ Dent’s home run to beat the Red Sox in ’78.

“Yastrzemski will not get it … it’s a home run! A three-run home run for Bucky Dent.”

28. Mike Keith on Tennessee’s Music City Miracle.

“End zone! Touchdown Titans! There are … NO … FLAGS … ON the field. It’s a miracle!”

27. Jack Buck on the Kirby Puckett that forced Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.

“We’ll see you tomorrow night!”

26. Joe Buck’s homage to Dad using David Ortiz’s post-midnight homer in the 2004 ALCS.

“Ortiz into right field, back is Sheffield, we’ll see you later tonight!”

25. Jon Miller on Ruben Rivera’s classic base-running error.

“The pitch, swing, and there’s a shot deep into right center, racing back Dellucci, still going back into Death Valley, it goes right over his glove, he missed it, but Ruben Rivera missed second base. Now he’s heading for third and they’re going to throw him out by plenty, but the throw to third is botched. Now he’s heading home, the loose ball in the infield, and he’s out by five feet at the plate. And that was the worst base-running in the history of the game. The game should be over, and Ruben Rivera just did the worst base-running you will ever see. Unbelievable. Ruben Rivera had gone around second base, and then for some reason seemed to assume that the ball was caught in the outfield. He got totally lost and confused out there, and started to go back to second base as Grissom was pulling in at second. Ruben Rivera was the only man in the ballpark, apparently, who did not know what just happened.”

24. Verne Ludquist on tight end Jackie Smith’s dropped pass in Super Bowl XIII.

“Dropped in the end zone, Jackie Smith all by himself. Bless his heart, he’s got to be the sickest man in America.”

23. Tom Cheek on Joe Carter’s home run that ended the 1993 World Series.

“Touch ‘em all, Joe. You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life.”

22. Marv Albert on Michael Jordan’s mesmerizing, hand-switching layup against Los Angeles in the 1991 NBA Finals.

“Oh! A spectacular move by Michael Jordan!”

21. Jack Buck on Ozzie Smith’s home run to beat the Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1985 NLCS.

“Go crazy folks! Go crazy! It’s a home run!”

20. Milo Hamilton on Henry Aaron’s 715th home run, the one that passed Babe Ruth.

“Outta here! It’s gone! It’s 715! There’s a new home run champion of all time, and it’s Henry Aaron.”

19. Vin Scully on the ball that went through Bill Buckner’s legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

“Little roller up along first … behind the bag … it gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight and the Mets win it!”

18. Dan Hicks on Jason Lezak’s ridiculous comeback to overtake world record holder Alain Bernard in final leg of 400-meter relay at 2008 Olympics.

“The United States trying to hang on to second, they should get the silver medal. … Now, though, Lezak is closing a little bit on Bernard. Can the veteran chase him down and pull off a shocker here?… Bernard is losing some ground! Here comes Lezak! Unbelievable at the end! He’s done it! The U.S. has done it!”

  1. 17. Scully on the last batter of Sandy Koufax’s perfect game.

“He is one out away from the promised land, and Harvey Kuenn is comin’ up. … So Harvey Kuenn is batting for Bob Hendley. The time on the scoreboard is 9:44. The date, September the ninth, 1965, and Koufax working on veteran Harvey Kuenn. Sandy into his windup and the pitch … a fastball for a strike. He has struck out, by the way, five consecutive batters, and that’s gone unnoticed.

“Sandy ready and the strike one pitch: very high. And he lost his hat. He really forced that one. That’s only the second time tonight where I have had the feeling that Sandy threw instead of pitched, trying to get that little extra, and that time he tried so hard his hat fell off. He took an extremely long stride to the plate, and Torborg had to go up to get it.

“One and one to Harvey Kuenn. Now he’s ready: fastball, high, ball two. You can’t blame a man for pushing just a little bit now. Sandy backs off, mops his forehead, runs his left index finger along his forehead, dries it off on his left pants leg. All the while, Kuenn’s just waiting. Now Sandy looks in. Into his windup and the 2-1 pitch to Kuenn: swung on and missed, strike two.

“It is 9:46 p.m. Two and two to Harvey Kuenn, one strike away. Sandy into his windup, here’s the pitch:
“Swung on and missed, a perfect game!

“On the scoreboard in right field it is 9:46 p.m. in the City of the Angels, Los Angeles, California. And a crowd of 29,139 just sitting in to see the only pitcher in baseball history to hurl four no-hit, no-run games. He has done it four straight years, and now he caps it: On his fourth no-hitter he made it a perfect game. And Sandy Koufax, whose name will always remind you of strikeouts, did it with a flurry. He struck out the last six consecutive batters. So when he wrote his name in capital letters in the record books, that ‘K’ stands out even more than the O-U-F-A-X.”

16. Howie Rose on the Stephane Matteau’s overtime goal that sent the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals.

“Matteau swoops in to intercept. Matteau behind the net, swings it in front. He scores! Matteau! Matteau! Stephane Matteau! The Rangers have one more hill to climb, baby, but it’s Mount Vancouver!”

15. Kenneth Wolstenholme on the end of the 1966 World Cup.

“Some people are on the pitch. They think it’s all over. It is now.”

14. Someone in the booth yelling during Billy Mills extraordinary comeback at 10,000 Meters at the 11964 Olympics. Some have said it was a fan yelling, or someone working for ABC in another role. There are those who say it was announcer Dick Bank.

“Look at Mills! Look at Mills!”

13. Bob Costas summing up Michael Jordan seconds after he hit the shot that beat Utah.

“That may have been — who knows what will unfold in the next several months — but that may have been the last shot Michael Jordan will ever take in the NBA. … If that’s the last image of Michael Jordan, how magnificent is it?”

12. Johnny Most on famous Boston Celtics steals — I count Havlicek and Bird as one entry.

“Havlicek steals it! … Havlicek stole the ball! It’s all over! It’s all over!”

“Now there’s a steal by Bird. Underneath to DJ, who lays it in!”

11. Bill King’s remarkable soliloquy after Oakland’s Ken Stabler fumbled forward the Holy Roller. While the last line is goose bump popping, my favorite part has always been the two words before: “He does!”

“The ball flipped forward is loose! A wild scramble, two seconds on the clock. … Casper grabbing the ball … it is ruled a fumble … Casper has recovered in the end zone! The Oakland Raiders have scored on the most zany, unbelievable, absolutely impossible dream of a play! Madden is on the field. He wants to know if it’s real. They said yes, get your big butt out of here! He does! There’s nothing real in the world anymore!”

10. Three awesome college football calls — I realize that’s cheating, choosing three, but that’s what I did:

Larry Munson on the chair-crunching Georgia play that beat Florida: “Got a block behind him. Gonna throw on the run. Complete to the 25. To the 30. Lindsey Scott! Thirty-five, forty. Lindsey Scott! Forty-five, forty! Run Lindsey! Twenty-five, twenty, fifteen, ten, five! Lindsey Scott! Lindsey Scott! Lindsey Scott! [crowd noise] Well, I can’t believe it, 92 yards, and Lindsey really got in a foot race. I broke my chair. I came right through a chair. A metal steel chair with about a five-inch cushion. I broke it. The booth came apart. The stadium, well, the stadium fell down.”

Lyell Bremser on Johnny Rodger’s punt return of the century: “He’s all the way home! Holy Moly, man, woman and child did that put them in the aisles! Johnny the Jet Rodgers just tore ‘em loose from their shoes!”

Dan Davis on Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary that beat Miami: “Looks, uncorks a deep one toward the end zone, Phelan is down there (Oh he got it!) did he get it (he got it!) Yes! Touchdown! Touchdown! Touchdown! Touchdown! Touchdown Boston College! He did it! He did it! Flutie did it!”

9. Vin Scully on The Catch.

“Montana … looking … looking … throwing in the end zone … Clark caught it! Dwight Clark! [Crowd noise ... 29 seconds] It’s a madhouse at Candlestick.

8. Verne Lundquist on Tiger Woods’ chip on No. 16 at the Masters.

“Oh, wow! In your life, have you seen anything like that?”

7. Victor Hugo Morales on Diego Maradona’s man-against-the-world gold in the 1986 World Cup.

First in Spanish: “Siempre Maradona. Genio! Genio! Genio! Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta … GOOOOOOOOAL! GOOOOOOAL! … Quiero llorar! … Dios Santo! … Viva el Futbol! … Golaaaaazoooo! Diegoooool! Maradona! Es para llorar, perdoneme. Maradona en recorrida memorable en la jugada de todos los tiempos. … Barrilete cosmico! … De que planeta viniste? … para dejar en el camino a tanto ingles. … Para que el pais sea un puno apretado gritando por Argentina … Argentina dos, Inglaterra cero … Diegol! Diegol! Diego Amando Maradona! … Gracias, dios por el futbol, por Maradona, por estas lagrimas, por este Argentina dos, Inglaterra cero.”

And translated: “Always Maradona. Genius! Genius! Genius! Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta … GOOOOOOOOAL! GOOOOOOAL! … I mourn. … Holy God… Viva football. … Golaaaaazoooo! Diegoooool! Maradona! It is to mourn, forgive me. Maradona memorably traveled on the play of all time. Cosmic Kite. … Which planet are you from? … To leave both on the road to English. … For the country is a closed fist screaming for Argentina. … Argentina two, England zero. … Diegol! Diegol! Diego Armando Maradona! … Thank God for soccer, for Maradona, for these tears, for Argentina two, England zero.”

6. Chic Anderson on Secretariat at the Belmont.

“Secretariat is widening now! He is moving like a tremendous machine! Secretariat by 12! Secretariat by 14 lengths on the turn!”

5. Vin Scully and Jack Buck on Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series home run.

Buck: “Gibson swings. And a fly ball deep to right! This is gonna be a home run! Unbelievable! A home run for Gibson! And the Dodgers have won the game 5-4! I don’t believe what I just saw! I don’t believe what I just saw!”

Scully: “High fly ball into right field. She is… gone. [Crowd noise] In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”

4. Joe Starkey on The Play — Stanford v. Cal.

“The ball is still loose as they get it to Rodgers! They get it back now to the 30, they’re down to the 20…. Oh, the band is out on the field! He’s gonna go into the end zone! He’s gone into the end zone!! … And the Bears, the Bears have won! The Bears have won! Oh, my God! The most amazing, sensational, dramatic, heart-rending, exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football!”

3. Howard Cosell calling George Foreman’s first knockdown of Joe Frazier.

“Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!”

2. Russ Hodges on the Giants, er, winning the pennant.

“Here’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! [crowd noise] Bobby Thomson hits into the lower deck of the left-field stands! [WAHOO! heard in background again] The Giants win the pennant, and they’re goin’ crazy! They’re goin’ crazy! Heeeey-oh!”

1. Al Michaels. 1980. U.S. Olympic Hockey team.

“Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”

* * *

As you can see, even then I ranked the Kirk Gibson home runs calls of Vin Scully and Jack Buck as a tie. That is the point of all this. Tuesday was the 25th anniversary of the Gibson home run that is No. 5 on the list. It is the only great play in American sports history I can think of that has TWO iconic calls. Which one was better? It was much easier for me three years go to rank them as a tie and not get into it. But, now, 25-year anniversary …

I first heard the home run on the radio. That meant Jack Buck. It was a Saturday night — should give you a small idea of how much sports has changed that they started the World Series on a Saturday night — and I was driving home from the Duke-Clemson game at Memorial Stadium. Hey, that was actually a good Duke team coached by the ol’ Ball Coach Steve Spurrier. And, yeah, Clemson won 49-17.

Anyway, I was driving up I-85, and I was literally driving by the giant water tower shaped like a peach right outside of Gaffney, when Gibson hit the home run and Buck screamed “I don’t believe what I just saw!” It was so amazing I remember pulling over to the side of the road and getting out of the car.

I honestly cannot remember when I first heard Scully’s legendary, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.” But I remember being awed by it from the start. So perfect.

Now, 25 years later, it’s so clear what makes each of those calls such genius. I asked people on Twitter which call they liked better, which is a totally unfair question. And it did not surprise me that the vote went almost right down the middle. It did surprise me, though, how PASSIONATE people were about their choices. I figured on getting a lot of, “They’re both great calls but I like this one better.” Intead, it was more like one tweet would say “Scully and it’s not close,” and the next would be, “I’m a Scully fan, but Buck’s call was way better.” It did not seem that many people liked BOTH calls at all, much less like them equally.

And maybe that makes sense. The calls really are different. They are not just different words and different decibel levels and different men announcing. They seem to reach for different parts of us as sports fans.

Buck’s call was passion. Jack Buck was as good as anyone has ever been at grabbing your heart, pulling it out of your chest, letting it beat in the sunshine. “Go crazy folks” is not a particularly expressive or vivid phrase, but when Ozzie Smith hits a left-handed home run to win a playoff game — he hit FIVE left-handed home runs in his entire big league career — it is the roar for that moment as a Cardinals fan. The call that would clash against the feelings of a Dodgers’ fan and would not mean much to a neutral observer. But Buck was talking to Cardinals fans. “Go crazy folks,” was like the soundtrack to their wild emotions.

That was Jack Buck. His calls came directly from his heart, unfiltered, unadorned. And his was a fan’s heart. When he saw Gibson’s amazing home run, there were no words for it, no words he could think of at the time. He could not believe it. He literally could not believe it. He had been watching baseball for a half century or more, and that was unlike anything — a wounded man who could barely walk hitting the home run off the great Dennis Eckersley, He could not believe what he just saw. And so he said, “I don’t believe what I just saw.”

Scully’s call was poetry. Vin’s love of baseball is evident in every call he makes, but it’s not the love of a fan. He loves baseball as an artist, loves it the way Da Vinci loved Mona Lisa — he wants to bring out every nuance, every subtlety, every sound and smell and sliver of sunlight. Many of us have written about Scully’s love of crowd noise — after the Dwight Clark catch that sent San Francisco to its first Super Bowl, he did not say a word for 29 seconds, letting the crowd noise tell the story. He did the same after Henry Aaron’s 715th home run. “There is nothing I could say,” he explained, “that could tell the story better.”

Think about that for a minute. Scully is an announcer. He has made his living speaking words to describe action. And, in the biggest moment, he trusts that the sound of 50,000 other people can tell it better than he can.

And so what makes Scully’s call art is how he quickly describes the call (“She is gone!”) and then lets the crowd noise take over and then, when the cheers have soaked through and are exhausted, he came in with the most poetic phrase, one he said was given to him like a gift from God: “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”

Comparing the two calls is like comparing a good beer when you’re sweating and hot with the amazing song “What’s Going On,” coming on the radio. It’s like comparing the feeling of making a hole-in-one with the feeling of your child bringing home a good report card. It’s like comparing the most amazing chocolate ice cream with getting fooled by the ending to “The Sixth Sense.” I mean, it’s all absolutely fantastic, and there’s no real common ground there. I heard Buck’s call first, so it is the call that rings through me when I see that home run. But I have watched Scully’s call probably 50 times since it happened, and I think it’s the most beautiful arrangement of words ever built around a great baseball play.

So, I’m still copping out, right?

Fine: I think Buck’s call is more memorable. I think Scully’s call was better.

59 thoughts on “Breaking Down Two Great Calls

  1. MtheL

    Joe – Since your list 3 years old now, are there any other calls you would add to this list? Maybe Joe Buck’s call on David Freese’s homerun in the 11th of game 6 of the 2011 World Series?

    Reply
  2. simonsharkeygotlieb

    I know why this call is not on your list — most Americans wouldn’t know this call unless they are ridiculously huge hockey fans and students of hockey history — but Foster Hewitt’s call of Paul Henderson’s goal to win the Summit Series (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQFZIF-RMDA) needs to be on this list, somewhere. Period.

    “Cournoyer has it on that wing. Here’s a shot – Henderson made a wild stab for it and fell. Here’s another shot! Right in front – THEY SCORE!!! Henderson has scored for Canada! Henderson, right in front of the net. And the fans of the team are going wild! Henderson right in front of the Soviet goal with 34 seconds left in the game!”

    I guess there’s more of an impact if you’re Canadian, and I say that as a Canadian who loves baseball way more than I’ll ever love hockey. In 1972 nobody knew anything about the Soviets, we were supposed to walk over them. They played Canada tough, they won all but 1 of the games in Canada — the team was booed in Vancouver, it was a national embarrassment — and then Paul Henderson scored in the last minute to win. The pride of this moment is felt to this day, and it’s felt in Foster Hewitt’s call from Moscow. Hewitt is the Red Barber or Vin Scully of hockey for most Canadians, and in 1972 he actually came out of retirement to call this series, that’s how important it was. This call was a defining moment in the sport and the history of Canada, and every Canadian knows this call word for word. It is the defining Canadian hockey call, whether you were alive in 1972 or not (I wasn’t). It doesn’t have to be number one on the list, and I know why it’s not even listed on yours — Al Michaels’ call in 1980 is more important to Americans, and rightfully so. A lot of Americans wouldn’t even know about the Summit Series and the importance it had for sport around the world, especially from behind the Iron Curtain. We can argue all day about whether Michaels in 1980 or Hewitt in 1972 is THE defining call for the entire sport of hockey, and points can be made for each. But I had to add it down here, because quite frankly, if you’re doing a list of the most famous sports calls in history then “Henderson Has Scored For Canada” has to be on there or the list just isn’t complete.

    Reply
    1. simonsharkeygotlieb

      Other than that though, great list. Personally I love Scully’s call — I’m a sucker for baseball on the radio, and his descriptions of the entire 9th inning are just beautiful — but man you can’t go wrong. Jack Buck just says what we’re all thinking in one sentence. It’s two of the greats working their magic at the mic, and it’s wonderful.

      Reply
  3. Kirk

    Scully let the crowd roar in Atlanta, but then said this (worthy of a top five): “What a marvelous moment for baseball. What a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time idol. And it is a great moment for all of us, and particularly for Henry Aaron.”

    Reply
  4. John Boyette

    Joe, great job as always. But I like Verne Lundquist’s call from the 1986 Masters (Jack’s putt on 17) better than the Tiger chip-in. That one’s just fresher in our minds. Also, for sheer drama, what about the 1975 Masters back-and-forth between Henry Longhurst and Ben Wright?

    Reply
  5. Wilbur

    This Cub fan would say: take any Cardinal radio broadcast by Harry Caray back in the 50′s or 60′s, and it outdoes almost anything here. He was unbelievably good, every night.

    Reply
  6. Rick

    Jack Buck couldn’t hold Scully’s jockstrap as an announcer…however, his call of the Gibson HR was better; the most memorable sports call in my mind.

    Reply
  7. ET

    “Aaannnndd, We’ll See You Tomorrow Night.” First of all you forgot the “Aaannnd,” important part of the call in my opinion. Also Joe Buck in front of Jack Buck for essentially copying a call?! I’m biased as a Twins fan who can vividly remember that call as an eight year old who, with his Dad, had tickets to the eventual Game 7, so naturally I think it should be higher on this list. Bias aside, anything Joe Buck has ever done should never be ahead of anything his Father ever called. The Joe Buck call was a cool homage to his father, but doesn’t belong ahead of him on this list. Switch their spots at the very least.

    Reply
    1. Robert Flaxman

      I was just coming down here to post this. However sweet the homage, it wasn’t better than the original – and even if it somehow HAD been, it STILL wouldn’t belong in front of it since it wasn’t original. Jack’s moment was better than Joe’s as well. World Series vs. ALCS? No contest.

      Reply
  8. Mark Daniel

    “Okay, thanks Steve. Hello everybody. Starting for the Expos in left field, Casey Candaele. He’s no good. In right field is Mitch Webster, he’s no good. At first is Andres…how would you folks at home say that name….Andres Gala…Galarr…Galarraga…Galarraga. Tim Wallach’s at 3rd, Jeff Reed is catching, Vance Law…is overrated. He’s at second. Tom Foley, shouldn’t even been playing, he’s at shortstop. Herman Winingham….what, you gonna be afraid of a guy named Herman Winingham? We’ll just throw it right down the plate when he’s up. And Floyd Youmans.

    I don’t think there’s any question the names on the Cubs are a lot easier to pronounce, and they seem to be more like baseball player’s names.”

    Bill Murray, 1987

    Reply
  9. Ross

    Because none of Harry Kalas’ best calls came on major nationals plays (I don’t know specifically about any big NFL or Notre Dame radio calls, but I’m thinking mainly of the Phillies), he won’t get on a list like this. But I just wanted to note that the guy knew how to rise to the moment.

    One of the favorites and of course a legendary call in Philly is this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjoyK5_Ae48

    “Chase Utley you ARE the MAN!” when Utley scored from 2nd on an infield groundout.

    Another favorite of mine, although a sad one for the Phils, was in September ’05 when Craig Biggio hit a 3-run homer off Billy Wagner win a game in the middle of a tight Wild Card race. Harry was far from a homer and never made Hawk-type calls calling the team “we” or anything like that; a true professional. But in this moment the dejection just overcame him and he came out with an absolute classic:

    “Oh no…You got to be kidding me. You’ve got to be kidding me. A three-run home run by Biggio. All the runs are unearned … but who cares…”

    Reply
      1. Richard (different one from the above)

        I’d give Harry an Honorable Mention.

        Back in 1980, Philly fans were rightfully upset that MLB didn’t allow local radio sportscasters to cover their local teams in the World Series. So having missed out on the chance to hear Harry call the Phillies first W.S. win in decades, they complained. I don’t know how much effect they had, but MLB soon changed that rule. Happily, Harry was at the mike again in 2008…

        Reply
  10. Rick R

    It’s really about the moment as much as the call isn’t it? And when an unbelievable moment coincides with the perfect call, that’s when history is made.

    Like John Sterling’s call on July 4, 1985, at 3:20 AM, with Rick Camp—the worst hitter in the major leagues at the plate—and the Braves down to their final out.

    “Ernie, if he hits a home run to tie this game, this game will be certified as absolutely the nuttiest in the history of baseball…

    “It’ll be an 0-2 pitch. And he hits it to deep left! Heep goes back—it is—GONE! HOLY COW! Omigoodness! I don’t believe it! I don’t believe it! Rick Camp—RICK CAMP—I don’t believe it! You remember what I just said if he hits a home run, that certifies this game as the wackiest, wildest, most incredible game in history!”

    Reply
  11. Bill

    “And like lambs to the slaughter, the Braves take the field.”

    That’s a double for Larkin, and I could use a double right now.”

    “And the Braves take another hit off the Byung.”

    Man I miss Skip Caray.

    Reply
  12. Dave

    I’ve always thought of Buck as competent at best. Never inspired, and a homer of the worst kind. His call of the Gibson home run is about him, not about the moment. Scully (and Drysdale, whose call I’ve never heard until tonight) make it about what just happened, not their reaction to it. Vin’s call is poetic reportage; Buck’s is autobiography. I’ll take the former every time — by light years.

    Reply
    1. gcuzz

      Please. The standard for “homer of the worst kind” is, and always will be, Hawk Harrelson. Buck is nowhere near that standard, either in this particular call, or in his general body of work. Also, what makes his call of this home run so perfect, and the reason it deserves to be this high on the list, is because the home run was so unexpected and dramatic, he literally spoke the words all of America was speaking or thinking at that exact moment.

      Reply
  13. Alejo

    Coming from a Spanish-speaking country I would like to thank you for remembering Morales’ 1986 call. That you went out of American Sports to look for this says a lot.

    To appreciate the drama better it maybe useful to remember that Argentina had lost a war against England in 1982.

    I would humbly like to contribute a slightly better translation:

    It’s always Maradona (who keeps the ball) Genius! Genius! Genius! Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta…GOOOOOOOOAL! GOOOOOOAL! I want to cry! God in Heaven! Hail Football! Golaaaaazoooo! Diegoooool! Maradona! I will cry, so sorry (crying now). Maradona in a formidable drive… the best play of all time… Cosmic Roller! From which planet did you come, to leave so many English (players) stranded? To turn the whole country into one clenched fist shouting for Argentina… Argentina two, England nil… Diegol! Diegol! Diego Amando Maradona!…Thanks, God, for football, for Maradona, for these tears, for this Argentina two- England nil…

    Reply
    1. Brett Alan

      Thanks for that…my Spanish isn’t very good, but I understand enough to appreciate Morales’ words, and the translation Joe provided doesn’t do it justice. “I want to cry” definitely captures the meaning better than “I mourn”. “Es para llorar” is wonderfully poetic, and doesn’t really translate well. “It is to cry” would get close to the meaning, but it comes off rather stilted in English. Great call.

      Reply
  14. Section 405

    Umm, where is Russ Hodge’s call of “The Shot Heard Round The World”?

    “Bobby Thomson… up there swingin’… He’s had two out of three, a single and a double, and Billy Cox is playing him right on the third-base line… One out, last of the ninth… Branca pitches… Bobby Thomson takes a strike called on the inside corner… Bobby hitting at .292… He’s had a single and a double and he drove in the Giants’ first run with a long fly to center… Brooklyn leads it 4-2…Hartung down the line at third not taking any chances… Lockman with not too big of a lead at second, but he’ll be runnin’ like the wind if Thomson hits one… Branca throws… [audible sound of bat meeting ball]

    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! Bobby Thomson hits into the lower deck of the left-field stands! The Giants win the pennant and they’re goin’ crazy, they’re goin’ crazy! HEEEY-OH!!!” [ten-second pause for crowd noise]

    I don’t believe it! I don’t believe it! I do not believe it! Bobby Thomson… hit a line drive… into the lower deck… of the left-field stands… and this blame place is goin’ crazy! The Giants! Horace Stoneham has got a winner! The Giants won it… by a score of 5 to 4… and they’re pickin’ Bobby Thomson up… and carryin’ him off the field!”

    (thanks to Wikipedia for the transcript)

    Reply
  15. bellweather22

    With watching the game, as I was, there was a whole leadup to the Scully call…. the whole “here comes Kirk Gibson… and this is really a roll of the dice” part of the call…. acknowledging the desperation of sending up a guy who can barely walk…. followed by the HR call AND the “in an improbable season the impossible has happened” call, punctuated by Dodger fans going absolutely nuts (after sitting on their hands the majority of the game) and Scully allowing the crowd’s over the top, but expected, reaction to play out…. I mean, to me, it’s not close. I’m honestly not that impressed by “I can’t believe what I just saw”. I mean it’s a good call… not great in my mind, and certainly nothing approaching Scully’s call. Obviously other disagree, I just have no idea why. Scully is an artist and his call was painted over the course of about five minutes as Gibson was sent up, went through the drama of the at bat and the culmination of the game ending HR. To me, it was awesome.

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  16. bellweather22

    Well said. I know some love Jack Buck, and he’s fine. If you’re a Cardinal fan, you probably love him. I know how that goes because so many Braves fans was poetic about Skip Carey being great… and the guy was a drunk who rambled about stuff that nobody had any idea what it was all about… and was pretty gruff in talking to fans on his pre-game calls. No idea why people like him. We had Boog Sciambi briefly after Skip Carey left (I guess ESPN stole him) and he was about 100 times better than Skip ever was…. and still people go on and on about Skip Carey. People love their homers, I guess.

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  17. bellweather22

    Oh, here it is. The Skip Carey fans. Geez. The guy was a drunk and half the time nobody knew what he was even saying. He was the worst announcer I’ve heard since the end of the Curt Gowdy years…. when he couldn’t pronounce anyone’s name and wouldn’t prepare because of his ego. BTW: I live in Atlanta and love the Braves. Skip was the worst.

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  18. MJL

    Not sure which one this would replace, but how about Dan Dierdorf on Monday Night Football during a chilly night in Denver in 1994 after a Joe Montana to Willie Davis game winning touchdown?

    “Lord, you can take me now, I’ve seen it all.”

    Reply
  19. bellweather22

    I would suggest going back to YouTube and pulling up the entire call, from the time Gibson went and grabbed a bat to the coda from Scully. Then tell me that Jack Buck screaming is a better call than the poetry and the story telling that Scully put on during the entire pre and post at bat.

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  20. Les Gura

    Buck: Radio; Scully: TV.
    That says it all. They had different audiences to describe what had happened to. It is far easier on television to let the crowd tell the story than on radio. My favorite on the list, being an NYC native, is Howie Rose’s call of the Matteau goal in ’94 playoffs. Though it’s matched up with a YouTube video, I hope someone will correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m kind of sure that was a radio call, not a television call. I watched the game that night, but I didn’t hear the Matteau call until later. I wonder if the television call would have squeezed in as much verbiage as Howie Rose did.

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  21. Clay Horning

    Joe,
    Clearly you’ve heard Scully’s call of Aaron’s 715th.
    Is it not of your 32 because it never became iconic?
    For whatever reason, Milo Hamilton’s became the one that lived on?
    (The reason is simple. Scully’s call of the actual action is short. Greatness comes later)
    So, is that it?
    Or do you really not see it as one of the 32?
    For me, it is the best call I’ve ever heard.
    Gives me goose bumps and makes me cry.
    That the DODGER announcer makes THAT CALL in ATLANTA.
    When has the significance of a moment ever ben called IN THAT MOMENT as well as that.
    Mindblowing.
    Anyway, I’d love your thoughts on that one.
    Thanks

    Reply
  22. Christopher Nelson

    I love Kevin Harlan’s …”with no regard for human life!!” whenever Kevin Garnett power slammed a dunk for the T-Wolves. Too bad it didn’t last long enough for a championship.

    Reply
  23. Brian Fowler

    Also, one that will never make this kind of list for obvious reasons, but being that I have already proven myself a massive wrestling nerd on the blog before, I am fond of Jim Ross’s call during the (in)famous Undertaker vs. Mankind Hell In A Cell match:

    “Would somebody stop the damn match!”

    Reply
  24. Emphatic No

    Younger Joe Buck’s “We’ll see you tomorrow night” callback was awful, awful, awful, and not just because he re-re-used the exact same shtick AGAIN during the Rangers-Cardinals WS. It’s Frank Sinatra Junior singing “Luck Be a Lady Tonight.”

    You’ll notice that the other calls on your list are about the player, about the moment. Buck’s call was about Joe Buck.

    Reply
  25. David Rosen

    You can’t really appreciate Jack Buck’s call by just listening to the end of it – the home run swing. You really need to listen to the whole at bat. Buck’s setup of the wounded Gibson limping up to the plate and swinging in pain against the master Eckersley built up the whole situation so that the home run seemed absolutely magical. I heard the whole call on live radio, but I’ve never heard it again since. But I succinctly recall hearing Buck say, as the Dodgers dugout exploded, something like “You better pinch me Bill White ’cause I think I’m dreaming.”

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  26. Daniel

    What I love about Russ Hodges’ call is that on the first pitch, he said “Branca pitches” and on the second one that is hit out he says, “Branca throws”. So many times I’ve heard pitchers talk about the difference between pitching and throwing.

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  27. bellweather22

    The Russ Hodges call is a complete “homer” call. If the announcer is rooting for a team and then explodes with fan like excitement, by definition, it’s not a good call. The hometown fans love it, and that’s all that matters to them… but for the rest of us, it shouldn’t be considered a great call. The Bobby Thompson HR was a great moment. The call was not. It just happened to be there, so it got played over and over because it was probably the first video replay of a great moment… this was 1951, afterall.

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  28. Daniel

    Scully’s call is much better to me, although I think it has to do with nostalgia more than anything. That moment is the first baseball memory I have that really sticks out to me. Staying up past my bedtime (I was 6), watching the game, knowing Gibson was hurt, and then Vin’s call on the homerun…just awesome. I have only heard Buck’s call a handful of times and it just doesn’t do it for me.

    Reply
  29. Pingback: Breaking Down Two Great Calls | SportSquare

  30. chris h

    I was a little surprised not to find Red Barber from the 1947 World Series:

    Wait a minute… Stanky is being called back from the plate and Lavagetto goes up to hit… Gionfriddo walks off second… Miksis off first… They’re both ready to go on anything… Two men out, last of the ninth… the pitch… swung on, there’s a drive hit out toward the right field corner. Henrich is going back. He can’t get it! It’s off the wall for a base hit! Here comes the tying run, and here comes the winning run!…Friends, they’re killin’ Lavagetto! His own teammates, they’re beatin’ him to pieces! And it’s taking a police escort to get Lavagetto away from the Dodgers!…Well, I’ll be a suck-egg mule!

    http://contursi.freeyellow.com/baseballtour/sounds/sounds/redbarber.mp3
    (cuts off the “suck-egg mule” comment, unfortunately)

    But of course, we all have our favorite calls. There are a dozen that I remember that don’t merit being on this list because the moments weren’t particularly memorable, even if the calls were.

    -Chris.

    (And Cosell was brilliant at boxing, wasn’t he? I hate the sport, and he makes it thrilling.)

    Reply
  31. Endocrine Disruptor

    Joe, love your brilliant writing. An English commentator’s call of the Maradona goal is also worth a listen, wholly different in character from that of the Argentinian one (but what wouldn’t be?)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hF_2arqQLwo

    The clip by the way is from a brilliant documentary about the 1986 World Cup called “Hero”, definitely worth a watch. It raises the tournament to the level of an epic contest. Being half Danish and a kid when i first watched it I was particularly fond of it for turning part of the spotlight on the Danish legends Laudrup and Elkjaer…One of the nice things about it is that, whenever it focuses on the action of a particular team, it uses the commentary of that nation’s language as the soundtrack…

    Reply
  32. Chip S.

    I can’t find anything compelling about #s 26-32; nothing about them seems remarkable other than the moments they (barely) describe. Some of the others seem self-conscious–for example, you just know that all the Braves and Dodgers announcers had a call planned for Aaron’s 715th. And it shows.

    I think Chic Anderson’s call is the absolute best on your list. He conveys his absolute amazement at what he’s seeing through a remarkable choice of words and intonation, not by shouting “Can you / I don’t / believe this!” It is a call that is truly worthy of the sports moment it describes.

    The next-best example of a great call, and one that is inexplicably missing from your list, is Ned Martin’s description of the final out of the Red Sox’ “Impossible Dream” regular season:

    “Jim Lonborg is within one out of his biggest victory ever, his twenty-second of the year…and his first over the Twins.” (What an elegant, succinct way to describe how well Lonborg has risen to the occasion–a complete-game win over a team that had his number all season.)

    [silence] (We all know what’s at stake. Let the tension within you listeners rise on its own.)

    “The pitch…is looped toward shortstop. Petrocelli’s back… He’s got it! And the Red Sox win!

    There’s pandemonium on the field!”

    No catch-phrases. No tired cliches. No repetitive shouting.

    Just a wondrous moment captured forever in a word-portrait.

    Reply
  33. John R.

    Of course people are doing the same thing you just warned about. “This one is THE WORST.” “One of these men is great, and the other is a pure incompetent.” Such reactions are pure idiocy. Both calls are great in their own way. As you said, each appeals to a different part of us. Also not to be forgotten: one call was for TV, and one was on radio. Both calls are perfect for their respective mediums. A minute of crowd noise on radio is static. On TV, it’s the perfect compliment to the celebratory action on the field. Buck beautifully put the listeners in a place where they weren’t, conveying all the energy and amazement to which he was their only conduit. He’s their eyes on the scene. And on TV, viewers have their own eyes. Scully beautifully complimented the pictures, perfectly punctuating without getting in the way. Scully’s call would not have been nearly as good on your radio as you drove down that highway. And Buck’s call would’ve been too overbearing on TV. Both of them are/were consummate pros and knew exactly what they were doing.

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  34. Chris H

    If I may be permitted another comment: regarding #9, I watched that game on some cable channel a couple of years ago. It was a terrific game, even though I had seen it already – I remember watching it on our kitchen TV while I sat at the table pretending to do homework. But I found myself amazed that football had ever looked like that, and that television had ever looked like that. I mean, they had a guy named “Too Tall Jones” who, granted, was 6’9″ – but that scarcely makes you stand out on a football field these days.

    But of particular relevance to this discussion, the announcing just seemed archaic. Scully struck me as not particularly good at football – competent enough, and I’d listen to him read the phone book all day, but by no means was he a standout. And the color commentator, Hank Stram, was just of a different era. He really added nothing analytical; tossed in a few anecdotes, *maybe* pointed out a pulling guard, but certainly nothing like the constant explication we get today. I think it was John Madden who changed all that. People enjoyed or mocked him for saying “Boom!” and talking about “secondary and thirdiary receivers,” but he also brought a teacher’s instinct to the booth. He wanted you to understand the dynamics of football, and was gifted at explaining it, presumably in the same way he was gifted at developing players.

    There are doubtless others you could point to who had a similar instinct – Hank Stram may, in fact, have been particularly poor at explaining the game. But Madden was the teaching-commentator who became the most prominent at his position. His ascendance was probably for other reasons, for his goofy enthusiasm, but once he reached the top, he changed the profession.

    And so it was fun, in the same context that I was thinking about these things, that he popped up in Bill King’s wonderful call.

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  35. Michael Green

    Another commenter beat me to mentioning Red Barber’s call of Lavagetto’s hit, but don’t forget the Gionfriddo catch, either.

    I grew up worshiping The Vin and I still do. I wouldn’t pretend to be objective. Jack Buck was a brilliant broadcaster and certainly not a homer. But those two calls epitomize them. Scully is elegant and his call is elegant (and if you read about it, his comments about Gibson helped inspire Kirk to go up to bat). Buck’s call is very well done, and he’s excited–he WOULD get excited. It’s like the comparisons between Vin’s mentor, Red, who would maintain dignity, and Mel Allen, who would get very excited. I love both calls, and many of the calls on this list. But the list also serves as a reminder of the point that Vin likes to make, that he has been lucky to be in the right place at the right time. The right announcer makes the moment even better, but the iconic moments require iconic action.

    Reply
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