Getting used to changes in Oriole broadcasters - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Getting used to changes in Oriole broadcasters

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

The news that a number of recognizable names won’t be part of Orioles television and radio broadcasts in 2021 drew a strong response from fans, and that’s not surprising.

It’s their personal connection to the Orioles, people who come into their homes night after night during the season.

Four of the broadcasters who won’t be back in 2021 — Gary Thorne, Jim Hunter, Tom Davis and Rick Dempsey — weren’t in their accustomed roles in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season for a variety of reasons. Mike Bordick and Dave Johnson were.

In Hunter’s case, he was removed from the broadcast team before the 2020 season, and he made the announcement that his contract for 2021 wasn’t being renewed  in a Twitter post on Friday.

Fans have grown attached to the broadcasters. Thorne, whose resume includes high-profile national assignments in baseball and hockey, often teamed with Jim Palmer to give the Orioles’ MASN telecasts a classy, informed feel.

Hunter, known for tireless preparation, performed gallantly for 24 years in a number of roles on radio and television.

Davis, a lifelong Baltimorean, has been around the Orioles for decades and his encyclopedic knowledge of the team and its history is impressive.

Dempsey, perhaps the greatest catcher in team history, has long been a fan favorite on pregame and postgame shows.

Bordick and Johnson, both former Orioles, were also fan favorites. Each worked diligently to make themselves into good broadcasters.

ADVERTISEMENT

Now, they’re officially gone, and fans are upset. Their voices are more familiar to fans than most of the players on the team.

The changes in the Orioles’ broadcast team might seem sudden, but the movement began with the retirements of longtime radio broadcasters Joe Angel and Fred Manfra.

The Orioles, who aren’t commenting on broadcast personnel changes, say they’ll announce their 2021 broadcast team soon.

Many of those who won’t be back are veterans in the business, presumably with pricey contracts, and the last year has been an awful one for many businesses, including broadcasting. Many broadcasting outlets have made changes driven by economics, eliminating familiar names.

But it still hurts for those affected and for those accustomed to hearing them.

The names likely to be on the 2021 team are familiar to those who watched games on television and listened on the radio last year. Geoff Arnold, Brett Hollander and Melanie Newman joined the broadcast team in 2020. Kevin Brown  joined in 2019.

Scott Garceau and Ben McDonald were featured on many 2020 telecasts. Garceau has been on Baltimore sports broadcasts for 40 years. McDonald’s addition to Orioles radio and television has been a welcome one.

Last year was a tough season to start broadcasting Oriole games. Spring training was truncated and the broadcasters’ time to get to know players was limited. Once the season began, there was no clubhouse access.

Calling road games from a television monitor is difficult even for experienced broadcasters, but that could be the case again in 2021.

Economics might be the primary issue, but there’s another important one. Baseball fans’ demographics are the oldest among major sports, and the Orioles are trying to attract younger fans with younger voices. The addition of Arnold, Brown, Hollander and Newman play into that.

Local broadcasting jobs are attractive. If a there’s a comfortable fit between a broadcaster and the team, they can stay for years, as Thorne and Hunter did.

Fans will miss their voices, and so will I. Not only did I listen to them, I saw them daily at the ballpark and grew comfortable in their presence.

As a longtime fan of “Jeopardy!” I was shaken, as all longtime fans of the program were, when Alex Trebek died in November.

I made sure to watch and savor every program that Trebek taped before his death. Now, after seeing Ken Jennings host the program for the past two weeks, longtime fans have quickly grown accustomed to him.

The guess here is that fans might continue to miss Oriole broadcasters who won’t be back in 2021, just as many still miss voices from the past: Chuck Thompson, Bill O’Donnell and Jon Miller. But they’ll still watch and grow to enjoy the new voices, too.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Ekim

    January 25, 2021 at 7:16 am

    Not unless the “product” on the field improves… just saying.

  2. CalsPals

    January 25, 2021 at 7:41 am

    Mikey got rid of the wrong Davis…go O’s::.

  3. The Cartoon Bird

    January 25, 2021 at 8:25 am

    Economics was the primary issue. That’s a stronger reaction to me than the changes. The MASN story and the story that the Orioles attempted to defer money on one-year contracts are connected. I will worry about whose calling the games on the radio and the television when I can stop worrying about the cash-flow problems of the organization.

    • Birdman

      January 25, 2021 at 10:14 am

      I think you hit on what is the big underlying story here – the economic future of the Orioles franchise.

      The team’s payroll has been declining for years, and is now at, or near, the bottom of all MLB. Add to that the pattern of recent moves, including the purge of experienced broadcasters, and the firing of a successful pitching coach, all in order to save relatively small amounts of money, and its enough to raise legitimate concerns about the franchise’s financial stability.

      We appear to have ownership that is either unwilling, or unable, to make necessary investments in support of the franchise.

  4. VICTORTEE

    January 25, 2021 at 8:28 am

    I don’t believe Joe Angel “retired”. At the time he said the decision was “mutual”. How is a retirement “mutual”. I suspect the O’s played hard ball with Joe in some way and he decided to say “See Ya”.

  5. Orial

    January 25, 2021 at 8:37 am

    Once the Orioles were told that if they wanted to keep these “voices”(MASN no longer paying them)they would have to lay out the money it was–“adios”. Is Garceau even affordable and possibly too old? Meanwhile the Nats just signed Brad Hand,in on Realmutto,and still have their announcers. Something ain’t right. The fruition of a long term plan is squeezing the oncec almighty Baltimore Orioles franchise.

  6. Boog Robinson Robinson

    January 25, 2021 at 9:22 am

    Rich, …this article seems a rationalization of the actions over the past few days of the team management’s flushing of the broadcast team. No offense intended, but I simply don’t understand the defense of the organization. Sure, economics has much to do with it , but it’s the classless, cheap, bush-league manner in which this teams seems to operate in the past few years that gets to me. This last set of actions sets the bar at a new low.

    The team seems to lack foresight in just about every area I can see, except the mining of Latin America for players. The management doesn’t seem to recognize the romanticism or sense of community that drives a major league franchise. I can’t imagine the likes of Harry Caray, Vin Scully or Mel Allen being set free because of “economics”.

    You’d have thought this rotten ownership would have learned it’s lesson when they fired Jon Miller. They’re buffoons.

    For gosh sakes, if it’s all about Economics, please sell the team. Please.

    • CalsPals

      January 25, 2021 at 9:44 am

      Agree, show you’re a MLB team, funny last yr my wife had to print out a roster to identify 2/3 of the team…go O’s…

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 25, 2021 at 9:57 am

      Ken, it’s not a defense of the organization. I very much like each of those who aren’t coming back, personally and professionally and am sorry to see each of them go. I thought that was made clear in the story.

      As for Harry Caray, he was fired by the Cardinals, and Mel Allen was let go by the Yankees.

      • VICTORTEE

        January 25, 2021 at 11:47 am

        COME ON Rich. I like your articles. They are very informational. But you never ever question or criticize any move they make on
        or off the field..

    • CalsPals

      January 25, 2021 at 4:26 pm

      Rumor was Harry Caray got fired because he was fooling around with Busch’s wife, not because of money…go O’s…

  7. ClayDal

    January 25, 2021 at 10:41 am

    ESPN let go of over 100 on air employees several years ago. NBC Sports Washington let go of Phil Chenier and Steve Buchantz from Wizards basketball. With the COVID-19 pandemic and consumers cutting the cable and satellite cord, cutbacks are inevitable. Doesn’t make them less painful. As for asking Mancini and Santander to defer salary, things are proposed in salary negotiations all the time. How serious the Orioles really were , who knows. Bottom line is that neither player accepted the idea. From what I understand, Brad Hand’s contract with the Nats , a 1 year deal, includes deferred money. The signing bonuses for last year’s draftees were deferred also. Hopefully when the COVID crisis is over, there can be a return to normalcy

    • VICTORTEE

      January 25, 2021 at 11:44 am

      There was an article on the Braves website saying they should try to get Mancini from the O’s because the O’s will want to dump his salary.
      The vultures are circling ready to pick the bones of the Baltimore Orioles franchise.

    • ClayDal

      January 25, 2021 at 12:34 pm

      At this point, Mancini doesn’t have much trade value. Teams would have to see how he recovers first. Atlanta wouldn’t be a consideration I would think, since they have Freddie Freeman at 1B, which is Trey’s natural position. But Trey is set to hit free agency after 2022. If the Orioles ( or Trey for that matter) aren’t going to commit long term, a trade will probably happen. Can’t see the Orioles letting him play through team control without getting something in return

      • VICTORTEE

        January 26, 2021 at 8:14 am

        The Braves badly need a right handed power bat behind Freeman. And Trey’s outfield defense is passable.

    • CalsPals

      January 25, 2021 at 1:00 pm

      MLB network had an article saying Santander was the next trade able O…not good…seek now to someone interested in staying & trying to win….go O’s…

    • ClayDal

      January 25, 2021 at 1:15 pm

      Santander is the most tradeable Oriole. The article doesn’t say that the Orioles are looking to move him. At this point who on the Orioles has any trade value. Davis? Cobb? Severino or Rio Ruiz? They aren’t trading prospects, so Santander is about your best trade chip. But with 4 years of team control left, doubt the Orioles give him away. Especially since he has yet to play a full season healthy. If they get a deal too good to pass up, who knows. But I think he is here Opening Day-whenever that is

    • CalsPals

      January 25, 2021 at 2:55 pm

      Agree, didn’t say they were trading him, said trade ABLE…go O’s…

  8. G-man

    January 25, 2021 at 10:42 am

    This downsizing started with the cancelation of FanFest.

    • ClayDal

      January 25, 2021 at 10:47 am

      The Orioles replaced FanFest with a caravan. Which other teams have done. So instead of having the fans come to them, they went to the fans

  9. Baltimore Castaway

    January 25, 2021 at 10:45 am

    The Orioles have multiple large Events all going on at the same time;

    – transition in Ownership from Peter Angelos to his sons John and Louis

    – the downstream impact of the Pandemic on the Orioles and by extension MASN

    – the ongoing legal dispute between the Orioles and the Carpetbaggers/Nationals

    – a historic Team Rebuild for the Orioles (including changes in Club Leadership, Coaches and Media)

    Any one of these developments would render significant changes for the Orioles Fanbase, this is just another example for us to adjust to and accommodate.

    I just wish that the Orioles go out and get some Broadcasting talent that will breathe new energy and attraction for their fans… I would suggest that they speak with the likes of; Caleb Joseph, Jim Johnson and Mickey Tettleton…

    Lastly, this is yet another large rock on the great Trail to the Orioles restoring a rightfully bright future.

  10. Mike1966

    January 25, 2021 at 11:18 am

    It appears as though the Orioles are preparing for a sale. We can only hope that the new group will be local. The current economy, the continuing downward spiral of the city, and the aging of the fan base doesn’t bode well for the future. They can only “sell” 40 and 50 year nostalgia for so long.

  11. Phil770

    January 25, 2021 at 12:55 pm

    I think a sale is unlikely, but would agree that they have serious cash flow issues. My understanding is that the money to settle MASN dispute with the Nationals is in escrow. I would guess MASN revenues, both from advertising and ancillary, are down, and of course no ticket sales; local advertising is a major source of BB club revenue, which because of the pandemic’s impact on local businesses, is down too. Sadly, this cash crunch could get compounded by having to sell the club while PA is still alive due to capital gains taxes (selling it after his death would avoid substantial taxes). If you assume that there is a full season, then there will be a full season of costs, without a full season of revenues; and unless they have liquid assets (cash, inventory, etc.), that shortfall will have to be made up from somewhere. A sale may not happen quickly enough to address the cash flow problems. Might be another explanation for Iglesias trade. There have been some name brand retailers that have been hit by these same issues and have gone under completely (e.g., Brooks Brothers). The other owners and the Commissioner would not likely treat the O’s kindly, since PA sued MLB, and appealed umpteen times. I am sure the alternatives for the PA family are not pretty.

    • CalsPals

      January 25, 2021 at 1:03 pm

      Not sure how Green Bay does it, but they’re owned by their fans I believe…interesting….go O’s…

      • Phil770

        January 25, 2021 at 7:32 pm

        Green Bay gets equal share of TV revenue, there is a salary cap, and long term contracts are not fully guaranteed. MLBPA most powerful union in sports, maybe any industry. Just today declined to approve expanded playoffs because players don’t receive enough benefit. Same for NL DH . The Union is all about getting theirs, and getting paid first. Another reason why teams rebuild. Rebuilds, no matter how successful (Rays) not sustainable.

  12. Md1019

    January 27, 2021 at 5:43 pm

    Sometimes change is good I thought Gary Thorne was makings lot of mistakes on his broadcasts but I still enjoyed him but willing to give young guys a chance

You must be logged in to post a comment Login or Register Here

Leave a Reply

To Top