Maybe we'll have bases fitted with electronic sensors to determine when someone's safe?
I can't imagine it coming to that, but I never imagined domed stadiums and AstroTurf! But I hope not. An honest disagreement, where the manager comes out and argues — I think the fan really likes that, especially if they're with the manager. They would love to run down on the field and argue, but they leave it in his hands.
You sometimes let the stadium noise tell the story — like the minute-plus when you didn't say a word after Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's home-run record.
When I was very young I fell in love with the roar of the crowd. [Listening to] college football, I'd crawl under the big radio. Somebody on either team would do something and the crowd would be thrilled. Once I got into the business, I realized there's nothing better than the roar of the crowd, so I tried to call the play as quickly and as accurately as possible and then get out of the way and let the crowd roar. What could you say that would be better?
Do you have a different voice for radio, for TV, for every day?
It might be a little different when I have a headset on and [with] the crowd [sounds]. I did learn that when you're going to talk almost nonstop for three hours, you try to keep your voice more from the diaphragm than maybe your ordinary at-the-breakfast-table voice.
Baseball has had the White Sox scandal, the strike, steroids; how does it survive?
The game is greater than the people who play it. There's a difference between baseball and other sports. Everyone has played a little bit of ball, but not many people have played football, not many people are tall enough to play basketball. But baseball touches everybody. In springtime, you see pictures of nuns playing catch. Everybody plays it.
Another thing is, the baseball fan knows in his heart and soul that he knows as much as any manager alive today. That's why they come; that's why they second-guess. You're not going to have a football fan second-guess the complicated maneuvers — they try, but they can't, and they know they can't. But baseball — oh, yes.
You're not on the road with the team anymore. Was it hard to make that break?
In the beginning it was a strange feeling to watch the bus pull away. But at this stage of my life, realistically, I treasure the time that I'm off as well as the time that I'm doing the game.
Do you listen or watch when they're playing out of town?
Oh no, I like to get away from it. I also don't want to lock my wife into it, that I'm going to sit there and watch the game. What I do is, in the morning, when I'm checking the papers, I'll make notes, so I'll know what they've done.
You've worked with a partner, with two partners on the air. How different is it from working solo?
When I did football for CBS, I [worked with] Jim Brown, the player, and the coach, George Allen. I had one on each side of me, and I'd be doing the play by play but also trying to remember, who did I ask the last question of, so I could balance everything? I did the game of the week in baseball with Joe Garagiola, and we had a lot of fun. We were just two characters sitting watching the game and making remarks.
It's easier to be alone in some ways because you're not doing mental bookkeeping, thinking, what did I ask him the last time? And if you have an idea, if you're alone you can develop the idea. It goes back to Red Barber [his mentor and sports broadcast pioneer]. Red Barber's basic philosophy was, one man, one voice.
The local broadcasts, they've gone network. There's a big difference between doing a local game and doing a network game. A network game, you don't care about paid attendance. You move on, like the circus; you go somewhere else next Saturday. When you're doing a team's game, you're trying to get people to come to the ballpark, and that's where the announcer is able to talk directly to the listener: Gee, you should have been out here, what a play, hope you'll be here tomorrow night. The networks couldn't care less.
You're always smartly dressed. Did you dress like this for radio too?
Always. When I'm going to play golf, I put on a golf shirt. When I'm going to work, I put on a shirt and tie. I'm not going to the baseball game like a fan would go, so it's all part of getting ready to do the game. Part of that I learned from Red Barber.
Does Los Angeles have a different relationship with the Dodgers than other cities have with their teams?
When we were in Brooklyn, it was a tight-knit community, as you imagine. When we came out here, I started to wonder — 480 square miles, where's the heart of the city? It seems to me that Dodger Stadium has brought the city together. Gertrude Stein wrote about Oakland, there's no there there, and actually that's what I felt when I first arrived in Los Angeles. Now it's the ball park.
Should the team move downtown?