Home runs are beautiful, magical, spontaneous things. They can happen at any time in a baseball game. They can turn the tide of a baseball game in an instant. Watching live at the ballpark, the roar of the crowd tells you all you need to know about most home runs. Sometimes it isn’t the roar at all, it’s the gasp that really sells the moment.
On TV, it’s different. The crack of the bat and center field camera don’t pain the entire picture through the screen. Most home runs are accompanied by some variation of “it’s deep and outta here!” when conveyed to the listen on the radio or the viewer on TV. It’s hard to stand out from the crowd.
But some voices break through the din. Some calls are distinctive enough to bring you to a time or place when you hear it. The greats cause the hair on the back of your neck to stand on end. Let’s celebrate the best practitioners in the game by counting down the five best home run calls in baseball.
Sadly, most home run calls aren’t “bad” as much as “bland”. It is hard for a homer shout to distinguish itself as bad or good as they’re mostly all the same. The orgasmic Marlins duo of That Guy and His Partner, who sound a lot more like a couple frat bros playing Call of Duty than professional broadcasters (“ooohhhhhhhhhhhhh!” is a common refrain), deserve a shoutout for being especially unappealing.
Buck Martinez, Toronto Blue Jays
Is Buck on this list for no reason other than the existence of the Buck Martinez Soundboard? A lady never tells and a gentleman never asks.
Tom Hamilton, Cleveland
That’s good clean fun right there. On to the top five!
5. Gary Thorne, Baltimore Orioles
Gary Thorne doesn’t have a distinct, patented home run call. He seems to just let the moment flow through him. It’s organic and it is pure magic. Gary Thorne can do know wrong in my eyes, even when he’s painting PED users with the same wide brush, straight up calling them out on the air. Whatever. That man uses his instrument in a way few others can. Drink it in.
4. Vin Scully, Los Angeles Dodgers
An obvious pick that I took great pains to exclude but, in the end, the legend forced his way in. It’s the little things.
3. Duane Kuiper, San Francisco Giants
Let there be no doubt – Kuip’s call is patently ridiculous. He bellows and changes register like well-trained opera singer. But it works. Everything about Kruk and Kuip works as they’re the best working booth in the game. The home run calls stay fresh longer when you cover the Giants as they hit so few in their Marine Layer deathtrap by the Bay.
BONUS KRAZY KUIP!
Nothing like a wacky play to shake the average PBP guy out of his doldrums. Having to make stuff up on the go is tough when you’re already into full-bellied shout, but Kuip somehow, or somewhat, pulls it off.
2. Ernesto Jerez, ESPN Desportes
How is this not number one? Racism, probably.
Pure magic. Bonus points for the Nolan Ryan plain face at 0:19 mark of the video above. Jerez is an international delight.
1. The Hawk, Chicago White Sox
Let’s get all our cards on the table here: Ken Harrelson is not my favorite broadcaster. He might be my least favorite. Listening to him whine and cry and complain through another Pale Hose loss is a true pleasure. Almost all his homer calls are so far over the top, so annoying it is to wish ill upon the White Sox forever. If they went 0-162 and poor Kenny burst into tears on the air, it would be a fine day for America.
But leave the baggage aside. Ignore the cornpone verbiage and the larger than life persona. Just listen to the home run call. It’s…well it’s great. It’s fun. You know it’s coming and, were you able to divorce yourself from the rest of his act, it’s an enjoyable call. It’s distinctive – more distinctive than any other home run call in baseball. Even if you couldn’t name three players on the White Sox, there is a good chance you know this call.
Give the devil his due – Ken Harrelson’s home call is special and deserves a sober assessment as such.
That is the sign of a great home run call and frankly makes it the best in the game. In an industry that tries as hard as it can to grind off the rough edges and conform “good hair and teeth” guys into compelling broadcasters, the enormous White Sox homer has done the impossible. He created something that just might outlive him as a broadcaster. The ultimate compliment, loath as I am to pay it.