(Posting this again in 2018 for the purposes of 1580thefanatic.com. One of my absolute favorite columns to write in the last year – hope you’ll watch the clips and enjoy!)
One thing that makes sports on radio and TV great are the play-by-play calls. As someone who dreamed of once becoming a play-by-play announcer as a kid, I appreciate greatness when I hear it. While Al Michaels’ “Do you believe in miracles?” call is legendary, there are so many more incredible moments in sports that go unappreciated. Here is a list of my favorite under-appreciated sports calls of my lifetime (pre-1983 is excluded)…hope you enjoy:
10. “We just stepped on their face with a hobnail boot and broke their nose. We just crushed their face.”
Legendary Georgia football announcer Larry Munson had some great homer-ish calls in his day but I’ve never heard anything like this one. It’s an all-timer any way you look at it. The play-by-play call itself wasn’t great but what Munson said after the fact still burns Tennessee fans to this day.
9. “And we’ll see you tomorrow night!”
Minnesota sports fans will love this clip and hate the rest of this list. Jack Buck’s signature call of Kirby Puckett’s walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series was simple, yet perfect. His son Joe used the same call in 2011 but it didn’t resonate as well as this one. Sometimes saying less is more…as Buck showed us in this case.
8a. “Just like a year ago, he’s gonna get him though. He’s gonna get him. Gordon got loose, it’s Harvick! Harvick by inches!”
I’ve always appreciated the FOX NASCAR crew of Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip, and at the time of these clips, Larry McReynolds. Joy is the perfect gatekeeper for the other two who are outspoken, yet fun to listen to in exciting situations. Watch these two clips of Kevin Harvick’s first win (in 2001) and Daytona 500 win (2007) and not only enjoy the end of race calls but afterwards. I especially enjoy Waltrip and McReynolds going crazy at the big wreck in Clip #2.
8b. “Here they come. Checkered flag. Harvick!”
7. “Inside, the big fella!”
Craig Bolerjack and James Worthy provide the end of game soundtrack to Hampton’s stunning 15 seed over 2 seed upset of Iowa State in 2001. The Cyclones were ahead comfortably before failing to score in the final few minutes. A minimalist call on the winning bucket was great but the PBP excellence continued with Iowa State having a chance to win on the other end. Coincidentally, this game taught me to NEVER assume a game is over until the final whistle. When a team stages a late game comeback, I always refer to it as “Hampton-ing.”
6. “He did WHAT!?”
Just a wacky play from Monday Night Football in 2000 but Al Michaels nails the end of the call. It was almost as if he wanted to make up for a lackluster in-progress play-by-play call with an all-timer of a line. Dan Fouts and Dennis Miller chime in to make this one a must-watch. I still have no idea how Antonio Freeman caught this ball and poor Minnesota fans (part I).
5a. “OH WOW! In your life have you seen anything like that!?”
I might be putting these two amazing Tiger Woods clips a bit low. Verne Lundquist has made many signature calls in his career throughout several sports but this may just be his finest. Quite possibly this clip from THE MASTERS in 2005 may be the best clutch golf chip in history. Speaking of clutch, the 2nd clip shows Tiger sinking a birdie putt to send the 2008 U.S. Open into a playoff. It’s a brief call by UofA alum, Dan Hicks, but with Tiger’s reaction, it was pure TV brilliance.
5b. “Expect anything different!?”
4a. “THIS. IS. UN-BEL-IEVABLE!” (1:41 mark)
Trevor Denman will go down as one of the finest race-callers of all-time but these very well might be his two best. Zenyatta, the undefeated filly, ran against the boys in the toughest race of them all, The Breeders Cup Classic in 2009 and came from the CLOUDS to win. The next year in the same race, Zenyatta tried to end her career at 20-0 but just came up a nose short. Having seen Denman speak in person several years later, he recalled it might’ve been the only time he’s ever rooted for a horse so much while making the call(s).
4b. “AND ZEN-YATT-A…BLAME HAS WON IT A HEAD!” (1:43 mark)
3. “And after twenty two years…Raymond Bourque!” (1:18 mark)
The best non-action call of all-time in my opinion and it isn’t even close. ESPN’s Gary Thorne provides incredible play-by-play to Ray Bourque winning his only Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001. Analyst Bill Clement later adding “Skate it baby, skate it” adds to the awesomeness. If this clip doesn’t give you chills as a sports fan, I don’t know what will.
2. “Caught! Touchdown! NO! NO!”
Poor Minnesota fans part II…this one is the best losing homer call of all-time. Paul Allen, the Vikings radio PBP man sums up the frustration and despair when the pathetic 2003 Arizona Cardinals knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs on the last play of the regular season. It was an all-time choke job for Minnesota who lead the NFC North since Week 1. Green Bay went on to beat Seattle in Round 1 before losing to Philadelphia in the NFC Divisional Round (see my Top 10 most painful sports losses column). As a Packers fan, I remember running around my house repeatedly after seeing / hearing this play!
1. “They may have to hospitalize Sid Bream!”
Skip Caray was probably the most timid play-by-play announcer I can remember. He never seemed to get excited at all, at least when I would watch the Atlanta Braves games back in the day on TBS. But this clip was without a doubt his finest work. Describing the jubilation of Sid Bream’s slide to win the NLCS in 1991, Skip describes the action as if he was sitting at a local bar with some cocktails in hand. He’s virtually screaming with excitement but in this case, it’s plenty ok. I think this clip should be right up there in baseball lore with any of Jack Buck or Vin Scully’s calls. It’s that good.