CALL THEM THE All-Time Phillies Call-Stars, 20 gifted athletes with brain-powered tonsils that elevated them from the playing field to the broadcast booth or TV studio.
So many of these multifaceted athletes with a gift for communicating the nuances of major league baseball wore Phillies pinstripes on the way to their second careers it is possible to fill every position - sometimes multiple times - plus starters and relievers.
And we're not talking utility voices here. This list includes multiple Emmy winners and Hall of Fame broadcast wing winners.
Catcher Bob Uecker is a member of both the radio and baseball halls of fame. The former TV sitcom star made 64 Johnny Carson guest appearances. As "Major League's" Harry Doyle, Uecker made
"Juuuust a bit outside" part of the sports lexicon. Jim Kaat, one of the most versatile ex-jock broadcasters ever, has seven Emmys in his trophy case.
Studio shows? There's Ricky Bottalico doing "Phillies Post-Game Live" and "Daily News Live" on Comcast SportsNet. That's Mitch Williams, peering owlishly over his granny glasses on the MLB Channel and various CSN gigs. Here's John Kruk, administering equal doses of wisdom and dead-pan smack on ESPN's "Baseball Tonight."
So, hum a few bars of "Auld Lang Syne" while I give you the All-Time Phillies Call-Stars by position:
* Tommy Hutton (1972-77). As a sweet-swinging Phillies backup first baseman, Tommy owned Tom Seaver. After analyst jobs with ESPN, the Yankees, Blue Jays and Montreal Expos, the personable Californian has been a staple of the Marlins' TV crew since the team's inception.
* John Kruk (1989-94). No further introduction is necessary for an All-Star player, '93 Phils icon, self-deprecating author and razor-sharp analyst.
* Bill White (1966-68). All-Star first baseman. Revered Yankees color man. National League president. Enough said.
* Joe Morgan (1983). The Wheeze Kid and Hall of Famer ranks with tennis genius John McEnroe as the best sports analysts going, despite misspeaks and blown facts that have earned him the ultimate tribute to fame, a blog site called "Fire Joe Morgan." Two Emmys . . . The current ESPN A-team analyst called both Giants and A's games before his long network career.
* Cookie Rojas (1963-69). Gene Mauch's most versatile player broadcasts Marlins games in Spanish and teams in the booth with son Victor Rojas during the annual Caribbean Series.
* Larry Bowa (1970-81). Worked as
ESPN studio analyst between firing as Phillies manager and hiring as Yankees third-base coach. As a player, Bowa was a baseball poet in blankety-blank verse. Three games before the Phils clinched the 1980 division title, he ripped fans on his radio show. Bo knows the inside of inside baseball better than anybody since Mauch.
* Michael Jack Schmidt (1972-89). No. 20 was a cerebral analyst on PRISM telecasts the season after his retirement. Like many superstars, however, Mike often assumed that everybody is blessed with supernatural skills. He never learned how hard the game he made look so easy really is.
* Tim McCarver (1970-72, 1975-80). Don't ask this multiple Emmy winner to describe artificial turf - unless you need to know the chemical breakdown of polyethelene fibers. OK, so the devil is in Timmy's details opposite current Fox partner Joe Buck. But he remains a baseball treasure, one of three men to broadcast for both the Mets and Yankees and so much more, including Winter Olympics and a long-running interview show that has just been renewed. Oh, and he played Penn to Steve Carlton's Teller.
* Bob Uecker (1966-67). One of the treats of my first two seasons on the Phillies beat was riding the team bus to the ballpark on road trips while Uecker ad-libbed some of the classic routines that became staples of the comedy acts that later made the former backup catcher one of Johnny Carson's most-invited guests. Dick Allen would laugh until he had tears in his eyes. Once his mostly forgettable baseball career was over, Uecker was an immediate hit as a color announcer, first on "Monday Night Baseball," later as third man in the booth with Bob Costas and Joe Morgan on NBC's postseason coverage. Now in his 38th year as a Milwaukee Brewers announcer, Uecker is in a pantheon reserved for legends named Scully, Harwell, Prince, Kalas, Murphy, Allen and Caray.
* Gary Matthews (1981-83). In his third season as a Phillies TV analyst, Sarge continues to belabor the obvious. Or perhaps it just seems that way when measured against senior crew member Chris Wheeler's sometimes excruciating attention to detail that often invites the question: Which one of these guys was actually the All-Star player? Whatever, Matthews, an engaging man, improves by the game.
* Rich Ashburn (1948-59). By way of remembrance, think of your favorite summer night spent in the electronic company of His Whiteness and Harry the K . . .
* Garry Maddox (1975-86). The Secretary of Defense also long-strided through several seasons as an analyst. But I'm more impressed that Garry Lee served a term as a member of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Board.
* Jay Johnstone (1974-78). The entertainer also known as the Prince of Pranks had so many offbeat TV gigs I had forgotten he did a season broadcasting Yankees games with John Sterling. Favorite prank: as a Dodger, padding a Tommy Lasorda uniform with towels and waddling to the mound to make a pitching change.
* Mike Krukow (1982). This fine righthander and two minor leaguers were traded to the Giants after a 13-11 season here for reliever Al Holland and fellow future broadcaster Joe Morgan. "Krook" went 20-9 in 1986 and is now in his 19th season in the Giants booth, pairing with Duane Kuiper to become one of the game's most entertaining teams. Mike's easy sense of humor has helped him win five Emmys.
* Jim Kaat (1976-79). The Flinging Dutchman is regarded by many as the best pitcher not in the Hall of Fame. There is no controversy, however, surrounding his fabulous career as a multifaceted communicator who is in his third time around as a Yankees broadcaster. Seven Emmys, both for his booth work and special projects, tell it all. Google "Jim Kaat broadcast career" and prepare to be amazed by this exceptional man's accomplishments.
* Tug McGraw (1975-84). The fabulous character who had a tugboat named for him, who performed "Casey at the Bat" with the Philly Pops Orchestra, who masterminded the syndicated cartoon "Scroogie," and who left the imprint of his big heart and bigger soul on so many people, could have been a superb color man. But McGraw insisted on peeling his way down to the next level of everything. As a Met, he even cut the hair of homeless men in the Bowery. Tug made his TV bones as a longtime sports-feature and oddball-story reporter for Channel 6 "Action News." During an extraordinarily productive Mets minor league season in 1966, Tug fathered a son during a brief relationship. Tim McGraw became one of the most famous country singers of all time. Tug and his son had become close by the time brain cancer took him on Jan. 5, 2004.
* Larry Andersen (1983-86, 1993-94). Not every journeyman reliever can be traded for a Jeff Bagwell and survive to talk about it as one of the game's best analysts. Fans grumbled when Andy was moved out of the TV booth and paired on radio with newcomer Scott Franzke. But the Andy and Franzke Show has provided some of the best radio baseball since the halcyon days of Harry and Whitey. Just two buddies talkin' baseball for nine innings.
* Kent Tekulve (1985-88). The angular reliever with the just-above-the-shoetops delivery was a member of the Phillies' TV broadcast team from 1991 to '97. He was as affable and knowledgeable behind a mike as he was on the mound. Teke currently does Pirates postgame analysis for Fox Sports Network.
* Mitch Williams (1991-93). Wild Thing earned forgiveness for the 1993 pitch that sank a million hopes by refusing to slink into the shadows and by revealing himself not only as a good guy, but as a standup guy. And once Mitch grinned into the hot lights that cause severe lockjaw in so many, he revealed a talent for straight shots fired with a folksy, humorous and authoritative delivery. His only foreseeable problem will be to budget time for all the work coming his way.
* Ricky Bottalico (1994-98, 2001-02). Solid work in the booth last season for the wretched Lehigh Valley IronPigs earned him work as a CSN baseball analyst, including the "Post-Game Live" gig. Once Ricky Bo loses the "alumni bias" that sometimes causes him to broad-brush obvious chinks in the Phils' armor, he should be a star.
This compilation is dedicated to the memory of Harry Kalas, a friend and inspiration to every ballcaster mentioned. *
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