In our cover story this month, we celebrate the greatest “call” in Baltimore sports history — or rather, the greatest call that wasn’t.
Sometimes a great play-by-call is a routine catch phrase, a broadcaster playing a hit in a manner similar to a comedian going back to a beloved punch line. Other times the greatness of the call is measured by the emotion projected in order to match the intensity of the moment.
For The 15 this month, we celebrate “Great Baltimore Sports Calls.” I appealed to Baltimore sports fans for help in putting together this list, although admittedly some are selfishly my own favorites as a play-by-play voice myself. I specifically said “Great” calls instead of “Greatest” because admittedly some timeless calls have been lost to history, and some suggestions by readers/listeners simply couldn’t be found online in order to be shared. (As a reminder, this is a list in alphabetical order by voice, not a ranking.)
1. Joe Angel: “They got him! They got him! They got him! They got him at the plate!”
What’s remarkable is that Angel is probably most thought of for his tremendous catch phrases like “hasta la vista, pelota!” and “in the winnnn column.” Yet his call of the relay in 2016 that kept Zack Britton’s save streak alive perhaps became the defining memory of Angel for many Orioles fans. His emphatic “SAFE at the plate” to describe Delmon Young’s 2014 Division Series heroics won’t be soon forgotten, either.
2. Chris Berman: “Let it be said that No. 8, Cal Ripken Jr., has reached the unreachable star.”
Before allowing the pictures to do the talking on that immortal evening in 1995, Berman offered that punctuation for the game becoming official midway through the fifth inning. It was truly perfect broadcasting all around and quite possibly the finest hour of Berman’s iconic career.
3. Booker Corrigan: “Believe me, sweetie, I got enough to feed the needy, no need to be greedy, I got mad friends with Benz’s, C-notes by the layers … I love it when you call me Big Poppa!”
The host of the “PressBox High School Lacrosse Show” has garnered international attention for his pop culture references while calling local high school games and major college lacrosse games for ESPN. This Notorious B.I.G.-infused call of a 2011 Greg Pyke goal (the future Georgia offensive lineman was playing lacrosse at Boys’ Latin) officially made him internet famous.
4. Lamont Germany: “The bucket and the bruise.”
Listening to Morgan State’s play-by-play man is the audio equivalent of that viral video where all of the meat falls off the bone of a turkey leg in Texas. He alternates between “hoop and the harm” and “bucket and the bruise” while calling and-one baskets. His “courtside worldwide” greeting at the top of broadcasts is similarly welcoming.
5. Johnny Holliday: “And the kids have done it!”
The legendary voice of Maryland football and basketball didn’t need to resort to poetry to encapsulate the Terps’ national championship win against Indiana in 2002. His call was as simple as it was impeccable. We’ll never forget it.
6. Jim Karvellas: “Bullseye!”
Most associated with players like Kevin Loughery, the voice of the Baltimore Bullets offered this declaration for made baskets. Did you know legendary Yankees broadcaster John Sterling filled in for Karvellas on the radio in Baltimore when Karvellas did a TV broadcast and would “steal” this particular call?
7. Tom Marr: “Martinez to Murray once, Martinez to Murray twice, Martinez to Murray THREE TIMES!”
Late in the Orioles’ 1983 World Series championship season, Lenn Sakata was forced to catch during the 10th inning of a game against the Toronto Blue Jays. (John Lowenstein and Gary Roenicke had been forced to play in the infield.) Then-Orioles closer Tippy Martinez unbelievably picked off all three baserunners in the inning. Not only did Marr capture that moment expertly, his “33rd Street has again turned into Electric Avenue” after Ripken’s game-tying home run and “Sakata with a sudden-death victory” for the “catcher’s” walk-off in the bottom of the inning were wonderful, too.
8. Pete Medhurst: “Into the checkerboard end zone, touchdown, Navy Midshipmen.”
One of the great features of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium is the navy-and-gold checkerboard end zones. I spend most Saturdays in the fall listening to Navy football on WBAL in my car due to my own play-by-play schedule, so I am comforted by this simple, excellent announcement by the Southern High School alum, who is as reliable a voice as any in our region.
9. Jon Miller: “The cheering you hear is from Oriole fans. Everybody else is in muted silence. The pitch! Line drive! Ripken catches it at shortstop! And the Orioles are champions of the world!”
Everything Miller did as a play-by-play voice of the Orioles was exceptional, but his most memorable call actually came at the end of just his first season in Charm City as he described the final out of the 1983 World Series as the Orioles beat the Phillies in Philadelphia.
10. Jim Nantz: “Shock and awe in college basketball … UMBC makes history in Charlotte!”
Nantz has been on the call for the TV broadcasts of a number of great moments in Baltimore sports history, including Maryland’s national championship win in 2002 and the Ravens’ victory in Super Bowl XLVII. But his final call of No. 16 UMBC’s stunning upset of No. 1 Virginia in 2018 seemed to reflect not only the momentous nature of the win but also the staggering nature of the blowout.
11. Bill O’Donnell and Charley Eckman: “Here’s a fly ball to deep left field (IT MIGHT GET OUT OF HERE!), way back (GET OUT OF HERE!), way back (GONE!) home run, home run, home run … the Orioles win the ballgame, 6-5!”
This display of raw emotion after Doug DeCinces’ 1979 walk-off home run is known as “The Night Orioles Magic Was Born.” Eckman (whose “Call Me A Cab” catchphrase stayed with him throughout his post-basketball broadcasting career) reacted the same way every Orioles fan did in the moment.
12. Billy Packer: “Oh he steal!”
Earlier in the 2002 title season, Maryland knocked off then-No. 1 Duke at Cole Field House. The game featured the greatest play in Terps basketball history, when Steve Blake picked off a confused Jason Williams right before halftime and went coast to coast. The nonsensical instantaneous reaction from the CBS color analyst has lived alongside the play ever since.
13. Gerry Sandusky: “The hay is in the barn!”
Sandusky has said that his outcome-defining Ravens call originated with Phil Albert, whom he played for at Towson. It’s also worth recognizing the radio call of the Mile High Miracle in 2013, as Qadry Ismail’s emotional refrain of “Oh!” played like a modern version of Eckman’s response to Sandusky’s O’Donnell.
14. Bob Socci: “He’ll be stopped … and so will a 43-game losing streak for Navy against Notre Dame! Four decades-plus of frustration and futility, of lopsided losses and narrow defeats for the Midshipmen, all are forgotten …”
Before becoming the voice of the New England Patriots, Socci was on the mic in 2007 when the Midshipmen snapped their lengthy drought against Notre Dame. This was how it sounded when the Mids stopped the Irish on a two-point conversion attempt in triple overtime that would have extended the game.
15. Chuck Thompson: “Go to war, Miss Agnes!” and “Ain’t the beer cold!”
It is rather fitting that we wrap with the iconic Thompson, as these are perhaps the most beloved catch phrases in the history of Baltimore sports broadcasting. Thompson said “Go to war, Miss Agnes” came from a golfing partner who didn’t want to use expletives.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox