Wednesday, October 1, 2008

"my friends," lanny frattare is retiring

Baseball, with its pauses, its gentle rhythms, its sudden bursts of excitement, seems almost meant to be listened to, as opposed to watched on television. And so it is that people who love baseball also develop a certain connection with the people who broadcast their favorite team's games on the radio. And while Phillies fans are certainly spoiled to have the whiskey-and-cigarettes-cured voice of Harry Kalas talking to them every night, there can be no doubting that Pirates fans of a certain age (ahem) have a great affection for Lanny Frattare, who announced his retirement today after 33 seasons behind the mic. Was Frattare the greatest? Hardly. Was he a bit of a homer? Sure. But so what? His voice will always be the sound I associate with the summertime of my childhood. Years ago, before most of the games were broadcast on television, my dad would always have the Pirates on the radio: in the kitchen, in the car, on the little transistor he would sometimes use with one of those ancient white ear-plug thingys. And more often than not, it was Frattare doing the talking, beginning each broadcast with his trademark, "My friends..." before punctuating the conclusion of every Pirates victory with "And there was nooooooo doubt about it." OK, so that latter call was derivative of Bob Prince's "We had 'em all the way," but Frattare had the unenviable task of replacing the beloved Gunner -- and he still managed to last three decades in doing it, more than anyone else in the franchise's history. Unlike many broadcasters who came on in more recent times, Frattare was measured and even-keeled, reserving his true enthusiasm for moments that genuinely deserved it -- something that, sadly, has happened less often than not in the team's current 16-season drought of losing. I guess I liked Frattare's low-key approach precisely because it was so unremarkable: I'd often forget about him in recent years until I'd be driving back to Pittsburgh before putting on the radio to simply check the score. But then I'd hear him, and suddenly I'd be transported back to a hot summer night in the backyard, complete with lightning bugs and crickets and the smell of tomatoes ripening in the garden as Frattare's voice slieced through the stillness with a careful narration of what came next. He will be missed.

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