San Francisco Giants radio play-by-play announcer Jon Miller yesterday was declared the winner of this year’s Ford C. Frick award. That means he’s going to the Hall of Fame! As a long-time baseball fan, I couldn’t be happier with his recognition. I’ve come to appreciate quite a few radio play-by-play announcers over the years, from Hank Greenwald & Lindsay Nelson, to Vin Scully, to Phil Rizzuto & Bill White, to Ed Coleman & Bob Murphy — but I like Jon Miller the best.
Miller has an uncanny ability to illustrate the action, to bring the game to life. It’s a true art, and through him I’ve really come to appreciate it. Miller’s terrific sense of humor is his chief tool (I love his banter with the other Giants announcers, especially the end of the game wrap-ups), but I also enjoy his easy, colloquial style, his appreciation of the weather, the stadium, and the fans. Not to mention his home run and double play calls.
I especially admire Miller’s sense of perspective. No matter how serious the situation, how dire things look for the Giants, he always reminds us baseball is after all a game: entertainment, a diversion. Baseball games are long (and occasionally tedious), and Miller’s anecdotes and stories of other gigs and other games enliven what could otherwise be dull radio. (Miller also does hilarious impersonations of other announcers, including a dead-on "Vin Scully".)
I think the moment I most enjoyed was the leisurely afternoon game he was calling where he spotted a guy with a radio headset sitting in the stands next to some friends of Miller’s. I’ll never forget the hilarity as Miller described the scene and got the attention of the guy, who was, of course, listening to him on the Giants flagship station KNBR! I imagine Miller might have gotten in a bit of trouble that day for "breaking the rules," but it was a treat to listen to, and really brightened my day.
Overall, Miller conveys a strong attachment to the Giants and their players, but combines that with an uncompromising honesty. He’s no "homer," unwilling to criticize the team or point out a bad play. That’s probably the highest compliment an announcer can receive, and I think Miller has struck the perfect balance. His Hall of Fame induction is well deserved.
P.S. After becoming a Giants fan as an 11-year-old kid in 1978, I left San Francisco for New York in 1980. Despite living out here in Yankees-Mets country, I stuck with my San Francisco team through thick and thin. (And most of those were pretty thin years.) As luck would have it, I moved back to San Francisco in the summer of 1997, which is where I discovered Miller and his unique announcing style. Knowing what little I do of Miller’s career, it seems our paths were somewhat similar in that we both had spent at least parts of our childhoods in the Bay Area and then returned later in life — in 1997! Though I moved back to the East Coast in 1999, it was a great pleasure sharing those three seasons of ’97–’99 with Miller and rest of the Giants’ announcing crew. Now, in New York, I am able to listen to many Giants games online, through mlb.com. I don’t get to tune it to quite as many games as I’d like, but thanks to a DSL connection and the fact that I’m self-employed and work at home, it’s turned out surprisingly well.