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Monday, April 02, 2007

RIP: Herb Carneal (Voice of the Twins)

Every popular radio play-by-play personality has a catch phrase. There’s “How about that” by Mel Allen, “Holy cow!” by Harry Carry, and “Bye bye baby” by Russ Hodges. It was about a week ago when I found out that Herb Carneal (voice of the Twins) was unable to call the home opener when I started to wonder what his catch phrase was. Carneal had been the voice of the Twins since 1962. He was there with Halsey Hall, he was there in ‘65, he was also there in ‘87, and ‘91. Herb Carneal has seen it all.

I started to think about it more and I just couldn’t figure it out. Someone with that kind of a voice, who has been doing play-by-play that long, who was even inducted into the baseball hall of fame has to have a catch phrase.

I started to remember my earliest memories of listening to the Twins just to see if I could stumble upon it.

When I was a little kid my parents would make me go to bed at 8pm because me and my brother were very hyper kids. I can’t begin to tell you all the times my parents could open the door to check up on me when they’d see me hiding underneath my blanket with one little wire extending from the bottom of the blanket to my alarm clock radio. I would lay there listening to Herb Carneal and the Twins and suddenly I wasn’t trapped in my room, I was actually there in the Metrodome watching the game.
All you had to do was close your eyes.

Then there’s all those times when I was coming back from camp or my grandparents on a Sunday afternoon and I would ask my dad to turn it to the Twins. He’d let me fumble around with the tuning knob and carefully and slowly I would look for that soft baritone voice with the gentile rumbling in the background. A little static and another careful turn and suddenly there it is, the familiar pitcher’s count and “the windup, and the pitch”. My bro and I would then stop fighting and finally my dad had a little peace on the ride home.

Herb Carneal wasn’t just the voice of the Twins, he was therapy. There’s something about that voice that would be so gentile, so unique that it was a voice you could always count on. Even in his later years if you had a bad day of work or things just weren’t right in your life you could always find the Twins game on somewhere and it would help.

I myself honestly believe I’ve listened to Herb way more than I’ve ever listened to my parents or any one teacher. I might be able to listen to my parents for a good half hour but beyond that the outlook wasn’t good. After all I could (and would) actually put on some headphones and listen to a game for the entire three hours or however long it took. I don’t know who else I could stand for 3 straight hours. I especially loved the west coast trips when my parents would ease up on the bedroom checks and I could listen and imagine the game in the dark well past midnight.

When I think about things even more, Herb Carneal was with me for nearly every job I’ve ever had. He was definitely there at the yacht club, at the newspaper company, and he’s been a familiar voice at my current job even if he only talked for 3 innings. I remember working at the liquor store I would take the store microphone, tape the mic-on button so it was always on, and I would aim it for the radio so instead of Musak we’d have the Twins game on the speakers over the entire store. I would insist on this and my boss wouldn’t object one bit.

Herb was there when you need to clean the garage, when you need to mow or rake the lawn. He was even there during the picnic, the summer day at the beach, and at the drive-in before the movie starts. He’s that soothing sound as you’re driving to your date’s house. He’s even there in a lot of people’s daydreams. For instance, a popular scenario would be up north on a late afternoon. The sun is an hour away from setting and your sitting at the end of the dock amongst of a very still and quiet lake and as you cast your line, Herb would be talking about another Johan Santana strike out. Exactly how many fishing trips do you think Herb Carneal has been apart of?

There was also nothing better than listening to a really important game out in public. It’ll be late in the game and Carneal is calling the game. One person listens and soon other people are coming around to catch the last pitch of the last out. Things could be so nerve racking that us fans would be biting our nails and pacing around but Herb was still his calm, dignified self. Strike three and Herb would allow the listeners to exhale and relax. There was rarely anything better when he’d raise his voice just a little bit and tell us that everything was alright.

The loss of Herb Carneal is really sad and I feel so blessed that he was the voice of so many great memories I’ve had. Still trying to remember the catch phrase, it had to be something so subtle, so simple that it’s ingrained in my memory and I can’t single it out.
As I struggle to remember his catch phrase I can’t help to think that a painting is nothing without the painter, a song isn’t anything without the lyrics, and Twins baseball is hard to imagine without Herb Carneal.

That’s when it dawns on me, how could I forget,

“Hi everybody”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

that was a beautiful tribute to carneal. you said exactly what the rest of us feel but can't put into words nearly as well. thank you.