Much of the time spent

Much of the time spent on sports radio today has revolved around remembering Ned Martin and criticizing Grady Little. Ron Hobson joins Bob Neumeier on the WEEI midday show, and Tony Massarotti joins Eddie and Dave Jageler on WWZN. Reader Stephen sent me the following on Martin:

Of course, there were two Ned Martins: the pre-1982 one, who was pretty
much at the top of his game as one of the finest baseball announcers in the
major leagues. And the 1982-92 one, the guy who was a shadow of his former
self and often unable to distinguish one black member from the Orioles from
another (“… and MurrayShelbyYoungLandrum scores from third”). When I was
a lad, Ned was paired with Gowdy and a third guy named Art Gleeson, a
veteran Coast League announcer, who did an inning or two and was not
particularly memorable. There was no color man, and because WHDH-TV Channel
5 and WHDH-AM 850 had the contract, they did both TV and radio. Gowdy, the
Voice of the Red Sox, did the first three innings on radio, then Martin
would do 4-5-6, and Gowdy would finish up. Gleeson did an inning or two,
probably eating into Ned’s air time. But when Gowdy did a TV game on
Channel 5, usually weekend afternoon games, Ned would be The Man on radio.
Gleeson died after 1964, and they brought in Mel Parnell, the great Sox
lefty of the late 1940s to mid 1950s, as the first color man on Sox
TV-radio. Parnell almost never did play-by-play, though. And while the Sox
were a terrible team on the field, but Gowdy and Martin were a very talented
announcing duo. After 1965, when Gowdy went to NBC full-time, the Sox
slapped Martin in the face by going to Cleveland to bring “home” Ken
Coleman as Voice of the Red Sox, keeping Ned as second banana. Coleman was
a Quincy boy who had gone to Cleveland and done Indians games on TV; he also
was the voice of the Cleveland Browns on CBS television, a very visible
position nationally. He was a name, and he was a native son, but never as
good (in my opinion) as Ned as a baseball announcer on radio. Coleman
caught lightning in a bottle in 1967 with the Impossible Dream team, and his
narration of the TV special and the recording that came out that fall
really made his reputation. (In fairness, I was listening, on WHDH-FM, to
Bill Rohr’s flirtation with a no-hitter, and Coleman made a brilliant call
on Yaz’s catch off Tresh — “Yastrzemski going hard, way back, way back …
and HE DIVES AND MAKES A TREMENDOUS CATCH!”) Johnny Pesky replaced Parnell
in 1969, and things stayed the same until Channel 5 lost its license a month
before the 1972 season, splitting the Sox radio/TV contract. Channel 4 got
the TV rights and they hired Coleman and Pesky to do their games
exclusively. This finally made Ned — literally — the Voice of the Red
Sox, because he worked solo during spring training and the first few weeks
of the season, until WHDH hired a retired guy named John McLean (a former
Senators announcer), who was just AWFUL, and then the mediocre Dave Martin
to be his No. 2 guy. “The Martin Boys” finished the 1972 season and did all
of 1973. Then a veteran announcer and a perennial second banana who had
worked for the New York Giants, Yankees, Pirates, Cardinals, and Oakland A’s
was fired by Charlie Finley. WHDH fired Dave Martin, and brought Jim Woods
to Boston for five great years, 1974-78. Why did Woods and Ned Martin
click so well? The team they covered was exciting. But they both loved the
game, knew the game, and called it in an understated way. (I loved the
references to the Phutile Phillies of the 1930s, the team of Martin’s
boyhood — he came from the Main Line — and Woodsie’s memories
“of the late, great Roberto Clemen-tay.”) They were both very funny,
and their humor was unforced. And you had two voices, the urbane and
soothing Martin (who else would pose for his official portrait in an ASCOT?)
and the gravelly Woods, that were different. Their analogies were inspired.
I remember one night, listening to Ned, as he described the showboat umpire
Emmett Ashford as “calling balls and strikes as if he were trying to catch a
butterfly with a pair of tweezers.” And, of course, Woodsie, signing on
from “Baghdad by the Bay” (Oakland) or “the big house on the lake”
(Cleveland). The new, out-of-town owner of WITS, by then the Sox’ radio
flagship, fired them both after 1978, a terrible off-season after the
playoff debacle to Dent’s Yankees. Woodsie left town, and Neddo landed at
Channel 38, where he had three great years as Ken Harrelson’s partner. When
Hawk was fired (or quit) for criticizing Red Sox ownership, Ned began his
long decline. Bob Montgomery was no match for Hawk, and TV wasn’t Ned’s
medium. His mistakes were pointed out and criticized. But even in his
dotage, Ned Martin stands head-and-shoulders above the two men, Bob
Kurtz and Don Orsillo, who have succeeded him on NESN. Go well,
Nedley. Sorry your last moment on earth was spent on an airport shuttle
bus. He helped me to love baseball on radio.