If you grew up in the Bay Area and was a big sports fan like I was, you never really appreciated how many good play-by-play announcers worked in that market until you become exposed to their peers in other parts of the country.
Among the best was Giants play-by-play announcer Hank Greenwald, who died Monday at the age 0f 83. Hank combined an extensive knowledge of the game with a dry wit to keep the broadcast entertaining during a period when the Giants weren’t very good.
Where else could you learn that the average score of every major league game played in the first 100 years was 5-3. You thought there were only 3 Alou brothers? You should have heard Hank riff on the other members of the family, like Bobalou and Bebopalou.
Noting one day the 75th anniversary of the first radio broadcast of a baseball game, he added: “By the third inning, people were calling the station and complaining the announcer wasn’t giving the score often enough.”
Greenwald first worked in the Bay Area broadcasting Warriors game with Bill King. He joined Lindsey Nelson on the Giants broadcasts in 1976 and was the lead announcer from 1979-86 and then 1989-96, when the Giants basically fired him.
The story then was that Larry Baer, the Giants’ president and CEO, didn’t think Greenwald gushed enough over the team’s star player, Barry Bonds, or bowed down to him like everybody else did. Bonds developed a reputation for being a first-class jerk who was feared more than liked, but the team tolerated him because he was biggest draw at the gate.
Greenwald basically confirmed the story in 1999 with publication of his autobiography, “This Copyrighted Broadcast,” which included critical comments about Baer and the unpleasant behavior of Bonds. The team initially ordered 500 copies for the team’s dugout store, then somebody read it and it was returned to the publisher. “Did they have a book burning?” Greenwald asked.
But that was then. Here’s part of the statement issued earlier this week after Baer learned of Greenwald’s death: “Hank was a broadcasting legend throughout the Bay Area and was a huge part of the Giants throughout his 16 seasons as our play-by-play announcer…He will be deeply missed.”