Yesterday's radio funfest made me reflect upon just how thorny a proposition that particular medium can be, and how monumentally blessed we all are to be able to absorb the dulcet tones and tremendously insightful, often electrifying skills of our esteemed play-by-play man... so I thought today's day off would be a good chance for us all to give thanks and count our blessings for one of the best that ever done it.
Cast your mind back to the other night, when Andrew Bailey came in and had that epic battle with Pablo the Portly Panda, where Sandoval kept fouling off 96 mph fastball after 96 mph fastball before eventually walking in advance of Bailey K'ing Bengie Molina for the save... I know many of you were out at the game and didn't get to hear that whole AB develop. For those that didn't, lemme tell you that KenKo described that whole sequence (the whole inning, really) with such a combination of high drama and lucid, picture-painting panache that you'd have thought you were listening to a tie game with the winning runs on in the 7th Game of the World Series. Every pitch was set up to maximize the intensity to galactic levels, but not once did you get the sense that any of the dramatics were manufactured or hyped-up in any way.
Now, not to toot my own tweeter too terribly, but I am a radio person too. For the last 25 years, on and off, I have been doing it (some would say I gots the face for it!) and I gotta tell you, it isn't the easiest thing in the world to do even on the days where nothing goes haywire. So I sorta know of whence I speak on this topic and make no mistake, Ken is at a level with what he does that makes someone like me, who actually prefers to listen to baseball rather than watch, literally fall to my knees in gratitude that I get to sit here 6 nights a week and take in the unparalleled excellence this man has on display. There are times when I am listening to him where I take pause to say to myself out loud, OMG there is no one currently alive, at least no one I've ever heard, that does this job better than this man. As well as Ken? Yes: my ears are looking at you, Vin Scully. But better? Not.
Before I moved west and heard Bill and Ken, this was my main man: the NY Mets' immortal Bob Murphy.
Some background, or some more: growing up a Met fan I was spoiled silly by Bob Murphy, who spent glorious decades doing the Met games on the radio... before coming to the Bay I could not have even imagined that there were people who could do it as well as he did it; it did not occur to me that it COULD be done near as well as Bob, rest his soul. So when I got here and then about 7 years later I got converted into the Athletics Addict you see before you, the quality of insight and passion and preparation the tandem of King & Korach brought to the table changed my perception of what was possible in a baseball broadcast in ways I am only now, years later, beginning to comprehend. When Bill died that dreadful October, I sat and wept endlessly for what seemed like weeks, and I didn't in my sorrow for what had been lost ever consider that his partner would ascend to the main PxP spot and turn it into something that could begin to rival even The King. Little did I know.
When Ken is in the booth, every day is The Golden Age of Wireless.
I think of ten million plays that thrilled us over these last few years... I think of that game where Milton Bradley walked it off vs. BJ Ryan and the Jays after Huston Street had clammed it in the top of the 9th. I think of that HR that Cust hit.... they made a clip of it, I think... it's the one where Ken goes "Swung on, gone! Swung on and GONE!" that you sometimes hear on that lead-in to Chris Townsend's (utterly epic, major love to CT) postgame program on KTRB these days. I think of so many plays on so many days where the excitement and the sheer descriptive elegance and power Ken brought to the moment took it from the realm of mere sport into something where you remember the call as much as you remember the play, and the two synergize to make the experience a living treasure you'll always carry with you. There are times, I sh*t you not, where I will be depressed and down about things in life and I'll find my inner Happy Place by casting my mind back to a KenKo call of a particular A's moment that will make my burden easier to bear and my load lighten a bit... for me, this takes what he does into the rarified territory of not just the greatest sports broadcasters, but the greatest broadcasters, period.
Of course, for perhaps the man's finest hour (so far... for surely there are many more to come), we needn't cast our minds any further back than May 9th, when History was made on the hallowed Coliseum green by a certain Celtic Cross-wearing lefty of supreme craftiness... the Korach call of that whole game, leading up to the (I get misted up just thinking of it) 9th inning, was such a thing of exquisite beauty that its mastery was on a level even with what Dallas accomplished that day. Those kind of games can be the most anti-climactic kind of affairs, but the way Ken built it and built it and got more and more into it with each (flailing) Rays batter lent so much to it for me that I cannot even visualize it in my head -- and we've only seen that footage already HOW many times of Daric Barton lifting Braden aloft? -- without hearing KenKo, enraptured like the rest of us in Baseball Nirvana, letting the world know that DALLAS BRADEN HAS JUST THROWN A PERFECT GAME!!!! Again, the event and the call become inseparable when the description matches and complements the inherent power of the moment, and Ken achieves this on a regular, if not daily, basis.
So on this day off, after such a wild Sunday filled with baseball pleasures and broadcasting pleasures of the highest order, I felt there could be no better way to celebrate than to take a minute and appreciate this most quintessential of broadcasters. In the comments you make, I would request that you give the details of what Ken means to you, even going so far as to suggest that you tell us all what your personal all-time favorite KenKo moment might be.
And for today, friends, that's the way our ballgame begins =)