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Broadcasters: please stop calling players by their first name all the time

Apr 8, 2011, 9:29 AM EDT

Chip Caray

I meant to mention this in ATH, but it got a bit long talking about my treadmill and everything. Anyway:

While watching the Marlins broadcast last night I noticed that the announcers for FSN Florida — I believe it was Rich Waltz and Tommy Hutton — were constantly calling Marlins players by their first name.  “Hanley is up with it…”  “Wes really got a hold of that one …”  “Chris had the green light on 3-0 …”  But they’re not alone in this. The Braves are on a FOX regional station too, and Chip Caray is constantly calling Heyward “Jason” and Prado “Martin” and stuff.  I figured it was just a Chip thing — fisted! — but now I can’t help but wonder if this is some sort of diktat from FOX central, demanding that announcers personalize the players with first names.  If anyone knows if this is the case or, rather, if it’s just a coincidence, please chime in below.

Whatever the case, I’m not fan of unnecessary formality, but I’m struggling to think of something that transforms a broadcaster from an authoritative voice to a silly fanboy faster than constantly using first names like that.  They’re ballplayers. Say that Shlabotnik was caught looking, not Joe.  It’s what we expect and it’s jarring and somewhat silly to do otherwise.

  1. mannistats - Apr 8, 2011 at 9:38 AM

    I’ve never paid attention, but based on Kasper/Brenly in the Cubs booth, I do hear “Starlin” and “Carlos” and “Kosuke” alot. Soriano is almost always refered to by his last name, as is Byrd. I can’t say there’s any rhyme or reason to it. Cubs are on WGN/Comcast, though.

    I wonder if it’s mostly subconcious, given that these announcers are generally “friends” with the players, or at least acquaintances, and the PBP guys don’t realize what they are saying.

    Tangentially related, and this is basketball, but why do all commentators call Glen Davis “Big Baby” or just “Baby”? I’m okay with the occasional nickname, (ARod, Tulo), but to almost exclusively call him baby is just dumb.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Apr 8, 2011 at 10:31 AM

      As a Cub fan, I hear that a lot too. I don’t think it’s purposeful either, and it doesn’t bother me.

      Why does it bug you, Craig?

      • Craig Calcaterra - Apr 8, 2011 at 10:33 AM

        Just a visceral thing. I dislike homerism in broadcasting, even with team-employed broadcasters. The only person who ever engaged in homerism that I could tolerate was Skip Caray, because he balanced it with criticism when warranted. And because he was drunk a lot of the time.

        It’s not some ethical point. It just rubs me the wrong way.

  2. okobojicat - Apr 8, 2011 at 9:39 AM

    I think there are certain players and/or certain broadcasters who do this and because of who they are, it fits.

    For example, Pedro was Pedro to everyone. If you called him Martinez, it was kind of awkward. Michael Kay does it with some of the Yankees, and I get that.

    But for Heyward or Uggla to be called by their first name is kind of weird. They are pretty common names and they aren’t established stars.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Apr 8, 2011 at 10:33 AM

      Uggla’s an established star, I’d say.

  3. heffmessina - Apr 8, 2011 at 9:42 AM

    I’ve always thought this was just a douchey fanboy thing that announcers do so people think they are close with the player.

  4. mercyflush - Apr 8, 2011 at 9:49 AM

    the guys from the White Sox are the worst.

    • wurst2first - Apr 8, 2011 at 10:01 AM

      Hawk and Stone or Ed Farmer and Darin Jackson?

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Apr 8, 2011 at 10:34 AM

      Hawk makes me gag. Steve Stone’s excellent, though.

    • spudchukar - Apr 8, 2011 at 10:47 AM

      Yeah, that Paul-ee sound that escapes from Hawk needs to be outlawed.

      • derpdederpdederp - Apr 8, 2011 at 11:31 AM

        not sure of their names, but the guys that do rangers broadcasts on FSN are the absolute worst

      • tomemos - Apr 8, 2011 at 1:54 PM

        Oh yeah. They don’t even call Nelson Cruz “Nelson,” let alone “Cruz”–they call him “Nelly.” Because “Nelson” would be just too formal for someone who’s such a close bud.

  5. Walk - Apr 8, 2011 at 9:51 AM

    I catch myself doing that with a lot of players when i respond to posts. It is usually the players i watch on an everyday basis or some of the more famous players, pedro martinez was a good example already mentioned by okobojicat. I have found myself deleting or editing some of my posts before i hit reply because they sounded a bit formal and stilted using last names, in fact i would probably post less if i didnt feel emotionaly involved from watching these guys day in and day out on tv. Yeah i get it, just tv and a few games i can afford per year, but dont tell me you guys dont feel like you take a punch to the gut when your teams make the playoffs or get eliminated.

  6. BC - Apr 8, 2011 at 9:52 AM

    God forbid we take any of the flavor out of local broadcasters…..
    Maybe there needs to be a ruling that all players need to be referred to as Steve. Or we just do games without broadcasters.
    Completely ridiculous.

    • derpdederpdederp - Apr 8, 2011 at 11:34 AM

      michael kay of the yankees, jerry remy and don orsillo of the red sox, and buck martinez of the jays are all local broadcasters and do a better job than any FSN guys. dont talk about calling players by their first names as being part of the “flavour” of local broadcasting, call it what it really is, needless and blatant homerism

    • tomemos - Apr 8, 2011 at 1:57 PM

      Why is it that whenever someone expresses a preference nowadays, someone always has to chime in with “Maybe there needs to be a ruling” or “What, you want to ban [x]?” Is there no difference in people’s minds between expressing an opinion and demanding that it be enforced by law?

  7. gammagammahey - Apr 8, 2011 at 10:00 AM

    Maybe it’s that these particular broadcasters bother you so much that you’re looking for things to pick at them about. Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling refer to certain Mets players by their first names all the time (Ike, Jose, David, Carlos, Angel) and it’s never really bothered me but they’re great to listen to as a whole.

    • uuddlrlrbastart - Apr 8, 2011 at 10:32 AM

      But Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez are at least the color guys. Gary Cohen routinely refers to players either by last name only or full name. Just another reason why, in my thoroughly biased view, they are the best broadcast team in baseball.

    • spudchukar - Apr 8, 2011 at 10:51 AM

      I am certainly no Mets fans but the Darling/Hernandez duo brings light to broadcasts that are increasingly about heat.

  8. clydeserra - Apr 8, 2011 at 10:02 AM

    Texas guys do it too. I hate it.

    • derpdederpdederp - Apr 8, 2011 at 11:36 AM

      theyre the worst, and the do a lousy job hiding their absolute disdain for the red sox

    • derpdederpdederp - Apr 8, 2011 at 11:36 AM

      theyre the worst, and they do a lousy job hiding their absolute disdain for the red sox

  9. nps6724 - Apr 8, 2011 at 10:04 AM

    It doesn’t bother me at all. It’s almost exclusively done by announcers who call the majority of one team’s games, which means they are covering, talking to, and talking about the same 25ish guys everyday all season. The more familiar they get, the more likely they are to go with first names.

    And really, it gets monotonous hearing the same last name said all game long and I notice a lot of announcers alternate which one they use (first name, last name, nickname) so it doesn’t get too repetitive.

    My biggest announcer pet peeve in regards to players is them using nicknames. Chip loves calling Jason Heyward “The Hey Train” or “J-Hey” and we all know the Yankee announcers are big with the nicknames. THAT is what makes announcers sound like fanboys. The only time I wanna hear nicknames from announcers are A) during the pregame when they’re hyping the game or B) Chris Berman is doing them.

    • wurst2first - Apr 8, 2011 at 10:07 AM

      I’m with you – not really annoying in baseball when it’s announcers from a team’s affiliate that do it. It does drive me nuts when every NFL announcer insists on calling Ben Roethlisberger “Ben” and not his actual name, “Rapesy McGee.”

      • Utley's Hair - Apr 8, 2011 at 12:41 PM

        Hey!! The hell with that!!!! Why is Rapesy now Irish?

    • cleverbob - Apr 8, 2011 at 11:06 AM

      I disagree. Carlos Ruiz should always be referred to as “The Cooch Machine” by announcers.

    • Utley's Hair - Apr 8, 2011 at 11:41 AM

      I don’t ever want to hear Chris Berman saying anything—especially those godawful nicknames of his.

      • nps6724 - Apr 8, 2011 at 11:42 AM

        The vids of him once the cameras are off are pretty damn funny.

      • bigxrob - Apr 8, 2011 at 12:15 PM

        Berman is terrible.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Apr 8, 2011 at 12:43 PM

      bigxrob, you don’t like his “BACKBACKBACKBACK” comments that make him sound like a dismantled broken record?

      • bigxrob - Apr 8, 2011 at 1:17 PM

        um, no.

      • Utley's Hair - Apr 8, 2011 at 1:41 PM

        He sounds like a bloated chicken when he does that.

  10. wurst2first - Apr 8, 2011 at 10:04 AM

    I don’t think the Brewers’ guys (Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder) on Fox Sports Wisconsin do this all that much, they’re probably just about average.

  11. trevorb06 - Apr 8, 2011 at 10:14 AM

    Ichiro

  12. sportsdrenched - Apr 8, 2011 at 10:15 AM

    It doesn’t bother me if the “home” broadcast does the Fanboy thing.

    However, if it’s supposed to be a neutral National telecast…then I expect impartiality and proffesionalism.

    • sportsdrenched - Apr 8, 2011 at 10:17 AM

      Let me re-phrase that. Switch “home” with “local”. I team could be on the road and the “local” broadcast can still be Fanboys…it’s kind of their job to be like that.

      • Utley's Hair - Apr 8, 2011 at 11:18 AM

        “However, if it’s supposed to be a neutral National telecast…then I expect impartiality and proffesionalism.”

        So you don’t like TBS, ESPN or FOX coverage at all?

      • sportsdrenched - Apr 8, 2011 at 12:26 PM

        TBS, ESPN, FOX telecasts are what they are. I can voice my displeasure with the broadcast team…but not a whole lot I can do about it.

        I just watch the baseball

      • Utley's Hair - Apr 8, 2011 at 12:56 PM

        As I mentioned below, sometimes I just mute the TV and tune in to the radio broadcast.

  13. tmohr - Apr 8, 2011 at 10:17 AM

    Jack Brickhouse was doing this when I was watching Cubs games after school as a kid in the 1960s . Sounds normal to me.

  14. bigtrav425 - Apr 8, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    Who really cares?…doesnt bother me one bit.especially when you have some guys who you cant even pronounce there last name or its to damn long.Actually i probably perfer the first name because the last name thing reminds me of getting called out in school..either way i could care less just dont suck at announcing.Which being from cleveland we have one of if not THE best in Tom Hamilton

  15. yankeesfanlen - Apr 8, 2011 at 10:51 AM

    Beep-beep, Grumpy, the Fat Toad, Mr. Fiddley-Fart (ret) the Giambino (exiled) Grandy and all others approve of informality. Even Godzilla approves of the west coast translation through his sufer-boy interpretor.

    • Utley's Hair - Apr 8, 2011 at 2:07 PM

      I’ll take a couple shots in the dark here—Grumpy is Hank and Mr. Fiddley-fart is Pettitte…?

      And I’ve been meaning to ask for a while: where did Beep-beep come from?

      • yankeesfanlen - Apr 8, 2011 at 3:33 PM

        Grumpy is Posada.
        Beep-beep is from “Beep-beep I’m a Jeep” loosely meaning get out of my way, I’m more important

  16. spudchukar - Apr 8, 2011 at 10:57 AM

    Craig, please don’t ever do this to me again. That picture has ruined my day. I too enjoyed the dry wit of his dad, not to mention his grandpa’s wonderful embellishment and joyful delivery. How the sycophant Chip managed to avoid any of the genes from his paternal side is a mystery to me.

  17. kmgannon - Apr 8, 2011 at 11:05 AM

    The only time it really annoys me is when Michael Kay refers to Jeter as “Jete.” Like he’s a locker-room buddy or something.

    Of course, that’s probably a product of me being annoyed by Michael Kay in general. So take it for what it is.

  18. explodet - Apr 8, 2011 at 11:30 AM

    I think whichever name is more distinguishable should be used. Sometimes it happens to be the first name, like Pedro or Ichiro. But I agree that i never want to hear a broadcaster refer to a player as “Jim”.

  19. Utley's Hair - Apr 8, 2011 at 11:30 AM

    I don’t have a problem with it at all. Part of the local broadcasters’ job is to make the game accessible to the viewers, and part of that is to humanize the players, and one way to do that is to use their first names or nicknames. I don’t mind Scott Franzke or Larry Andersen calling them Ryan, Cole, Roy, Wilson, Shane, Chase, Jimmy (or JRoll) and Cliff (or periodically Cliffy). TMac, Wheels and Sarge? Well I do mind them in general, so I just try to listen to Scott and LA on the radio.

    National/regional broadcasters are different. Their job is to bring the game to people who are also out of market, and who may not be as familiar with the players themselves, so the last or whole names are more appropriate—though they need to lose the bias…and Schmuck and McCarebear just need to go away.

  20. derpdederpdederp - Apr 8, 2011 at 11:30 AM

    craig, ive noticed this before on a few FSN stations (texas and seattle to name a couple). im sure its not a mandate from FOX central but rather a result of the broadcasters just being blatant homers.

    my personal favourite is when there are runners on 1st and 2nd with one out for the visitors and the home team broadcasters start discussing every possible DP situation that would get the home side out of the inning. also, they just dont make any effort to give the visitors credit for anything, they make it sound like every run they get is lucky and every nice play they make is negligible.

    i agree with you that this and constantly calling the players by their first names gets very annoying after a while.

    im a blue jays fan and i have never heard buck martinez constantly refer to bautista as “jose” or hill as “aaron”. he may do it if theyre discussing a player for while and start off with a full name, but youll never here “jose got caught looking”, and buck is a broadcaster hired by the owner of the jays to work for a channel the owner also owns. if he can remain impartial then theres no reason the homers on FSN cant be a little more professional

  21. Andrew - Apr 8, 2011 at 12:07 PM

    I suppose I’ve never really noticed with Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven, but it’s far easier to monitor by myself. For some, like Mauer, Morneau, Thome, etc., it’s easy to call them by their last names because they’re the only ones in baseball with those names. But for Delmon Young, my friends and I tend to call him Delmon because even though the Twins have only one Young on the team, there’s who knows how many in MLB, past and present.

    In blog posts though, it has felt repetitive when I’m doing a story on a particular player and I keep referring to him by his last name, “he”, or “him.” Eventually, throwing in a nickname or first name might be necessary just to break up the monotony. However, I would never refer to a player exclusively by his first name or nickname.

    • ThatGuy - Apr 8, 2011 at 12:21 PM

      I agree with the Twins Broadcast, everyone they tend to go with the unique name, generally last name, but Delmon and Denard tend to get used at times. But I can’t ever recall hearing Jim, Joe, Justin or Michael. I will likely be paying attention to this now.

  22. arrabin56 - Apr 8, 2011 at 12:11 PM

    It’s a very player specific thing I find. I would actually think twice, for instance, if I heard an announcer refer to “Suzuki” while referring to Ichiro.

    As a Mets fan, I’ve noticed it’s pretty random. Reyes is typically Jose and Davis is almost always Ike, but Pelfry is Pelfry and Wright is both David or Wright. I don’t necessarily notice it, but I’d assume there are reasons such as Gary Cohen referring to Jose Reyes as Jose when Argenis Reyes was on the team, and then sticking with it.

    • Mike Luna - Apr 8, 2011 at 12:21 PM

      Ichiro is a special case, though. He’s the only Ichiro that I know of in the majors and it even says Ichiro on the back of his jersey. I’ve never heard anyone refer to him as just Suzuki and, if they did, I’d probably think they meant Kurt, the A’s catcher.

      • wurst2first - Apr 8, 2011 at 12:30 PM

        Correct me if I’m wrong here, but isn’t Ichiro actually Ichiro’s surname? I thought that in Japanese and sometimes in (some forms of) Chinese the first and last name are flipped based on our conception of the two, but I could just be ignorant.

        I thought that was the same reason that Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian have “Yao” and “Yi” on the back of their jerseys. I realize that it’s not universal though, because Takashi Saito has “Saito” on his, and Daisuke’s jersey says “Matsuzaka.” Can anyone enlighten me?

      • ta192 - Apr 8, 2011 at 12:59 PM

        In Japan, he’s Suzuki Ichiro, family name first…incidentally, Ichiro is “Number 1 son”, like Charlie Chan’s kid…

      • naliamegod - Apr 10, 2011 at 5:15 AM

        Suzuki is his family name and Ichiro is his first name. When Ichiro came up in the NPB, the Orix Blue Wave weren’t doing so well so the manager decided to put switch Ichiro’s name on his jersey to get some attraction for their growing star. Ichiro had a breakout season and the switch was the same ever since.

        And just fyi with Asian names, Chinese and Korean names, when written in English, are written surname first (Yao is Yao Ming’s family name). When romanized, Japanese names are often flipped into western order (First/Surname) for whatever reason, though some people will still write in Japanese form. It can be confusing if you are not familiar with Japanese names.

  23. Mike Luna - Apr 8, 2011 at 12:16 PM

    Rhadigan and TAG (of the Rangers’ TV broadcast) do it all the time. “Ian got a lot of that one!” they will say, instead of referring to him as Kinsler. I’m not too sure what Eric Nadel does, but he gets a free pass as far as I’m concerned.

    I happened to catch a little bit of a White Sox game the other day on WGN and noticed that they kept calling Konerko ‘Paul’. It struck me as odd and a little unstable that you would refer to him as Paul when there are a million-billion Pauls out there and only one Konerko.

  24. elmaquino - Apr 8, 2011 at 4:11 PM

    That’s a kinda whiny take. Who really cares?

  25. wintwins - Apr 8, 2011 at 4:32 PM

    For me, it’s okay when they’re doing storylines or filler stuff. Completely unacceptable for stuff that happens on the field and play-by-play.

    “Justin and his wife will be holding the annual Twins Casino Night for charity this weekend.” OK

    “Justin hits a double into the right field corner.” NOT OK

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