By Barry Janoff, Executive Editor
August 26, 2010: You know 'em, you love 'em or hate 'em, you can't watch a sports event on TV or listen on radio without 'em. Not every sports announcer has a golden voice, but the ones who do bring gold to the event they are covering.
The first MLB game broadcast on radio was the Pittsburgh Pirates playing host to the Philadelphia Phillies at Forbes Field on Aug. 5, 1921, on KDKA with announcer Harold Arlin (Pittsburgh won, 8-5). The first MLB game on TV as on NBC predecessor W2XBS on Aug. 26, 1939, when Red Barber announced the game between the Cincinnati Reds and Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field. That year also saw the first TV broadcast of a college football game (Waynesburg College vs. Fordham University) and the first pro football game telecast (the Philadelphia Eagles at the Brooklyn Football Dodgers).
So in 2010, with HDTV, 3D TV, Satellite Radio, ESPN and 24/7 sports programming, the question is:
What is the best sports call of all-time? According to the readers of NYSportsJournalism, the Top Ten are:
1) Al Michaels "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" 39.5%
The underdog U.S. men's hockey team took on "big time Russia" in the medal round on Feb. 22 at the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, NY. With a few seconds left and the U.S. leading, 4-3, Michaels uttered the phrase heard 'round the world. Ironically, the game against the Soviet Union was not shown live (it aired on ABC-TV in a 3 1/2 tape delay on the East Coast, a 6 1/2 hour delay to the West Coast). The U.S. went on to win the gold medal by defeating Finland. (Hear it here.)
Three trivia facts about "Do you believe in miracles?":
• Michaels' broadcast partner was Ken Dryden.
• The winning goal was scored by team captain Mike Eruzione at the ten minute mark of the third period.
• The last ten seconds of the broadcast with Michaels' actual call were used in the 2004 movie, Miracle. The extended commentary: "Eleven seconds, you've got ten seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles? YES!"
2) Andres Cantor "Goooaaaalll!" 15.8%
Soccer commentator and announcer Andres Cantor has been using the signature phrased for most of his career, but first brought it to U.S. audiences during the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy. (Hear it here.)
Three trivia facts about "Goooaaalll!":
• It was used as part of a Volkswagen commercial in 1998.
• It has been made available as a ringtone by Telemundo.
• Cantor was featured in a Geico commercial announcing a chess match.
3) Howard Cosell "Down goes Frazier!" 14.5%
Howard Cosell uttered the famous line on Jan. 22, 1973, during the heavyweight championship fight between George Foreman and Joe Frazier in Kingston, Jamaica. Frazier was 29-0 at the time and the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, a title he had held since February 1970. When the undefeated Foreman (37-0) put down Frazier in the 1st round, Cosell repeated the classic phrase three times: "Down goes Frazier!" "Down goes Frazier!" "Down goes Frazier!" Frazier was knocked down six times by Foreman within the first two rounds, who ultimately won by a TKO. (Hear it here.)
Three trivia facts about "Down goes Frazier!":
* This was the first boxing broadcast televised by HBO.
• Immediately before the phrase, Cosell said, "I think Frazier is hurt. Angie Dundee, Ali's trainer, right next to me, is saying it. You might hear him . . ."
* Right after the phrase, Cosell says, "The heavyweight champion is taking the mandatory eight count, and Foreman is as poised as can be in a neutral corner!"
"Ernie Harwell and Red Barber called the game on NBC-TV but the audio didn't survive, so it is Russ Hodges' radio call of Bobby Thompson's 'The Shot Heard 'Round the World' that is played over the actual TV footage."
4) Russ Hodges "The Giants win the pennant!" 9.2%
On Oct. 3, 1951 Game 3 of the three-game playoffs to decide National League pennant was decided in the bottom of the ninth inning on "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" off the bat of Bobby Thompson (who just passed away) on a pitch from Ralph Branca of the Dodgers. The Giants won the first game of the three-game set, the Dodgers the second. Brooklyn led 4-1 going into the bottom of the ninth. When the Giants scored a run and put two others on base, Brooklyn manager Charlie Dressen replaced Don Newcombe with Branca, whose second pitch to Thompson went into the left field stands at the Polo Grounds, setting in motion Hodges' call over WMCA Radio. Ernie Harwell and Red Barber called the game on NBC-TV, but the audio didn't survive, so it is the radio call that has since been played over the actual TV footage. The Giants went on to lose to the New York Yankees in six games in the World Series. (Hear it here.)
Three trivia facts about "The Shot Heard 'Round the World":
• The phrase "The shot heard 'round the world is from the poem "Concord Hymn" (1837) by Ralph Waldo Emerson, originally used for the dedication of the Obelisk, a battle monument in Concord, Mass. that commemorated the men that gave their lives at the Battle of Lexington and Concord (April 19, 1775), the first battle of the American Revolution.
• The Dodgers lost Game 1 of the three-game series during which Branca gave up a two-run home run to Thompson.
• Hodges repeated the phrase, "The Giants win the pennant!" four times in succession, then said, "Bobby Thomson hits into the lower deck of the left field stands!" before saying it again. He then continued, "And they're goin' crazy, they're goin' crazy! Heey-Oh!"
5) Jack Buck "I don't believe what I just saw!" 7.9%
The Los Angeles Dodgers trailed the Oakland A's 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth in Game 1 of he 1988 World Series. The A's sent in Dennis Eckersley to pitch in relief of Dave Stewart. With two outs, Eckersley walked pinch-hitter Mike Davis, and Dodgers' manager Tommy Lasorda sent in Gibson, who had not played due to knee injuries suffered in the NLCS against the New York Mets. Gibson was at a 3-2 count when he hit the pitch into right field stands at Dodgers Stadium that prompted Buck's call over CBS Radio: "I don't believe what I just saw! I don't believe what I just saw!" The Dodgers went on to win the World Series in five games. The extended call from Buck, who was on the radio with Bill White, was: "Gibson swings and a fly ball to deep right field. This is gonna be a home run! Unbelievable! A home run for Gibson! And the Dodgers have won the game, 5 to 4. I don't believe what I just saw! I don't believe what I just saw! Is this really happening, Bill?!"
Three trivia facts about "I don't believe what I just saw!":
• Wheaties put Gibson on a special edition cereal box and used the Jack Buck call as the voiceover to a commercial in 2005 that recreated the event in a softball game.
• This was Kirk Gibson's only at-bat in the 1988 World Series.
• Vin Scully called the game on NBC-TV: "High fly ball into right field, she is . . . gone!! In a year that has been so improbable . . . the impossible has happened!"
6) Kevin Harlan "With no regard for human life!" 6.6%
In Game 4 of the 2008 NBA Eastern Conference semi-finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics, the Cavs' LeBron James drove down the lane past to Celtics' defenders and threw down a monster jam over Kevin Garnett, which led TNT's Harlan to scream the phrase. Cleveland won the game to tie the series at 2-2.
7) Johnny Most "Havlicek stole the ball!" 3.9%
In the closing moments of Game 7 of the 1965 NBA Eastern Conference finals between the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston was leading 110-109 when the Sixers' Hal Greer attempted an in-bounds pass to teammate Chet Walker. But Havlicek read the play and stepped into the passing lane. Most's call on local Boston radio was: "Greer is putting the ball into play. He gets it out deep. Havlicek steals it. Over to Sam Jones. Havlicek stole the ball! It's all over! Johnny Havlicek stole the ball!"
8) Joe Starkey's call in the 1982 Cal-Stanford football game: "The band is out on the field!"
9) Vin Scully on the ball hit by Mookie Wilson of the New York Mets that rolls through the legs of Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series: "A little roller up along first . . . behind the bag! Here comes [Ray] Knight and the Mets win it!"
10) Mike Keith's call in the Tennessee Titans' Miracle City Playoff win Jan. 8, 2000: "10, 5, end zone. Touchdown Titans. It's a miracle. Tennessee has pulled a miracle!"