Jon Miller: the voice that got away

If you follow baseball at all, you've known for years that Jon Miller is a special talent. Me, I'd listen to the guy read the contents of a soup can. Now Miller, the luminous voice of the San Francisco Giants and ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball who spent 14 seasons as the play-by-play announcer for the Orioles, has been honored as the 2010 winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for his major contributions to baseball broadcasting.

I still remember the moment the guy won me over. This was back in the late 80s. It was April and a freak snow shower was pelting Baltimore as I drove up the JFX, listening to Miller call another O's game on the radio.


Then I heard it:

"Warming up in the bullpen for the Orioles, that's Donner the right-hander and Blitzen the lefty," Miller intoned.


I laughed so hard, I almost drove off the road. It was the perfect line for a surreal scene. And that was Jon Miller behind the microphone: knowledgeable and respectful of the game, but witty and irreverent, too, always eager to have fun when the situation presented itself.

Luckily, it presented itself often during his 14 seasons here. Veteran radio guys speak in awe of Miller's dulcet voice -- one of his old play-by-play partners once said Miller had "the best set of pipes God ever gave an announcer.

But I'll always remember Miller for the entertainment value he brought to a broadcast, especially when one team was slaughtering the other and the score no longer mattered.

My favorite Miller bit of all time was a parody of O's announcers Chuck Thompson and Brooks Robinson. Miller had the legendary duo standing in front of the White House and musing about whether President Ronald Reagan was about to launch a nuclear missile attack on the Soviet Union.

("Well, Brooksie, do you think he's gonna go through with it?")

("Ah rilly do, Charley. Ah think this time he's had enough ...")

I don't know if he ever did that one on the air. But it was brilliant.

It was vintage Jon Miller. That's why so many of us around here still miss him.