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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Herb Carneal, RIP

Holy Thursday

Long-time readers will recognize this as an edited version of the obituary I wrote for long-time Twins PA announcer, Bob Casey, almost exactly two years ago.
Willie McGee hits a little bouncer down to Gaetti, there's the throw to Hrbek ... and the Twins are world champions! The Twins are world champions!
I didn't here that call live in 1987. My brother and I and a fraternity brother of ours drove from our fall break at home in the Twin Cities back to college in eastern Wisconsin that evening. We listened to the Twins flagship station, WCCO, until we passed Black River Falls before we had to switch to the national broadcast. We made it in time to see the end of the game on TV, so when the Twins sealed the deal and closed out the Cardinals to win the World Series for the first time since 1924 (as the Washington Senators), we had to settle for Jack Buck making the call. Even at the time, happy as I was, without my girlfriend and without Herb Carneal's voice, it didn't seem quite right. That summer was the third of my courtship with the Troglodytrix. We went to 20-something games that season, including Game 6 the day before. When we weren't at a game that summer, more often than not, we were taking a walk, or sitting in the back yard, with a radio tuned to the game and the Voice of the Twins.

It is something of a rite of passage that the sights and sounds of your formative years will disappear around you. I was no exception to a phenomenon that was no doubt replicated across the Upper Midwest as I stepped into the batter's box, or took the mound, in somebody's yard calling the play by play for myself as Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Roy Smalley, Bombo Rivera, Dave Goltz, Bert Blyleven, etc. in a smooth, laid-back style that belongs to Herb Carneal, the radio voice of the Twins for all but the first year since they moved from Washington.

John Gordon, his broadcast partner for 20 seasons, said "He works very hard. He does all of his homework. He's never been a guy that's been real flashy. He just kind of slips into the seat and says, 'Hi, everybody.'" Even though he hailed from Virginia, his "the game is the show, not me" was an approach that fit hand-to-glove with Minnesotans. It earned him the Ford C. Frick Award in 1996 and a spot in the broadcaster's wing in Cooperstown and tied the entire region to the team.

Herb Carneal died the morning of Palm Sunday, Opening Day for the baseball season, at his home in Minnetonka, MN at the age of 83 from congestive heart failure, following a winter-long struggle with his health. A memorial service is scheduled for later today at Colonial Church in Edina, MN. He is preceded in death by his wife, Kathy, and survived by his daughter and grandson. He had been in semi-retirement for nearly a decade, progressively scaling back the number innings he called on the radio to just a few innings during less than half the home games. In that regard, his silence has been a long time coming. Even so, a Twins game on the radio will never be the same. May he rest in peace.

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