Sunday, August 5, 2012

Brownie and JD

The Houston Astros may be the worst team in MLB, but one thing the team does have is an outstanding team of television announcers. Bill Brown (Brownie) on play-by-play, and former pitcher Jim Deshaies (JD) handle the TV booth and they make games much more interesting to watch.

These guys are the best in the business. Between them they have the perfect mix of knowledge, humor, and the rare ability to know when to not talk. They are clearly fans of the team for which they announce games, but they are diplomatic and fair in their comments. I for one would rather watch the worst team in baseball with the best announcers, than the best team with the worst announcers.

Brown has been with the Astros since 1987, after stints broadcasting for the former World Hockey Association Cincinnati Stingers, Xavier University and University of Cincinnati basketball, and the Cincinnati Reds. He is a member of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, and Houston’s Minute Maid Park Media Wall of Honor.

Deshaies is a former MLB pitcher, playing for seven teams including the New York Yankees, and the Houston Astros. His career record was 84-95, with a 4.14 ERA. His best seasons were with the Astros, going 12-5 with a 3.25 ERA in 1986, and 15-10 with a 2.91 ERA in 1989. His lone major league record is not for pitching, but batting: he stands alone at the top of the list for the most at bats without an extra base hit (373).

JD’s first minor league stop was the 1982 Oneonta Yankees. One of his teammates was a young Stanford University student who was better known at the time as the quarterback of the Stanford Cardinals – future NFL Hall of Famer John Elway. I lived in nearby Delhi, New York in the early 1980’s, and I saw many minor league games at Oneonta’s Damaschke Field. Although I had no idea who he was at the time, my brother David and I must have seen JD pitch several times that year, as we attended most of the team’s home games. Now I have the pleasure of JD’s talent again – this time as an announcer.

Brown and Deshaies are professional in every way, but what really sets these guys apart is the sense of humor always in evidence - especially the wit of Jim Deshaies. Brown is funny in his own right, but his ability to let his broadcast partner run with it helps to make these guys so good. That is not to say that they concentrate on humor though.

We’re not one-dimensional,” said JD during one recent broadcast. “We don’t just talk about golf.”

Brown and Deshaies both possess considerable baseball knowledge – their analysis is always on target. Between them they miss nothing, adding to the enjoyment of television viewers. But when the opportunity for humor arises – JD is always ready. In my opinion, JD’s sense of humor is unmatched – this is one funny guy.

The following are just a few examples of his on-air work:

Discussing outfielder Yonder Alonso:

“If they’re doing a scouting report on Alonso, are they ‘going over Yonder’?

On Red’s pitcher Sam LeCure who is married to former University of Texas and Rockford Thunder softball catcher Megan Willis-LeCure:

“If she’s making dinner and he doesn’t like it, does he shake her off?”

Astros 2nd baseman Jose Altuve suddenly slipped and fell as he was trying to round 1st base:

“Sniper got him.”

Addressing the strange fact that the Astros had three pitchers all with the last name Rodriguez pitch in the same game (Wandy, Fernando, and Aneury):

“It’s a 3-Rod Night.”

After announcing that the next day’s game would not be televised.

“Brownie and I made an executive decision; we’re just not showing up.”

On defensive indifference, after Carlos Lee took 2nd base without a play, and former Milwaukee 1st baseman Prince Fielder was seen shrugging:

“Carlos asked him ‘can I go?’”
“’I don’t care; go ahead. I’m indifferent.’”

Discussing Arizona Diamondback’s Luis Gonzalez’ 2001 World Series winning hit that beat the New York Yankees – a much hated team in New England:

“Gonzo will never have to buy another drink or meal in New England.”

Discussing the possibilities of the 2012 New York Mets:

Bill Brown: “They don’t have much depth.”
J.D.: “They don’t have much width, either. They need to work on their width.”

After Greg Lucas commented that former Marlin’s pitcher Anibal Sanchez had surpassed JD in the number of triples hit in his career (Sanchez -1, JD – 0):

“You better not fall asleep on the flight to D.C. this afternoon.”

After the Astros hit three triples in one inning against Washington:

“At some point, you’d think these National’s outfielders would consider backing up. Or just sitting down.”

Discussing former Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo working with JD and other pitchers on hitting.

Bill Brown: “Is he the guy that taught you to pull the ball?”
J.D.: “He’s the guy that taught me to stop wasting my time - stop trying.”

Brown and Deshaies are entertaining whether the Astros are winning or losing. They are both knowledgeable about the game of baseball, but they don’t display it in an annoying manner, as do some announcers. I can’t recall how many times I have listened to annoying sports announcers who ramble on and on, trying to prove to viewers just how smart they are.

These men show their knowledge in an unassuming way – a way that makes them entertaining and professional. They are not afraid to discuss highly technical aspects of the game, but it’s not done to the extreme that some announcers take it. Even the most knowledgeable fan doesn’t want to sit through a lengthy discussion of how the arm angle of a pitcher affects placement of his pitches. Brown and Deshaies know instinctively how long to carry on such a discussion before viewers begin to tune out. When they are funny, it isn’t forced or over done. That is the beauty of the way these guys operate. They both understand how to let the action tell the story; they don’t dominate the viewer’s attention with meaningless dialogue – unlike some other announcers.

If you love baseball, you will watch games on television regardless of who calls the action. Fortunately for fans of the Houston Astros, we get to listen to the best – Bill Brown and Jim Deshaies.

© 2012 LTM

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