July 13 - The Best Calls Ever (written with Brian Wilmer)
That’s what makes a great sports call. You don’t decide if a call is great, your body tells you. Even if you didn’t see the play happen. Even if you weren’t alive when the play happened. Every sports fan has certain plays that involving their own team that gives them the chills, but certain calls are so emotional, so descriptive, so perfect that any sports fan will react to them. In no particular order, here are five calls that any sports fan knows, loves and will listen to over and over again.
1. THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT! (Russ Hodges – 1951 National League Single Game Playoff – Brooklyn Dodgers vs. New York Giants)
EB: When I was nine years old I went to a basketball camp and the University of San Francisco. At the end of the camp, all of the nine year olds played a game called “knockout” for prizes. I ended up winning and when I hit the final shot, the words I heard in my heard were Russ Hodges famous exclamation. The moment told me that I was going to gravitate toward baseball but also how much I appreciated the call that my Dad played for me as I was younger, indoctrinating me into the world of being a Giants fan.
BW: Like Ed, this was one of the first calls that my father used to introduce me to the game. He was a small child when this happened, but it's amazing to see that 54 years later, people who follow the game can still scream out this call, and know to what it refers. Russ Hodges was a legend, and this was a truly legendary call.
2. HAVLICEK STOLE THE BALL! (Johnny Most – Game 7 of the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals – Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics)
EB: In making this list, I realized I didn’t know the year this happened, the opponent, or even what round of the playoffs it occurred in. It doesn’t matter. The pure joy in the gravely voice of Johnny Most tells you all you need to know about the importance of the moment.
BW: A lot of people called Johnny Most a homer (which seems to be perhaps the largest insult in broadcasting), but when I think of NBA broadcasters, I think of Most and Chick Hearn, then everyone else. This call is not the call with which I associated Most ("there's a steal by Bird, underneath to DJ, he lays it in!" is a bit more in my generation), but Havlicek, the Celtics, and Johnny Most meant a lot of things to a lot of people, and this call exhibited the true excitement and shock of a game-turning moment.
3. I DON’T BELIEVE WHAT I JUST SAW! (Jack Buck – Game 1 of the 1988 World Series – Oakland A’s vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
EB: Like every call on this list, the beauty lies in the honesty of this call. There were no scripts, nothing planned. The moment simply took over Jack Buck and now his call grabs me whenever I hear it. Even though I watched Game 1 of the 1988 World Series on television, when I think of Kirk Gibson’s home run, I hear Buck’s voice telling me everything I need to know about the moment.
BW: I made the comment before that this is probably the most "true" baseball call ever, in that Jack Buck just dropped all professional inhibition and reacted as would a common fan, and that is what made Jack Buck a true great of his game. He said what I felt in that call, and so many others. He had the ability to convey professionalism in his calls, but still, first and foremost, be a fan, and for that, I have always loved Jack Buck.
4. DOWN GOES FRAZIER! (Howard Cosell – 1973 - George Foreman vs. Joe Frazier)
EB: The most famous single line in Howard Cosell’s illustrious career. The call was so good that it is easily the most famous call in boxing history, in a fight there didn’t involve Muhammad Ali.
BW: During a time when boxing still mattered to the American people, this was one of the most momentous occasions in the sport. If you listen to the call, Cosell literally stopped mid-thought to make this call. No one saw that fall coming, especially not then, and to catch a pro's pro like Cosell in the moment like that is what will make this call stand the test of time, even if those watching it may not grasp the true magnitude of the event.
5. DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES? YES! (Al Michaels – 1980 Olympic Hockey Semi-Finals – USA vs. USSR)
EB: Al Michaels call seems to get better every time I hear it. It is paid the ultimate respect because if you ever see the final moments of the USA vs. USSR in the 1980 Olympics, you will hear Michaels call. His words are synonymous with that moment which is truly the definition of a great call. In one sentence he summed up the feeling of what this victory meant. Of how little chance the United States had entering the game and how everyone in the building, around the country, and around the world felt about the outcome of that game.
BW: This is easily the biggest upset in the history of American sport. This happened during an Olympic Games in which the events were not shown live with multi-channel cable casting as they are now, and even on a tape delay where people could conceivably have known the outcome, Michaels came through with a completely off-the-cuff line that sounded almost as though it were pre-destined to be said. The line (and that team) had such an impact that they spawned a feature film. The one thing to remember with that call was that the game was not even the gold medal game, and it still produced that type of exhilaration.
Of course, both of us couldn’t resist including one call that is great to us for personal reasons. Those calls are our wild cards.
Ed: “IT’S OVER! AFTER 27 YEARS OF WAITING, THE GIANTS HAVE WON THE PENNANT!” This was Hank Greenwald’s call of the final out of the 1989 National League Championship series. Even though I was fortunate to attend that game, those words immediately remind me of the adrenaline flowing through my body as Robby Thompson picked up Ryne Sandberg’s roller to second and tossed to Will Clark to end the game. Those words make me think of how no one wanted to leave the stadium and the pandemonium that ensued on the bus ride home. I remember seeing a guy jumping up in down in celebration on the roof of a car. I guess I can’t blame him. He had been waiting 27 years.
Brian: "Here's the throw to the plate...he is...SAFE!!! BRAVES WIN! BRAVES WIN! BRAVES WIN! BRAVES WIN!" (Skip Caray - Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS - Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Atlanta Braves)
Skip Caray's call as the Braves won the 1992 NLCS against the Pirates was a confluence of a number of things. The Braves had been doormats for years, and this event was one of the most pivotal in the decade-plus of dominance that was about to unfold. Braves first baseman Sid Bream chugged around from second on a single from Francisco Cabrera, and Barry Bonds' throw didn't reach Mike LaValliere in time, as Bream hooked his foot across the plate. Caray had suffered through the lean years in Atlanta, as did I and many others, and his exuberance at this result matched mine completely. Skip is an underrated broadcaster, and this call was his shining moment.
Did Ed and Brian leave your favorite off their list? If so, send an e-mail to The Writers and we will post your suggestions in our Reader Feedback section.