November 13, 2008

WHICH IS THE ONLY THING THAT REDEEMS THE AUTOMOBILE:

Herb Score (1933-2008) (Joe Posnanski, 11/13/08)

Math is not my thing, of course, but I once spent an afternoon trying to figure out how many hours I have spent through the years listening to Cleveland Indians announcer Herb Score. It added up to something like 173 full days. Of course that does include commercials. And I wasn’t always listening that close.

Herb Score died Tuesday. He was 75 years old. It had been more than 10 years since he had called an Indians ballgame, but his death still hit me hard. He was very much on my mind Tuesday night when, for reasons that I cannot begin to explain, I found myself as the featured speaker at a singles club at a church. Someone asked what it was like growing up in Cleveland in the 1970s when, let’s face it, things weren’t all that great. Cleveland was a punchline. The sports teams were all lousy. The Cavaliers off-court entertainment was called “Fat guy eating beer cans,” which pretty succinctly described the act. The Indians were such a farce that sometimes the team bus had to drive around on the road to find a hotel that management had not stiffed on the bill. The city went bankrupt. It was said that you could walk across Lake Erie. The Cuyahoga River had only just stopped burning. The sky was smog. The snow was slush. The Winter of ‘77 was like Siberia with potholes. That was home.

And, I said, here’s what I believe: When you are growing up, you are raised by your parents, but also by your friends, your teachers, your faith, your neighbors, your city. At the end of the day, you are really raised by your hometown baseball announcer.

Herb Score was the Cleveland Indians radio announcer from 1968, the year after I was born, to 1997, which was the year the Indians lost to Florida in the World Series. His last game was Game 7, which was fitting because the Indians lost in heartbreaking style, a scene Herb relived many times, for most of his life.

He called games on the radio for a nice even 30 years, and, speaking personally, those are the 30 years that defined me. Those 30 years more or less take me from infancy to my wedding day. Herb was always there, in the years before I was was fully aware and in the years when I would thumb-tack baseball cards to my bedroom wall. He was there in the years when I felt sure I would play second base for the Indians and the years after I realized that, no, I would not. He was in my ear at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, when my feet stuck to the ground and a metal beam blocked third base and I discovered that childhood thrill of watching a game AND listening to baseball on a transistor radio at exactly the game time. He was there in the times when I felt lonely after moving away to North Carolina, those warm evenings when I would sneak into my parents car and pick up Indians baseball games to feel a bit of home.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at November 13, 2008 3:49 PM
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