Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball


by George Devine, Sr.

Ernie Harwell…..

2001 marks Ernie Harwell’s 63rd season broadcasting, and we wish many more for this walking, talking baseball classic. Last week, when the Detroit Tigers visited the Athletics at Oakland, I mustered the courage to ask him if I could stand in the door at the rear of the visiting radio booth to listen to his play-by-play account.

“Youah welcome ennytahm, Suh,” the little man drawled in the big voice that he brought from his days at WSB in Atlanta, where he began as a nightly sports commentator in 1940, just around the time my parents were married. After serving four years as a Marine in the Second World War which the U.S. entered in the year I was born, he returned to Atlanta to broadcast the games of the Southern Association’s Atlanta Crackers, also working the Masters golf tournament and Georgia Tech football games.

In Ernie’s resonant intonation one can hear echoes of another southern gentleman, Red Barber, with whom he teamed for a stint in the booth for the Brooklyn Dodgers games, in his first major league baseball job. In fact, though Russ Hodges The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! call still rings in the ears of anyone over the age of fifty, it was Harwells lot to call Bobby Thomsons shot heard round the world for fans of the opposing team. But he went on, after two seasons, to broadcast games for the New York Giants, and the Baltimore Orioles, before starting with the Tigers in 1960.

Harwells narrative style is a throwback to the heartland experience of American baseball, where the teams are more often minor than major league, and seldom in pennant chases of any kind, where the nights are balmy and the air is still and people use their scorecards to fan themselves between plays. His description of the cat-and-mouse game between pitcher and batter is a broad stroke, painting a big picture of baseball as more an art than science. He waits, winds up, kicks and delivahsswing and a miss, strike one! without the modern eras lust for the excruciating minutiae of hot zones, velocity, location and grip of the seams. He waits, winds up, kicks and delivahstoo close, ball one! The leisurely pace of his storytelling style ebbs into the timelessness for which the national pastime is loved, and it made me young again as I remembered the announcers who brought us the games of the San Francisco Seals and Oakland Oaks in the Pacific Coast League a half-century and more ago as they played on the road against the likes of the Sacramento Solons and Portland Beavers.

Thanks again, Ernie Harwell, for letting me visit your broadcast booth, and for making me feel like a kid again.

Hank Sauer…..

Hank Sauer was far more likely to be seen on the golf course than at the ballpark in recent years. He was involved with the Giants organization as a scout following an impressive career with the franchise, first in New York and then upon the teams move to San Francisco in 1958. It was when the team began its San Francisco history that Sauer lost his job to rookie Willie McCovey, who would go on to become the most popular Giant of the San Francisco years so far. (It will be argued that this honor belongs to Willie Mays, but he began his great career at the Polo Grounds before coming west with the team, and McCovey began as a San Francisco Giant, thus different criteria apply to the two of them.)

Not long after McCovey himself retired in 1980, I was standing at the counter in the lobby of the Giants executive office at Candlestick Park one afternoon, before a game, when McCovey emerged from the inner corridor in the street clothes that had become his daily uniform, and Sauer was on his way inside. Well, Kid, the elder veteran needled McCovey as he jostled his arm, Now y know how it feels, dontcha?! It was a moment in time to commemorate the passage of time that comes to us all. The ultimate passage of time came for Hank last week, as he died in his early eighties, leaving behind innumerable friends and admirers. My memories of Hank include many an encounter in the press box, or in the Curley Grieve Press Room at Candlestick Park, often in the company of his buddy, San Francisco baseball icon Charlie Silveira, who was a backup catcher for Yogi Berra with the New York Yankees. Hows it goin, Kid? Hank would always ask me, and the many others whose names he had trouble remembering. We were all Kid to a man who had been around the game a long time, and seen so many come and go. He will be missed.


George Devine, Sr., has covered professional and scholastic sports in the Bay Area for over twenty years.


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