Who will be the next Bob Uecker or Tim McCarver? Of the players on the current St. Louis Cardinals roster, who could be next in line to jump in the broadcast booth?
St. Louis Cardinals players go from playing games to calling games so frequently that one wonders which current or recent Redbirds will follow in the steps of Joe Garagiola, Tim McCarver, and Bob Uecker, ex-players who had exceptional second acts behind the microphone. All three have received the prestigious Ford C. Frick Award for baseball broadcasters.
Besides that trio, successful Cardinals-turned-broadcasters include Dizzy Dean, a popular network voice from 1953 to ’65 who also called games for the Cards, Browns, Yankees, and Braves; Bill White, who called Yankees games from 1971-’88; Mike Shannon, a Redbird radio voice since 1972; Jim Kaat, a four-year Cardinal (1980-83) who worked network and Yankees games for more than two decades; Al Hrabosky, Cards color commentator and studio presence since 1985; and Keith Hernandez, a Mets game analyst since 2006.
Then there’s Ricky Horton, Brad Thompson and Jim Edmonds of Fox Sports Midwest; Ozzie Smith, who hosted “This Week in Baseball in 1997 and ’98; Joe Magrane, 10-year voice of the Tampa Bay Rays; and a cluster of others, including Todd Zeile (Mets), Jeff Brantley (ESPN, Reds radio), Eduardo Perez (ESPN) and A.J. Pierzynski (Fox Sports).
The following is a list of current and recent Cardinals who could make a similar field-to-booth leap when their playing days are over. Do any of them want to be broadcasters? Who knows. And who knows if a convivial player would be better on air than a tighter-lipped teammate.
An old (very old) ex-colleague of mine attended Castlemont High in Oakland with Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, circa 1960, and told me, “I never would’ve guessed that Joe would be a broadcaster one day. I never heard the guy say one word.”
That said, here are five players who could be future broadcasters:
Pro: He has that gentle Georgia drawl, a fine sense of humor, and is an often charming interview subject. Waino has had an outstanding career with two World Series rings, which would give him that voice-of-authority quality, yet he doesn’t take himself too seriously.
Quick-witted, he could easily trade gentle barbs with a broadcast partner. His great friend and one-time mentor, John Smoltz, made a seamless transition to the broadcast booth. Wainwright might wish to emulate Smoltz’s example.
Con: Waino has many passions; does he want to be a broadcaster? He may be too nice; could he criticize players and managers?
Pro: Drafted by St. Louis in 2009 and a big-league Cardinal from 2012 to 2014, Kelly loves to yak, loves the camera, and can make people laugh. Early on, we learned that he was a descendant of Machine Gun Kelly, the notorious prohibition-era gangster — except that was just a joke by Joe, who fessed up to the farce before it went too far.
He’s played for good-to-great teams — the Cardinals, the Red Sox, the Dodgers — and must have riveting, possibly irreverent, stories to tell.
Con: Nothing. Unless Kelly’s quirky charisma doesn’t translate to the broadcast booth.
Pro: Another ex-Cardinal, Grichuk was Brandon Moss’ and Stephen Piscotty’s pick for “funniest teammate” in 2016. One of the team’s best interview subjects during his years (2014-2017) in St. Louis, he got the chance to turn the tables and question Jim Hayes and John Gant on air in 2017.
Con: Stuck in Toronto, Grichuk doesn’t get much national attention — last year the Blue Jays lost 95 games and finished 21st in attendance.
Pro: Known for his gregarious personality, Fowler plays the game with a big, infectious smile. His on-field playfulness was on display when he made a catch in the stands and gently tapped a Phillies fan in May of 2019.
He’s been open and brave enough to speak about his struggles with depression, which suggests a tell-it-like-it-is outlook. Fowler has played with four teams, won a World Series with the Cubs, and then signed with their greatest enemy, the Cards, which provides him with a variety of perspectives.
Con: He seems like a good fit behind the mic, but as a scout might say, we haven’t seen enough to really know. Fowler doesn’t seek the spotlight as much as some broadcaster wannabes. When interviewed, he says “at the end of the day,” an irksome cliché, an awful lot.
Pro: This is insanely premature, but the cheerful Knizner seems at ease in front of the camera, and the Cards have had multiple catchers blossom into broadcasters: Garagiola, Uecker, McCarver, Todd Zeile, A.J. Pierzynski, plus Gabby Street and Gus Mancuso way back in the day. A super-bright guy, he carried a 3.98 GPA in industrial engineering at North Carolina State.
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Con: It’s way too early to tell much of anything about Knizner, who has only appeared in 18 major league games. He does say “um” a lot. And perhaps he’ll want to do something with that industrial engineering education.
Someone unmentioned here could be a TV or radio voice someday. Yadier Molina could follow the lead of his brother Bengie, a color analyst for the Cardinal’s Radio Spanish broadcasts, but the ever-intense Yadi seems more like a future coach or manager.
Paul DeJong, Tommy Edman, and former Cardinal Stephen Piscotty, brainiacs like Knizner, may be too smart to babble about baseball for a living. Many other Cardinals — think Paul Goldschmidt, Kolten Wong and Jack Flaherty — seem too serious or camera-shy for the broadcast booth.
Then again, people can change. Hall of Famer Charles Harnett acquired the ironic nickname “Gabby” because he rarely said a word early in his career, but later on, as Bill James wrote in The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, Hartnett became “a gregarious, outgoing man” and worked as a color commentator for CBS’ Major League Baseball broadcasts.
So it’s possible, if highly unlikely, that the humble, diffident Goldschmidt will shock us all one day by becoming the brightest broadcasting star on ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight.”