Tom Hamilton made the most beautiful call of a baseball play I’ve ever heard in the middle of this spring training game. A meaningless game in Goodyear, Arizona — one of the first night games of the year. A call that is wasted on a game such that even he admitted no one heard him call it.
Here is how the play read on the ESPN play-by-play that night:
Taylor doubled to deep right.
Now, spread the smooth baritenor of Tom Hamilton over the following lines before you consume them:
The lefty’s pitch - swung on! A rope to right. Down the line, it hits chalk. It’ll kick into the corner: extra bases for Taylor, he hits second with a stand-up double.
I think any long-time listener of Hamilton recognizes “swung on!” as a miniature-code for pay attention to this in his lingo. Two commanding notes that ring and snap the listener out of whatever reverie. I perked up and followed along, surprised at the specificity of “it hits chalk”.
A cloud of dust hovering above clay, framed by two manicured swathes of grass. An indecisive ball scything through anticipative tension with a definitive fair. The certainty in Tom’s voice as journeyman Beau Taylor jogs into second base in front of almost nobody underneath the lights in what used to be (and reminds us, from time to time, that it still very much is) the desert.
Or, Taylor doubled to deep right.
Prior to this, he’d read some kind of promo. Season tickets, dollar dog night, kids run the bases. No segue, just a perfect call. After this he picked right up with an elegant picture of Brayan Rocchio settling into a pinch-hit opportunity:
That’ll bring up the switch-hitting Brayan Rocchio. His first at-bat — he’ll swing it right-handed.
Radio allows us to experience baseball in a different way than watching it on television. To me, it is the most captivating after actually attending — and if the seats are really cheap, it can be even better than that. The agility required of the brain to create the image of the events as they are described is more engrossing than watching pictures flash across glass. Because of this intimacy, radio hits harder when it is done well, and Tom Hamilton is the best example I’ve ever heard of play-by-play done exquisitely. Nightly.
I cannot help but think of the call I transcribed above as a poem:
The Lefty’s Pitch
Swung on! A rope to right.
Down the line —
it hits chalk
It’ll kick into the corner:
extra bases for Taylor
He hits second
with a stand-up double
How can you not fall in love with a game that sprinkles art into the middle of meaningless?
Within the last year on this website, it has grown increasingly clear that part of our implicit mission statement doesn’t actually have anything to do with baseball.
At its most relevant it forms a commentary about the sport that is probably something like cracking jokes at the back of class. Not that I have any idea what that’s like, right Mrs. Skipper?
At its most bizarre, I must admit that I empathize with a reader who stumbles upon a -75.6 fWAR total and just doesn’t know what is happening.
Matt Lyons suggested that we take the Academy of Bunting Sciences joke and just run with it. The end result is (in theory) a subpage of the site where anything that isn’t really about baseball can end up. That’s still our starting point, but we are very Committed to the Bit here in The Academy.
Enrollment is free with the understanding that your sanity may be at stake.
Anyway, as Director of Research, I offer the first official article to be published by The Academy.
This article originally appeared on my personal blog, which you can find here, and I am now done promoting that very free blog.