Jon Miller's Most Memorable Baseball Game
Last night, Jon Miller called Randy Johnson's 300th win. Kind of a memorable game, although he's had plenty of others. Barry Bonds's 756th home run. Cal Ripken's record-breaking night. Tom Glavine's 300th win. Countless playoff games, including the New York-Arizona World Series after Sept. 11.
But when we started talking about most memorable games, none of those were first on his list. It was an Orioles game, and not the sort of Orioles game you'd expect.
"I mean, I'm sure I've done lots of memorable games, World Series, Cal, all kinds of stuff," he said at Nationals Park yesterday afternoon. "But the one I'll never forget...The Orioles came home from the road trip 1-23 [in May of 1988]. And it was a Monday night with Texas in town. Jay Tibbs was the pitcher. And they had 50,000 at Memorial Stadium.
"When the team's bad, much less historically bad, the response in your home town is basically indifference. Nobody shows up. Crowds are small, they're quiet. But the crowd that night not only was huge; it was like the World Series.
"Oddibe McDowell led off and took a called strike, and it's 'Whoooooaaaaaaah!' You know, then he popped one up. 'He pops it up, Whooooooaaaaaah!!!!' You know, 'Cal's under it and he's got it, Whooaaaaaaaaah!!!!!' It was like Game 7 of the World Series. It was unbelievable.
"The Orioles went to the ninth inning leading 9-1, as if they'd been doing that along. It was probably the one time that I ever thought, there's a game where actually the crowd literally helped them win a game, helped them play better. People say that, but I think in that case you really could make a case that it actually was true.
"They had been in that losing streak, and everyone was making fun of them. There were jokes on The Tonight Show and whatnot every night, and there was a disc jockey, [Bob Rivers], and he did a thing where he stayed on the air 24 hours a day until they broke the losing streak. And it was a good little bit he was doing.
"Somebody called him and said I'm a Baltimorean and I feel bad, I still love the Orioles, and I feel bad that people are making fun of them, and I'm sure they all feel real down about it. I'd like to be able to tell them that I'm really behind them and I still love them. You know, that I still root for them. And so other people started calling in and saying the same thing, so finally he had the idea, why don't we all come out to the ballpark when they get back and tell em that. I mean, you fans are fantastic. And he ended up calling it something like Fantastic Fans night.
"And then before the game they made the announcement that they had struck a deal, signed a contract for what became Camden yards, and that got everyone excited. You know, Edward Bennett Williams and I guess [Gov. William Donald] Schaefer made the announcement jointly on the field before the game, and people went nuts over that. Signed a new -year contract or whatever it was, 'to stay here for now and far into the future,' blah blah blah. 'Whoooooaaaaaa!!!!!' It was an unforgettable night."
And a story I was not familiar with. The stories at the time agreed with Miller's account; that this was one of the most remarkable days in franchise history. The players, too; "Pretty damn impressive, isn't it?" second baseman Bill Ripken told Richard Justice after the game. "We were 1-23 going into tonight, and we had 50,000 people. I could have never imagined it."
Anyhow, the Giants and their traveling party all visited the White House on Wednesday morning, although the Obama family wasn't there. Miller, though, has interacted with each of the previous four presidents in the course of his broadcasting duties. The stories follow.
"He would come to the ballpark and they wouldn't announce it, he would come in through the clubhouse and just throw out the pitch from right outside the dugout and then sit in the dugout as the game started. And he'd watch like three innings, and they'd take him back to the clubhouse and the helicopter and take off.
"So he was down there with Edward Bennett Williams and Larry Lucchino and whoever, there was four of them anyway, plus all the White House press corps and Secret Service and all that. But he says, 'I want a ballpark hot dog. I've been thinking about this all week, since we decided we were coming. And all week I've been thinking about having a ballpark hot dog, I haven't had one in years.'
So they get a poor schmuck hot dog vendor. At that time, the stadium dogs were $2 a piece. I don't know how long it'd been since he'd had a stadium hot dog, but it had been awhile. So he says 'Four dogs, my man!' The guy's all thrilled, 'Yes sir, Mr. President! Mustard? Yes, sir!' Slathers it on, gives one to all four of the guys.
And Reagan says, 'I'm paying.' You know, Edward Bennett Williams says, Mr. President, that's ridiculous, of course we're going to get you.' He says, 'No, all week I've been thinking about it, I brought money, I brought cash to pay, I'm the President of the United States, I'm paying, that's it. So he pulls out [money], hands the guy a five. And says, 'Keep the change, my man!' "
George H.W. Bush
One time he came when it was Camden Yards, and threw out the first ball, and Texas was in town. So his son, George W. Bush, was the president of the Rangers. He was there. So I'm on the field for the pre-game ceremonies, then I try to get back and get up so I can start the game in the booth. But the president's there, they won't let me go up, everything's shut down until the president and his entourage go up.
"Well, all right. So I think, well, I'll have to take the stairs. The stairs are closed too. So I'm stuck. So I'm just standing there, and then the president and the Secret Service and everyone comes through, including W. And he goes by and he says, 'Hey Jon, how you doing?' I'd interviewed him, because he was a baseball guy.
They get in the elevator, he says, 'Well, aren't you coming?' I say, 'You know, I have to wait.' He says, 'Well, you're gonna miss the first pitch, how can you do the broadcast?' I say, 'Well, I'm not allowed to go up.'
"So he turns to his dad, all the way in the back of the elevator, he says dad, that's Jon Miller, he's the broadcaster, he's got to get up and be ready to broadcast the game. So his dad's just standing in the back of the elevator, and he [gives the hi sign], he just waves to me. Thank you very much. It was hard not to like him at that point."
"He came on the night Cal broke Gehrig's record. He was on the air, and Cal hit a home run while he was on the air, on the radio. So he had his own microphone. The count went to 3-0 and I thought I'd make a little funny with the president, I say, 'Mr. President, they can't walk Cal tonight of all nights, people just won't stand for it, maybe you can send a Presidential order down to order them to throw him a strike. And he says, 'Well, I know that Cal really wants to hit one right now for these fans, but if they don't throw him a strike then he'll take his walk for the good of the team, because that's the kind of guy he is.'
"I said, 'Absolutely, on the other hand, Mr. President, if they groove one here, even though the count is 3-0...'
"Then he picked it right up, completed my sentence, he said, '...Oh, then he'll hit it a long way.' And literally just as he said that the pitch comes in and boom, there it goes. So I get very excited because I know it's gone right away, but the President starts shouting, 'Go! Go! Go! Yessssss, haha!' And he starts laughing and clapping his hands.
"So when you hear the tape, I'm just some disembodied voice way off in the background, while you hear the President screaming, 'Go! Go!' At first I was like, wow, this is a big game, you like to have those moments for posterity. But then I thought, no, it's perfect. It was very exciting, and here's the President of the United States, who's just as excited as the most excited fan. So I thought, so be it. That made the moment, you know. How often do you hear the President screaming?"
George W. Bush
"I went to the White House for dinner maybe three years ago. George Will always put together this dinner that the Bushes hosted at the White House, it was a baseball dinner, every year. So the one year I got invited to it, it was very exciting because they had it up in the private residence, so that was a real treat. I think it was Orel Hershiser and Mark Grace, Derrek Lee, Harold Reynolds, John Kruk, Tim Kurkjian. So we all feel like we're in this private little club now, we see each other and we all shared that night.
"After dinner, the first lady showed us all the rooms up there, the Lincoln Bedroom, the queen's room, we ate in the private dining room up there, we went out on the Truman Balcony, had hors d'œuvre, looked at the sunset. And then at dinner we just told stories, had laughs and told baseball stories.
"After dinner, [Bush] says, 'Hey, I was thinking I'd like to take you all down to see the Oval Office. Anybody like to do that?' We're all like, 'Hey, I've got time! It'd be all right with me!' So he took us down to the Oval Office. It was all baseball connections. It was fun."
June 5, 2009; 9:44 AM ET
Categories: MLB , Media , Orioles
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