Chris Berman: He’s certainly a man who was permitted to speak during baseball games. But unlike the sunburned fellow in a tank top drinking a Bud Light Lime in the row in front of you at CBP, Berman is actually paid to do so. Or, he was, until he stepped back from his duties at ESPN earlier today.
Broadcasting baseball is a tough gig, in that unless you’re anything but iconic, you are utter trash. There is no middle ground. Nobody can just "stand" mediocre baseball narration, they have to take full, body-length breaths inward before spouting their five and a half to six foot-long vitriol. Meanwhile, Harry Kalas had his face secretly chiseled onto City Hall’s Billy Penn statue a few years ago (shhh!) and we all had an extra drink or six at happy hour the day the Phillies extended Scott Franzke another five years.
We spend all summer with these voices, and like the ones in our heads telling us to hurl the krautiest hot dog at the tank top spouting unsolicited hitting advice, most times, we just have to learn to live with them. Berman was no legend in my mind - if we’re talking ESPN, I was more of a Stuart Scott man myself - he simply stopped through once a week to relate Bristol’s approved baseball talking points to a national audience. I remember being most entertained by his Home Run Derby shouts, the infamous "back-back-back-back" cawing, as a nine or ten year old, when "repeated noises" was up there with "crotch shots" and "Adam Sandler" in my brain’s "comedy gold" file.
Nevertheless, Berman wedged his way into Phillies history, whether you appreciate or openly despise him in front of your kids at dinner most nights. To Berman, the Phillies are probably just some other team he had to watch do stuff sometimes, but to any Phillies clip junkies like myself, he was there for a somewhat memorable moment on August 21, 1990.
It’s a game everyone remembers; its casualties including one baseball, Tim Crews' feelings, and Tommy Lasorda's coffee cup. Lasorda, an MLB legend with both the thin skin and body type of a potato, was managing his 63-59 Dodgers to a second place finish in the NL West, which back then meant they didn't make the playoffs. The Phillies were floundering probably around .500 or so to finish flaccidly somewhere in the middle of the NL East or some stupid thing. I don't know, I'm not looking it up. The point is, after Jason Grimsley gave up three runs, Phillies manager Nick Leyva yanked him, and watched in gaped-mouth horror as Bruce Ruffin and two other blood-letters allowed the Dodgers to hang eight runs on the Phillies in the bottom of the fifth.
By the time the top of the ninth rolled around, Lasorda was sitting on both a weakened dugout bench and an 11-3 lead. Confident his team was about to pick up an all-important home victory against a beatable squad, he folded his arms, lulling his coffee cup into a false sense of security. But it took six Phillies hitters for the Dodgers to get one out, and 14 of them for the Dodgers to find the second one. In that stretch, the Phillies had made it 11-8, thanks to all manner of walks, clutch singles, circus music Dodgers defense, and pinch hitter John Kruk.
Kruk stepped in for Phillies pitcher Roger McDowell, facing the aforementioned Dodgers reliever Tim Crews, and Berman, still not asleep, got to call the Krukker's game-tying three run blast that sent Lasorda's poor coffee mug to its death. The Phillies would go up 12-11 and hang on to win it against a stunned, exhausted Dodgers offense.
As was tradition at the time, the Phillies went on to lose 16 of their next 23 games.