Mercy! The Orioles have given up so many home runs this season—105 and counting—that even the typically ebullient Gary Thorne, who is supposed to tell us what’s going on, was left speechless the other night.
“I . . . I don’t know,” the play-by-play voice of the Orioles on MASN said live on the air Wednesday when the Yankees’ Gleyber Torres hit another out of Camden Yards—his ninth homer against the O’s this season. Then Thorne delivered a demoralized, monotone version of his signature call, “Goodbye! Home run!” He’d seen enough.
So it goes for the Orioles, and even the 70-year-old, Emmy Award-winning Thorne, a 33-year baseball broadcast veteran who, as good broadcasters do, has endeared himself to much of the fanbase in 13 seasons working O’s telecasts.
We were afraid something like this might happen, in the first full season of a much-ballyhooed, publicly-stated franchise rebuild.
The O’s not only seem to be Torres favorite team to hit against (he only has two home runs against any other this year), but everyone’s.
On Monday, in the first of a four-game homestand against the division-leading Yankees (again?!), starting pitcher David Hess — who has allowed a major-league worst 17 home runs alone — gave up the team’s 100th, as the O’s pitching staff became the quickest in major league baseball history to achieve the undesirable feat.
It’s still May, there’s four months to go in the season, and the O’s unfortunately are on pace to obliterate an infamous low-water single-season record of 258 home runs allowed by the Cincinnati Reds in 2016.
To hear first-year manager Brandon Hyde describe the situation, some of it might be avoidable.
“There’s definitely a pitching plan [and] it’s definitely not throw the ball in the middle part of the plate, and we just continue to do it,” he said the other night. “That’s inexcusable at this level.”
But some of it may not. When a team decides to overhaul the roster from top to bottom and plan for the future while sacrificing the present, without a bonafide ace, and sends pitchers to and from the minors as if day-trading stocks, this is what happens. It’s hard. Even Gary gets exhausted.
Other than players and coaches, there are few people associated with a professional baseball team who see more pitches, hits, and outs than its local television play-by-play announcer.
And in our case, we’re blessed to have Thorne, a former lawyer—in his younger years, he was assistant district attorney in his native Maine—who has called national games and many sports in addition to baseball for the last five decades. (As a kid, I remember hearing him do hockey games on ESPN and locally for the New Jersey Devils.)
He and analyst and Hall-of-Fame pitcher Jim Palmer are one of the best local broadcast teams in any pro sport. In fact, right now Thorne is teaching a remote class on broadcasting for Arizona State’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
It’s a craft, and dedicated fans here know Thorne’s quirks, character, ties, and sometimes irreverent commentary. Some might even know his drink preferences: a glass of GTS cabernet sauvignon, or a finger of bourbon over a single ice cube. And his favorite book: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.
“I read it at least once a year because it’s such a concise, yet total picture of human life; battling the elements, winning, and then suffering the loss and surviving both,” he told fans earlier this year.
In addition to his signature in-game phrases like “mercy,” following a notable play, Thorne signs off a broadcast by bidding us “adieu, adieu,” for a win, or just one “adieu” for a loss.
About a third of the way into the season, so far the O’s have a baseball-worst 15 wins and 35 losses, a last-place status many observers expected. But how it’s happening is nonetheless painful. The home runs? We knew it was possible, but it hurts to see so many balls flying into the hunter green seats at Camden Yards, off the bats of the other team.
Thorne, as good voices do, spoke for a lot of the fans.