Players and friends remember Herb Carnealby Jessica Mador, Minnesota Public Radio
The Minnesota Twins open their 2007 season Monday, with a game at the Metrodome. But the occasion will be tinged with sadness, with the death of longtime Twins radio announcer Herb Carneal. Carneal, who called Twins games for 45 seasons, died Sunday of congestive heart failure at 83.
That's how legendary sportscaster Herb Carneal started every Twins game.
"It wasn't by design or anything. It just seemed to be the natural thing for me to say when I came on," Carneal said in a 1995 interview with Minnesota Public Radio. "'Hi, everybody' seemed to be the first two words I would say, and it stuck with me over the years and I kept on using it."
John Gordon has called the Twins games with Carneal for two decades, and says he always thought of his partner as the ultimate professional. Carneal did his homework and came to the booth prepared. But he made it look, and sound, easy.
"He would just sort of slide into the booth and slide into his chair. And the next thing you know he'd be opening the broadcast with 'Hi everybody, welcome to Twins baseball,'" says Gordon.
"To hear that voice was magic," said former Twins first baseman Kent Hrbek, who listened to Twins games growing up in the suburb of Bloomington, and later played 13 seasons for the team before retiring in 1994. "When I was a kid, it meant school was almost out and spring was coming."
A native of Virginia, Carneal got his first radio job straight out of high school in the 1950s. He worked in Philadelphia and Baltimore before ending up in Minnesota in 1962. It wasn't long before Carneal's voice became synonymous with the Minnesota Twins on WCCO-AM.
"There are certain voices that people recognize," says former Twins pitcher Bert Blyleven, "and no matter where you're at -- if you're out on the farm getting ready for harvest or whatever -- you know those farmers have their radios on listening to Twins games, and they heard Carneal's voice. He was the voice for the Minnesota Twins."
Blyleven is now a Twins announcer himself for Fox SportsNet.
Carneal's long career was recognized by Major League Baseball in 1996, when he received the Ford C. Frick Award for major contributions to baseball broadcasting.
Carneal came from a time in sports where players' personal lives were not part of the public discourse. And he was known for maintaining the same level of discretion long after that time had passed.
Frank Viola, who pitched for the Twins from 1982 to 1989, remembers Carneal as someone who went out of his way to make rookies feel at home.
"You had to earn your stripes, and the players were always rough on the rookies. But with Herb, once you first got there and you first met him, he just treated you like a professional through and through," says Viola. "He always made us all -- from rookies on through to 20-year veterans -- he always made us feel the same. That's what made him special."
Team president Dave St. Peter called Carneal's death a sad day for millions of baseball fans across the upper Midwest.
"The Twins organization will always be indebted to Herb. He was such a huge part of this franchise, and I think he'll go down as one of the most beloved figures in Minnesota sports history," says St. Peter.
Because of health problems in recent years, Carneal had been keeping a limited schedule. But he never talked about retirement. He wanted to stay in the game.
In his 1995 interview with Minnesota Public Radio, Carneal talked about how radio and baseball were made for each other.
"Especially in an area like we have with long winters, I think in the summer people really like to get outside, as opposed to sitting inside with the television set, they can sit outside on the porch," Carneal said.
Garrison Keillor, another radio man whose voice made him a Minnesota icon, once wrote a tune for one of his Prairie Home Companion shows that was titled "Porch Song." In that whimsy, folksy tribute to summer's simple pleasures, Keillor included this stanza:
"Just give me two pillows and a bottle of beer. And the Twins game on radio next to my ear. Some hark to the sound of the loon or the teal. But I love the voice of Herb Carneal."
Carneal's wife Kathy died in 2000. He is survived by his daughter, Terri, and grandson, Matthew. Funeral arrangements were pending Sunday. The team has dedicated its upcoming season to Carneal.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)
- Morning Edition, 04/02/2007, 7:20 a.m.