Gary is competent; Ron is incisive; Keith is subversive.
“The moment of revelation for me was when I realized that we are better as a threesome than any combination of the twosome,” said Mr. Cohen.
It was a few hours before the cough-button incident, and the Mets and Yankees were gearing up to take the field. We were inside the SNY broadcast booth at Citi Field, which is cramped, but right above home plate with an expansive, nearly perfect view of the field. Mr. Cohen was sitting behind a desk filling out the lineups on his scorecard; Mr. Darling was sitting to his right; and Mr. Hernandez was pacing around, quietly groaning about pain in his leg.
“Somehow it works,” Mr. Cohen said. “We don’t script any of it. There’s not one word for three hours we’re planning, but somehow it all works. It’s more … It’s more? What do you say? Free-form jazz?”
“Yeah, Yeah! It’s free-form jazz,” said Mr. Darling. “There are producers that will literally say, ‘Gary, I need you to get Keith right now.’ We don’t have that.”
Mr. Hernandez let the back of his head bounce gently against a wall.
“I had always been warned about traffic,” Mr. Darling continued. “Traffic, traffic, traffic. ‘In a three-man booth, there’s going to be all this noise and you gotta watch out never to talk over each other.’ That’s something that hasn’t happened here and it hasn’t happened since day one. I think that’s unusual.”
Tom Seaver, the Franchise, the Mets’ only Hall of Famer and maybe the most popular player in team history, took over the booth in the late ’90s, and it was a terrible bore. He was condescending, he talked down to players—you’d never get away with that in my day—and his ego dominated the broadcast.
The current team prides itself on being uncompetitive about airtime.
“To me, the game comes first, and everything else springs from there,” continued Mr. Cohen. “It’s not like I’m thinking, ‘I have to get an anecdote in or I have to talk about this.’ It’s not the way it works. Something happens in the game and Keith says something that makes Ronnie think of something that makes me think of something and then we get focused on the game and then we get back to where we were and then before you know it the inning is over.”
During the sixth inning of the game that night, Yankees pitcher A. J. Burnett was working on a no-hitter against the Mets until Alex Cora delivered the Mets lone single, a solid line drive that landed in center field.
Gary and Ron talked about how deflating it is for a pitcher when he’s working on a no-hitter and loses it. Inevitably, the conversation turned to the time the Mets—who have, amazingly, never had a no-hitter—came their closest to one: a game in July 1969, when Tom Seaver was two outs away only to surrender a left-center hit to the Cubs’ reserve man, Jimmy Qualls.
“Seaver looked like he wanted to go and strangle Jimmy Qualls,” said Ron. “That’s the look he gave.”
Keith: “He’s a winemaker now—Thomas.”
Ron: “Don’t forget Nancy Chardonnay.”
It was a reference to the wine Seaver named after his wife.
Keith: “It’s Nancy Fancy—it’s a red.”
Ron: “Oh, it is? I thought it was a char.”
Keith: “It’s like a petite sirah, almost.”
Gary: “Are you oenophiles done?”
Ron: “It’s a blend, right?”
They all laughed.
Keith: “Sorry, Gar.”
Gary: “It all tastes the same to me.”
Keith: “I had a splendid Joseph Phelps the other night!”
Gary: “Reyes down swinging, and that’s seven strikeouts for Burnett.”
MR COHEN, a tall, balding, pencil-necked New York native who used to call soccer games with George Stephanopoulos at Columbia, is the passionately opinionated baseball historian. He was trained as a radio guy, only switching to television in 2006.
“From the beginning, I remember just looking at him and being like, ‘Oooooh! That’s pretty darn good,’” said Ron Darling. “His call is so strong.”
For years now, when a ball flies over the fence, Mr. Cohen won’t say “It’s gone!” or “It’s a homer!” or “Kiss that baby goodbye!” It is always, always—Mets or opponent—“And it’s OUTTA HERE.”
Follow John Koblin via RSS.