The Anti-Homers

“There was a game in Flushing at Shea,” Mr. Darling said, “that Carlos Beltran ended a 16-inning game against the Phillies and it had been a long game, but a great game, and Gary’s call was ‘It’s outta here! And we’re going home.’ Was that the call, Gary?”

Mr. Cohen looked up from his scorecard and nodded.

Interestingly, Mr. Cohen does a number of things wrong when he calls games on TV. When you’re on the radio, you announce that the catcher is set up on the inside corner and the pitch is a back-door slider and the hitter is jammed and the ball goes down the third-base line and David Wright back-hands the ball and makes an off-balance throw that Daniel Murphy scoops on one hop to beat the runner by a step. On television, where the producers and the cameramen do the hard part for you, you probably should say nothing other than: “Grounder. Back-hand. Out.”

Mr. Cohen often forgets this.

“I still think in radio,” said Mr. Cohen. “I have to translate in TV, which means talking less and playing with others.”

 

MR. DARLING HAD a rough transition at first to the broadcast booth. After a stint with Fox Sports at the beginning of the decade, he called games for the Oakland A’s, and then for the Washington Nationals.

“When I watched that demo tape from Washington, I said, ‘Oooh! We gotta lot of work to do,’” said Gregg Picker, the producer of Mets games on SNY.

Mr. Darling is now invluable: a pitching specialist who has gotten very good at explaining the overall mechanics of the game to viewers. But he is still the most self-conscious of the three in the booth. During the Yankees game, he began a story with two outs—a no-no—and actually said, “Oh, I’m starting a story with two outs. O.K., well …”

Mr. Hernandez is the least predictable element. He was known for his intensity as a player, but his participation in the broadcast is … casual.

Consider this moment in 2006, preserved on Metsblog.com, when the Mets were playing the Rockies and leading 10-3 in the top of the ninth inning:

 

Hernandez: Are you getting hungry?

Cohen: No, actually, I had a pretty big dinner. You?

Hernandez: I’m starved.

Cohen: You’re always starved. … And there’s ball four.  … You know, they have really good food here at the ball park.

Hernandez: No …

Cohen: Would you like me to go out and get you something?

Hernandez: I’m gonna head over to the steakhouse after this …

Cohen: Because they have really good fajitas in the back.

Hernandez: … and I’m gonna order a bottle of wine, with my daughter, and my wife, and I’m gonna savor it, after this debacle of a game.

Cohen: Are you saying you haven’t enjoyed the quality of play tonight?

Hernandez: No, I have not … but I will enjoy the quality of the red wine.

Cohen: Would you like to have tonight’s winning pitcher pick it out for you?

Hernandez: No, no, I can pick it out myself.

Cohen: O.K., I just didn’t know if your wine-picking credentials were up to snuff. … Nothing and one to Jose Valentin … A red or a white?

Hernandez: Oh, a red, a big, hearty, heavy, spicy red, maybe a red zinfandel … My stomach is growling, I’m so hungry.

Cohen: Wow, that’s out there. … Zero-one to Valentin, who’s one for four on the night … Now, are you thinking rib-eye, or …

Hernandez: No, I never eat heavy at night. … I may drink heavy, but I never eat heavy at night.

Cohen: O.K., thanks for sharing. … See you in the morning. … One-two to Valentin … Maybe have some shrimp … The Mets looking to tack on, they lead in the ninth.

Hernandez: [sighing] Wait, there’s nobody out? [sighing]

Cohen: You just noticed that? Oh, boy.

 

Last month, late in a game that took place a week before the Mets’ 5-0 loss to their crosstown rivals, the Yankees were beating the Mets 15-0.

Mr. Cohen and Mr. Darling were talking about historic Mets blowouts in which the team, out of desperation, or indifference, brought position players in off the bench to pitch: Matt Franco in 1999 against the Braves; Derek Bell the following season. Mr. Darling revealed a secret about Darryl Strawberry having thrown 80 miles per hour from the mound before a game in Montreal and hurting his arm for a few days. Purposefully dorky stuff.

 

Gary: So there’s plenty of history on the line. You don’t want to tune away and miss something historic. Right?

Ron: It won’t be for our call of the game!

Gary: Besides, you never know what Keith might say.

Keith: I wasn’t paying attention.

[laughter]

Ron: Right answer!

Keith: You guys lost me a while ago.

jkoblin@observer.com