Thursday, February 3, 2011

Touch 'Em All, Gordo

It seems as though every day I get some new reminder that I am not a kid anymore. Today's reminder comes in the form of John Gordon's announcement that this will be his last year with the Twins radio broadcasting team. 2011 marks Gordo's 70th year of life, and 25th and last season as the play-by-play announcer for the Twins. He shared the job with Herb Carneal for some time, but when Herb died, Gordo took over the main spot, and Dan Gladden became his partner. For my money, the Gordon-Gladden broadcasting combo is about as good as it gets.

What made/makes Gordon great is that he was/is a legitimate baseball fan (let alone a Twins fan). And his broadcasts were so effective precisely because he was a fan, communicating his excitement and love for baseball and the local nine. If nothing else (even if he weren't broadcasting for my local team), he and I could identify with each other on the basis of our love for the game.

My childhood memories are filled with a variety of life-experiences, but there is a common thread that flows through a lot of them. No matter what I was doing, there was usually a Twins game on in the background. There weren't many Twins games on TV back then (as there aren't now - I'm talking about broadcast television), so my family was automatically relegated to listening to the Twins on the radio. As I grew older and listened to more and more Twins games, I came to realize that listening to the games broadcast on the radio was the more desirable way to experience the game, and a lot of that is due to John Gordon.

It was through Carneal and Gordon that I came to know the game of baseball and the Twins players. Yes, the players were the ones who were playing the game, but it was Gordon who made them larger than life in my estimation. Part of this was accomplished just by the way Gordon called the games. His overly dramatic "Swiiiiing, and a miss!" is fantastic, bringing the potential for excitement to each pitch of the game. And of course, the signature "Touch 'em all!" is the stuff of goosebumps. Gordon's call of Kirby Puckett's game 6, 10th inning home run to force a game 7 of the 1991 World Series is absolutely classic. I recently discovered that this call was the only time he has ever repeated the "Touch 'em all" phrase in a single use. I can't listen to that call without almost getting choked up.

When Kirby Puckett died, I was actually pretty torn up. He was my childhood hero. And, like Gordon, a lot of my childhood memories involve Kirby, so for him to die was kind of a shock. John Gordon is the last remaining link to the baseball days of my childhood. Yes, Dan Gladden was a player then and is a broadcaster now, but it's different. Gladden wasn't a broadcaster when I was a kid. He was a player. Gordon has been there throughout my entire love affair with baseball. It's going to be strange to continue my relationship with baseball without Gordon mediating between the two of us.

Now that I'm a dad, one of my favorite things to do is play out in the yard with the kids. This past spring, summer, and fall, almost every evening was spent in the yard, with the Twins game on in the background, and John Gordon's voice bringing us every play. There's just something about baseball on the radio. It's like comfort food. It brings to mind pleasant memories of family and playing with my kids. And in some weird way, John Gordon has been a part of that throughout my life.

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