Las Vegas resident Kirk McKnight’s first book, The Voices of Baseball, the Game’s Greatest Broadcasters Reflect on America’s Pastime (Aug. 16, $38, Rowman & Littlefield), takes readers on a tour of all 30 Major League Baseball parks through the observations of each team’s broadcast announcers. McKnight reflects on the project:
What announcer set your pulse racing?
The day I got a call from [65-year Los Angeles Dodger announcer] Vin Scully, I was in a whirlwind at first. It was 12:30 p.m., and he asked if would it be OK if we did the interview at 1:30. To be able to speak with Vin Scully, the greatest broadcaster in any sport ever, put a capstone on the book. It felt like I finished the work without any regrets. The thing that amazed me about Scully—as well as many other broadcasters—is how clear their memories are. He described Brooklyn Dodgers fan Hilda Chester as if he had just seen her. Chester was a very dedicated fan and here he is, describing her from 58 years ago as if he just passed her on the street yesterday. He remembered so many things about Ebbets Field, and he has broadcast in at least 50 parks since the Dodgers moved.
Of the parks you’ve visited, what’s your favorite?
Globe Life in Arlington, Texas, because it’s a combination of old-school baseball with a new-park feel. The right-field bleachers hang over the field like at the old Tiger Stadium, and they have eight angles in the outfield, like a stop sign. Those crazy angles that can make a double [into] a triple and the low walls over which outfielders can reach and rob a home run make baseball more exciting.
Never mind the poetry of the announcers and the architecture of the parks, how does your book help readers understand the game better?
It’s also a lesson in geography [and meteorology]. Southern California has perfect weather compared to the rest of the country, but when it comes to the nights, the stadiums there become places where home runs go to die. The ball dies in the marine layer and cool air. And the seasons of the game mean the pitchers may have a lot of misleading stats in April and May, especially on the East Coast, because the weather is still cooler. Cooler weather means the ball doesn’t travel as much.