When the Philadelphia Phillies made their first visit to Montreal to play the expansion Expos in 1969, the Phillies' venerable announcer, Byrum Saam, paid the locals a compliment of sorts. "Most people up here speak French," he said. "However, they are nice people." Another time, Saam was calling an exhibition game from Al Lang Stadium. "Down here in St. Pete, there's artificial turf on the infield and natural grass in the outfield," he said. "Nevertheless, the Cardinals have runners on first and third."
Saam is retired now. In his honor we have decided to present the By Saam Award For Malapropisms, Spoonerisms and Non Sequiturs. The misleading candidates are Ralph Kiner of the Mets and the Padres' Jerry Coleman. Kiner specializes in rollicking transpositions of words, syllables and sounds. Ever hear of a Cub second baseman named Rhineberg who also goes by the name of Rhine Sandbag? Ralph has. As for Coleman, his claim to fame is saying things that come out unwittingly and hilariously wrong. One Coleman Classic had Padre reliever Rich Folkers "throwing up in the bullpen."
Both Kiner and Coleman have been behind the mike for 25 years, and they are not without talent and insight. But after Gary Carter won the Mets' Opening Day game with a homer, Kiner, on his postgame show, Kiner's Korner, called him Gary Cooper. Vintage Ralph. According to Phil Mushnick of the New York Post, a collector of Kinerisms, Kiner also announced last month that Cesar Cedeno "pleaded innocent to charges of running into a car." In previous seasons he has called Darryl Strawberry Darryl Throneberry and George Foster George Fisher. He has renamed Mookie Wilson Hubie Brooks and Hubie Brooks Mookie Wilson. And he has even called himself Ralph Korner.
Coleman is off to a good start this season. According to Terry Monahan of the Escondido (Calif.) Times-Advocate, unofficial chronicler of Colemanisms, Jerry's best line has been, "Eric Show will be oh for 10 if that pop fly comes down." Last year Coleman had Graig Nettles "leaping up to make one of those diving stops only he can make." In previous seasons Coleman uttered these gems:
•"Hi folks, I'm Jerry Gross. No I'm not, this is Jerry Coleman."
•"On the mound is Randy Jones, the lefthander with the Karl Marx hairdo." ("I was probably thinking of the Russian Revolution," Coleman explained. "I was reading about Trotsky or Lenin.")
•"If Rose's streak was still intact, with that single to left the fans would be throwing babies out of the upper deck."
•"Winfield goes back to the wall. He hits his head on the wall, and it rolls off! It's rolling all the way back to second base! This is a terrible thing for the Padres!"
•"We're all sad to see Glenn Beckert leave. Before he goes, though, I hope he stops by so we can kiss him goodby. He's that kind of a guy."
One Kiner story, now considered a Klassic, involves his partner, former catcher Tim McCarver. In one of McCarver's first games with the Mets in '83, Kiner said, "Now I'll turn the broadcast over to my good friend, Tim MacArthur."
"Ralph, my name is McCarver."
"What did I say?" Kiner said.
"Well," Kiner said, "that was pretty close."
Kiner and McCarver joked about the MacArthur reference throughout the game, which ended in a Mets defeat. "General MacArthur once said, 'Chance favors a prepared man,' " McCarver said during the wrap-up, "and the Mets just weren't prepared tonight." To which Kiner replied, "Douglas MacArthur also said, 'I shall return,' and we'll be right back after this commercial."
So, is it Kiner or Coleman for the By Saam Award? Lifetime, Coleman wins, hands up, sliding across the plate with a standup inside-the-park homer. But Kiner has had a few beauts recently: "Scott Sanderson was traded from Montreal on Pearl Harbor Day, June 7, 1983."..."Rounding third is Mel Ott [the runner was in fact Milt May, whom Ralph was confusing with Ed Ott]." Give him a few more years, and he may just Kiner the market.