Jim Palmer: the Best Color Commentator These Old Ears Have Heard

–Richard E. Vatz

    I do not have the expertise to argue that the opinion that follows is definitive, because my knowledge of sports announcing is limited.  My son announces sports for University of Maryland at Eastern Shore; I do considerable media work; but my expertise on baseball and even announcing is not top-of-the line.
     I do know, however, when play-by-play announcers make the game enjoyable, and I also know when commentators increase my understanding of the game.

     I watch the Orioles on television every chance I get (I go to a few games, as well), and I am so impressed by the consistent excellence of color commentator Jim Palmer, whose interpretations of the game never fail to elucidate that which he is explaining – everything, every time…just exquisite.  Every game I feel like I have learned 30-40 or more new strategic points of the game.

     Everything he says is valuable…no one can predict whether a particular player will get a hit in an at bat, but Palmer even explains what the current likelihood is of a player’s success and what to look for in his swing, as opposed to his swing of a month ago.  He points out wise and unwise deployments, shifts, macro and mini-strategic moves.  There is an endless array of categories he analyzes with seemingly unique perspicacity.

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     Every action by players and non-players in the field is analyzed sensibly…he unfailingly praises and blames umpires for good and sub-par work respectively.  There are announcers who are afraid to judge – not Palmer…he even offers whether it was difficult or easy to have made a correct call.

     Not surprising, his analysis of pitching – when it is reasonable to switch pitchers and how much rest is necessary and who helps himself with good fielding and how the hitting is affected when we play National League teams – is non pareil. His knowledge of the history of the game which he intertwines with his commentary works stunningly well to help the viewer/listener acquire an understanding of the significance of what is transpiring.

     I personally like Mike Bordick – who wouldn’t – but the depth of his analysis pales next to Palmer’s, and he never gets excited over anything.  Speaking of which, great announcers such as Jon Miller have a great “excited voice” with which listeners identify.  Recently one of the Oriole announcers – again, all likeable and not-bad-at-their-job folks – announced a (yet another) critical Matt Wieters’ throwing out of a would-be base stealer as if a player were handling a routine grounder in a blow-out.

     Why is Palmer not doing every game?  Dunno, but he really should.

     I simply love to experience a person who is the best at his/her job.

    He’s the best I have heard.  He’s the Distinguished Professor of Color Commentary (DPCC).

Prof. Vatz teaches rhetoric and communication at Towson University and is author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion (Kendall Hunt, 2012, 2013).

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