Jon Miller has been a play-by-play announcer on more network television baseball broadcasts than anybody, dating back to 1947.
Ernie Harwell is revered in Detroit and across Michigan, but he only appeared on network TV a handful of times.
Vin Scully has already announced that he plans to come back from his 65th season with the Dodgers in 2014. Except for his brief stint with NBC, Scully has few national broadcasts to his credit.
We know all these facts are more because Tony Miller has crunched the numbers.
Miller, 20, is a senior broadcasting major at Goshen College and a 2010 Bethany Christian High School graduate.
A lifelong sports fan with a real affinity for baseball – something he got from his father Lyle – became fascinated with broadcasting at a young age when he learned that “people were getting paid to to talk about baseball for three hours a day.”
Besides working toward his degree – Tony also hopes to minor in multimedia communication – Miller is kept busy as a play-by-play announcer for Goshen College events on WGCS-FM 91.1 (The Globe) and high school contests for Regional Radio Sports Network as well as sports editor for The Record (GC’s student newspaper).
Naturally curious, Tony began looking into the history of broadcasting and soon discovered that the data was out there it just had to be pulled together.
“Since the late 1940s, there has always been more and more (baseball on) TV,” says Miller, who belongs to the Society for American Baseball Research’s new Baseball and the Media Committee. “I know that Dizzy Dean (famous for phrases like “he slud into third”) was blacked out in many major league markets, but was popular in rural areas.”
Miller says Ol’ Diz would probably not get a network gig if he were still around.
While the New York Yankees have been on network TV more than any other team by a wide margin, Miller can tell you that Milwaukee Braves got very little TV coverage even during the club’s glory years in the 1950s.
Milwaukee was on a “UHF island.”
“It was hard to get a long distance TV signal in Wisconsin,” says Miller, who notes that the South Bend market was in a similar situation and that’s why 16 is the lowest local channel number while Chicago has several single digit stations.
As a reader and contributor to the forum at 506sports.com (the website that does NFL TV market maps), Miller has viewed secondary sources and noticed how owners were worried about protecting the live game and didn’t immediately see broadcasts as free advertising.
Bill Wirtz, the late former owner of the Chicago Blackhawks, was famous for not allowing his home hockey contests to be broadcast.
Miller points out that Wirtz was in the unique position of also owning a concession company and he stood to gain from having a full house of hungry and thirsty fans.
But before Miller began cataloging these national baseball broadcasts in spreadsheet form, there was just what he calls “anecdotal history.”
Now we know that as of the lists most recent update that Ken Rosenthal had made the most appearances as a national field announcer/reporter while play-by-play man Miller and analyst Morgan have worked together 560 times – more than any other network tandem.
One of Tony Miller’s next probable projects is to delve further into all-time announcer pairings. He also has the data to go deeper on football broadcasts.
As part of Miller’s interest in baseball, he is interested in rain delays.
“I’m intrigued with rain delays because, quite simply, they screw things up,” says Miller. “Games that run long or get postponed because of the weather create problems for media trying to cover the games (both in print and on-air), but in addition, they trigger schedule changes, attendance drop-offs, concession sales, roster moves … the list could go on.
“With that many facets of baseball being affected by precipitation, I’m surprised there’s not a more systematic record kept of them. Until (I think) the last couple of years, they weren’t even in the (Associated Press) box scores. So much of baseball has been quantified that it seems strange to not have numbers that say something like “64 percent of rain delays longer than two hours end in calling the game.”
In his junior year at Bethany, Miller founded a blog called “Bleeding Bruin Blue.” It was a place to keep up with all things Bethany sports.
“There were things going on at Bethany that nobody realizes,” says Miller. “Teams were improving, jelling.”
One year, Miller initiated the ambitious Project 440 (the approximate number of athletic contests at the school at all levels) and was active in updating the blog until he got too busy with his college pursuits.
“Bleeding Bruin Blue” now serves as a social media fan site.