In the fall of 2002 I had the good fortune of meeting my broadcasting hero and the man who motivated me chase my dreams, Chuck Thompson. Chuck’s voice was synonymous Baltimore sports, including the long-gone football Colts and the baseball Orioles. Thompson, a member of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, was the inspiration to my career.
I never set out to be a radio broadcaster, and in fact, I had aspirations of playing baseball at the big league level. The first notion came to mind while I was an elementary student. Always hyper back in third grade, I found myself in the principal’s office to answer a few question.
He asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I answered with something to the effect of, “A baseball player.” He responded that a career in the Major Leagues was a “pipedream” for most and my follow-up would reign entirely true and accurate just like his pipedream prediction proved.
“If I’m not going to make it to the big leagues as a baseball player, then I’ll be a broadcaster.”
I developed my love of baseball playing whiffle-ball in the back yard with my dad. My passion for baseball developed over time, game-after-game in fact, but there is no exact year or moment that sticks out me as to when. However, I can pinpoint when I fell in love with listening to the game on radio.
The Orioles had made an incredible late season rally in the summer of 1982, overcoming an eight-game mid-August deficit to catch the Milwaukee Brewers on the final day of the regular season. Game No. 162 turned into a de-fact-o winner takes all playoff and Chuck Thompson was at his best on the call. The Brewers won10-2 that day at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, but I didn’t miss a second of Chuck’s broadcast.
Dejected, I listened to the post-game of that crushing Orioles loss to Milwaukee that changed and shaped my future. Thompson spent the postgame broadcast describing the Brewers celebration and then detailed the 45,000 Baltimore fans that stayed around cheering until the team emerged for a curtain call. Chuck was like a great artist depicting the emotion and disappointment of the outcome. The sorrowful and sudden ending to the year, but yet the success that was the season, was told perfectly by the Hall of Famer who painted the picture of the grateful audience showing appreciation for their team.
There were other influences on my broadcast career including Jon Miller, who succeeded Thompson as the radio broadcaster the following season and is now the voice of his hometown San Francisco Giants. Harry Caray and Steve Stone on WGN-TV instantly made me Cubs fan and on more than one occasion I skipped school to watch the Northsiders if there was a big game that afternoon.
However, Chuck Thompson still sits above the rest. We developed a friendship and I will never forget the feeling I got when he would call me on the phone. It was incredible to hear his deep distinct voice on the other end. It always reminded me of the day Chuck held my imagination captive and fueled my spark to pursue a career in the broadcasting profession.
And to Chuck, I will always be thankful for that.