Leonard Shapiro’s Career Revived By Lists! But Where’s Jon Miller?
Big week for Ron Weber.
First, the Hockey Hall of Fame announced that Weber, the original Washington Capitals play-by-play man, had been given something called the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award "for outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster."
And, then Weber makes Leonard "Saved By Lists!" Shapiro's roster of the Top 10 sportsradio personalities in this market.
Shapiro's list is pretty good: Johnny Holliday, Shapiro's No. 1, is such a fixture and so beloved he's a bulletproof selection. (Awesome trivia about Johnny Holliday: He introduced the Beatles at their last live gig, in August 1966 in San Francisco, then a couple years later moved to D.C. to be the announcer for the Washington Capitols of the ABA, a team that played in Uline Arena, the same venue where the Beatles had played their FIRST live gig in the USA in February 1964. Awesomer trivia about Holliday: While announcing the ABA games, Holliday's roommates in a Connecticut Ave. apartment were Rick Barry and future vagabond coach Larry Brown.)
But, like any good list, Shapiro gives everybody something to quibble about. His inclusion of the Sports Junkies shows he's just going for Web hits, considering he's made slamming the WJFK morning hosts a personal crusade for a decade. And, by God, he should have included Jon Miller, who before he became an ESPN superstar was the longtime announcer of DC's baseball team, the Baltimore Orioles.
There's never been an announcer here or anywhere who could match Miller's brilliance. Take this, from Sports Illustrated's 1991 account of the game he called at Memorial Stadium with Queen Elizabeth attending:
No one offered Queen Elizabeth a plug of Red Man or even a chunk of Bazooka when she attended her first major league game this May at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. Some O's fans, ignoring her royal presence, shouted barnyard epithets at the umpire. Others, Irish Republican Army sympathizers, displayed their awareness of her presence on hand-lettered placards in the bleachers—reading, among other things, BRITS OUT OF IRELAND. So it was left to Jon Miller, the Orioles' radio announcer, to celebrate Her Majesty's attendance by invoking Shakespeare. "The queen of England is at the game today," he told his listeners. "But that doesn't mean we're going to call it any differently."
Then, copping a couple of lines from Romeo and Juliet, he added, "It's just two baseball teams, both alike in dignity, in fair Baltimore, where we lay our scene."
When Oakland A's leadoff man Rickey Henderson let a pitch go by for a called strike, Miller paraphrased Lady Macbeth: "It was the umpire that shrieked, the fatal bellman, which gives the sternest goodnight."
When Henderson had an opportunity to steal a base, Miller quoted Malcolm in Macbeth: "Let us not be dainty of leave-taking, but shift away. There's warrant in that theft which steals itself when there's no mercy left."
The queen occasionally looked perplexed, though not because of these and other "British Monarchy Moments" Miller inserted into his play-by-play. "I was just trying to get her to come on the air with me," says Miller. "I was hoping she'd come up and read the Esskay Meats out-of-town scoreboard."
And any list that includes Sonny, Sam and Frank and Weber has to have Miller. He was huge in this market from 1983 to 1996, when Angelos dumped him the way Dan Snyder dumped Frank Herzog. Neither team has recovered from those moves.
But back to Weber: Awesome trivia about him: He's not only the original Caps announcer, but he's also the ONLY former Caps announcer. The franchise has had only two play-by-play men in their 36 seasons: Weber went from Day One in 1973 to 1997; Steve Kolbe's been there ever since. Kolbe didn't make Shapiro's list.
But how 'bout Shapiro?
The veteran Washington Post writer, who was banished to a digital-only existence by the paper a while ago, hadn't been heard from since he blamed Sean Taylor's lifestyle for getting him murdered. (Shapiro's column inspired former Washington Times basketball writer John Mitchell to go on WOL to call Shapiro both a “racist, conniving skunk” and a “racist, conniving dog of a skunk." Mitchell was suspended for the Shapiro rant.)
But now, two weeks in a row, Shapiro's inspired water-cooler conversation and made waves with his media column. Last week he went over history's Top 10 TV sportscasters in this market.