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Glenn Clark's Top 10 Quintessential Baltimore Sports Voices

July 1, 2019
Nobody asked me. 

In fact, it's the exact opposite of that. In honor of Keith Mills' "semi-retirement" from WBAL Radio June 28, I led off the day's episode of Glenn Clark Radio by asking listeners, "Who are your quintessential Baltimore sports voices?" My plans were to use the topic as a discussion point before ultimately sharing my own. I remembered shortly thereafter that PressBox employs me to, in part, write columns on this very website. So my list was going to have to wait a few days. 

I chose 10 because this is the internet and making lists of 10 are pretty helpful. Fair warning: I'm admitting an amount of bias regarding this list. I did my absolute best to ignore personal relationships and friendships. I also have a time bias. The overwhelming majority of the names on this list are particularly modern. 

I just don't have the context necessary to truly be able to measure those whose careers played out before my birth (1983). For example, Vince Bagli isn't on my list. That's not because I don't recognize him as one of the most significant sports voices in our city's history. It's because he retired from WBAL when I was 11. I know Vince more as "The Dean," his larger than life presence and kindness looming wherever he might be. And I did not consider our own Stan "The Fan" Charles because that particular bias was probably a bridge too far.

Again, these are the quintessential Baltimore sports voices of my life and NOT an attempt to name the 10 greatest Baltimore sports broadcasters of all time. Oh and my list is only the broadcasters, not the former athletes turned analysts.

10. Scott Garceau

This ultimately came down to a choice between Garceau and Bruce Cunningham (whose "Ron Burgundy"-like charm I actually enjoy). Garceau's finest quality is his likability. His style is the most agreeable of anyone on the list until we reach the top two. Combine that with his omnipresence throughout the last few decades -- play by play for the Orioles, Ravens and college lacrosse plus anchoring for ABC-2 and his current talk show -- and he had to make the list. 

9. Gary Thorne

Play-by-play voices have such a significant advantage over talk show hosts and sports anchors in terms of carving out a place in a fan's heart. If you're a fan of the team, you HAVE to watch or listen to the games. And with 162 games, baseball broadcasters truly become a serious part of your summer. Our relationship with Thorne is complicated. We wish he were more of a Baltimorean. We wish he knew there was no such thing as "Registertown." We don't care to have a two-run homer described as a "two RBI" shot. But this is Gary Thorne. He's a friggin' broadcasting ninja. We are lucky to have him. 

8. Bob Haynie

I believe Bob is probably the best sports radio talk show host we've had in Baltimore -- just in front of Terry Ford. He's probably guilty of being disinterested at times (aren't we all), but that's masked by his encyclopedic knowledge of sports. No caller has ever informed Bob of ... anything. And it is a credit to him that he still asks the right questions of his guests despite him already knowing the answers. 

7. Fred Manfra

Manfra was such a steady presence in the booth for two and a half decades. He wasn't known for his catch phrases or any particular animation; instead, he just called the baseball game. And he was a Baltimorean calling Baltimore baseball games. You certainly don't have to be from here to be a great Baltimore sports voice, but it means a little more when you are. In addition, it was always neat for us to hear a familiar voice if we had to listen to a Triple Crown race on the radio. 

6. Joe Angel

On the flip side, Angel isn't from Baltimore and is widely known for his catch phrases and animation. It's part of the reason these two worked so well as a duo. Perhaps most notably, the Colombia native's Latin flare may have actually taught a number of baseball fans locally about the beauty of the culture. 

5. Keith Mills

Some local sports voices just so happen to be from Baltimore. And some are the walking embodiment of the city. Keith Mills' brilliance as a broadcaster started with his unbelievable knowledge about not only the Ravens and Orioles but far more about the 1982 Catonsville High School baseball team or a pole vaulter at Harford Tech in the mid-90's. But it continued with his command of the native tongue ("Baltimore-ese") and his general good nature. Plus, we're a flawed people. Baltimoreans have warts. Mills' commitment to overcoming his only further endeared us to him. 

4. Jon Miller

Perhaps Miller's legend here actually grew because of the unfathomable way his tenure with the Orioles ended. But it doesn't matter. Miller is one of the great voices in the history of the game and a significant reason why a number of kids (or at least one in particular who grew up in Kingsville, Md., and went on to Perry Hall High School) wanted to do this for a living. 

3. Lamont Germany

A large number of you probably don't know who Germany is. That is so sad. As far as skill alone goes, there is no one on this list who is/was as good at what they do/did as Germany is at what he does. He's the play-by-play voice of Morgan State basketball and football and he's intoxicating. His voice is truly an instrument. His delivery is more similar to neo-soul music than to other broadcasters. We're so lucky to have him. You should go out of your way to listen to the Bears more in the future. 

2. Johnny Holliday

What really is there to say here, right? He's Johnny Holliday. He might be the only man in the country to be the absolute favorite local broadcaster in two different major American cities. He's folksy, he's fun, he's agreeable, he's probably what that band Vertical Horizon was thinking of when they put out the song that went "he's everything you want." Oh and he's also one of the great gentlemen our business has ever seen. 

1. Chuck Thompson

For the majority of my life I only got to hear the "part time" version of Chuck Thompson filling in on Sundays while Miller was off with "Sunday Night Baseball." But that's all I needed to understand. Thompson was THAT GUY. He was equal parts authentic and authoritative. He was a broadcaster's broadcaster. I wish we could have kept him alive forever.

Photo Credit: Mitch Stringer/PressBox, Kenya Allen/PressBox, Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles