The Gold Standard for Play-by-Play Announcers

We all have our personal opinions of what makes a great play-by-play announcer.

Some people believe if they don't intrude on the game that means they are doing a good job (similar to offensive lineman). Others have a higher standard, expecting the voice from the booth to grow the game beyond the combatants on the field.

And some just want to be entertained... so they seek out Gus Johnson wherever he is.

Forgetting our personal tastes for a second, I've always wanted to know what play-by-play announcers think of each other. To help me with the first leg of this task I sought out veteran NHL and college hockey announcer Doug McLeod to find out his personal holy grail of announcers, and find out what really burns him up.

The Best of the Best in Play by Play

(in no particular order)

best play by play announcer mike doc emrick Mike Emrick

Emrick is the best hockey announcer in the business. He's also an excellent football announcer, although we rarely get to hear him do it. I like "Doc" because he not only injects infectious enthusiasm into the call but is a master wordsmith. Which makes sense, given that he holds a PhD in English. He is also one of the nicest people in the business.


play by play announcer jon millerJon Miller

I'm a great fan of Jon Miller's baseball play-by-play. Jon somehow manages to stay very quiet and low-key until the time is right and then explode when the moment calls for it. An excellent storyteller, as a baseball announcer must be.


play by play announcer kevin harlanKevin Harlan

Harlan is another favorite, on both TV and radio. Not every announcer is strong in both media but Kevin excels at basketball, football, pretty much everything I've heard. Another literate, yet exciting voice.


play by play announcer joe buckJoe Buck

Buck is, in many ways, the perfect TV baseball announcer. He knows how to let a picture breathe and when to add the description it needs. He doesn't sound like his old man but who cares? Joe is very much his own talent. Which brings me to...


play by play announcer jack buckJack Buck

Sadly gone now, Jack commanded a terrific baritone voice and had a wonderful mind to go along with it. A true gentleman, too.



play by play announcer vin scullyVin Scully

The King. I've had  the honor of sitting in the booth with Vin during a baseball game as he weaves the story of that game -- and many others. As you may know,

Vin doesn't use a color man. It isn't a matter of ego, it's just that no one can touch his marvelous way with words and wonderful recounting of baseball stories.

Very rarely do I turn on a game and say to myself, "Oh, cool -- that's who has the call." I always do with these guys.

Personal Play by Play Announcer Pet Peeves

I have a long list, this is but a few:

  • Announcers who rarely use players' first names

  • Homers - I consider a homer as basically a liar, which doesn't help you at all professionally and harms your credibility when you do commercials

  • Mispronounced names - it is your job to know these details, if you don't you are failing.

  • Screamers

  • Announcers who never show emotion (come on -- it's a GAME!)

  • Announcers who contribute nothing to the broadcast other than names and descriptions (What's the importance of this game? Who are the make-or-break players? What's happened with it recently? What's up with the other team?)

  • Radio announcers who don't provide the score and time remaining A LOT. The audience can't see the clock from their car!

I could go on. Bottom line: be prepared, paint the entire picture, get the facts right.

Who are your favorite play-by-play voices and do you have any pet peeves that drive you nuts?
By Brian Clapp | April 18, 2016
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