The sports website sbnation.com has ranked the Greatest Sportscasting Moments of 2011 and No. 1 was probably the hardest thing for Orioles fans to watch this year – maybe ever.
The top moment for sbnation.com was Jim Palmer’s touching, teary tribute to Mike Flanagan an hour or so after he learned that his good friend, ex-teammate and broadcast partner had committed suicide. The web site said Palmer, who was doing the color commentary that night for MASN, followed a “superhuman evening of broadcasting with a heartbreakingly human moment.” The site said Palmer’s words and emotions reinforced the close relationship that viewers have with their broadcasters.
I watched the MASN clip again on Wednesday, and again was amazed at Palmer, who displayed both genuine strength and genuine vulnerability simultaneously.
I’ve been on that end before, discovering that a close friend has killed himself. There are so many emotions that you go through: bewilderment, anger, a deep, deep sadness. But I didn’t have to deal with it publicly; I didn’t have to immediately put my friend’s life into perspective on live TV. So I was blown away by Palmer’s ability to do so.
But I probably shouldn’t have been. Palmer is one of a kind. I never dealt with him as a player, but now that he is retired from playing he is probably the single greatest resource that any of us in the Baltimore media have when it comes to the Orioles and perspective.
Palmer is smart, introspective, opinionated and accessible. For years, he has made my stories better by supplying a strong voice in print. And, really, there was no one I wanted to hear from more on the night of Flanagan’s death than Palmer. I knew he’d capture the right tenor.
I was at Target Field in Minnesota that terrible evening – attempting to write the game story while juggling everything that was going on with the Flanagan situation. I had to make calls to Flanagan’s friends and former co-workers, trying to be as respectful as possible. In most cases, I had to supply them with information; everything was so cloudy. I couldn’t contact Palmer during the game – or directly afterward – because he was working in the MASN booth.
When I came back from the clubhouse, Palmer was packing up after his emotional, post-game summary. I had to quickly file my first story, but I asked Palmer if I could call him as soon as I was finished.
By the time I reached Palmer for my second edition story, he was already out of the ballpark and back at the hotel. He was in the middle of one of the most emotional nights of his life and I wouldn’t have blamed him if he hadn’t answered my call. I am not sure I would have answered.
But he did pick up. And he again spoke from the heart about his friend – to give that proper perspective and so that all of the readers of the next morning’s newspaper and on-line would know just how much Flanagan meant to him.
I apologized to Palmer for making him go through this a second time, but he didn’t hesitate. He just talked and told stories – which may even surpass pitching as Palmer’s greatest talent.
I’m sure he’ll shake his head disapprovingly when he learns that someone has ranked his post-game comments on MASN that evening as the greatest sportscasting moment of 2011. That certainly wasn’t what he was going for.
For Palmer, I’m sure those were the toughest moments of his broadcasting career.