Brownie, JD, & Greg: A Winning Team

May Their Sunset As a Team Happen Only on the Longest Day of Some Far Distant Year.

If it’s the last thing on his to-do list as owner of the Houston Astros, at least, he gave it a  good scratch at Minute Maid park before the Saturday, June 11th game between our treasured home club and the visiting Atlanta Braves. Drayton McLane, Jr. and the Houston Astros took the time to recognize and honor the fine play-by-play television game broadcasting work of Bill Brown. Now working his 25th season as the TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Astros, “Brownie” worked a number of seasons with Astros icon Larry Dierker as his game analyst-sidekick, When “Dierk” took over the managerial reins in 1997, former Astros lefty pitcher Jim DeShaies stepped into the Dierker role with no fall off in either native or natural baseball intelligence. “JD” also brought with him an infectious sense of humor that continues to keep each game telecast entertaining and lively, even in the doldrums of a cellar-dwelling season like 2011. As Brown himself has noted in a recent interview, DeShaies inherently knows that television baseball is about entertainment and holding an audience’s attention.

The professionalism of both men, their natural chemistry together, and their mutual grasp of Marshall McLuhan’s old saw about TV that “the medium is the message” bodes well as the shortest explanation of their longevity. Both men know baseball, but they both understand that it has to play out well on camera to maintain its audience. Give people something they have to stay tuned to find out about and they are more likely to keep watching on the other side of the commercial avalanche. These guys get it. And they handle it over the air without any sacrifice to the integrity of the game.

Here’s a good way to make a comparative point: Back when Harry Caray was still alive enough to broadcast Cubs games, fans stayed tuned to see how many innings it was going to take for Harry to get sloshed and start mispronouncing even common names and words. In 2011, Astros fans stay tuned to see what Brownie, JD, and field broadcaster Greg Lucas are going to say when the Houston bullpen coughs up yet another winnable game in the last couple of innings. And what they each say is always fair, always measured, but honest, and often laced with irony or humor. I just love watching these three guys work together.

And JD also needs a night of his own someday. So does Greg.

JD’s use of pop cultural information and satire is seemingly inexhaustible. My favorite example came several years back, when everyone was still getting used to the option of having the option of a retractable roof. Once in while, the decision to leave the roof open left t game vulnerable to sudden rain bursts that called fora roof closure, asap.

This happened one day when Greg Lucas of Fox Sports Houston (and another of Houston’s best kept national broadcasting talent secrets) was working the sidelines near the Astros dugout. Greg Lucas is also highly knowledgeable baseball man and, like working partner Bill Brown, Greg Lucas is also an inducted member of the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame. Greg does most of the pre and post game interviews and special features work for the Fox broadcasting team – a duty that sometimes exposes him to hazards and other distractions of sudden bad weather changes.

On this particular day of memory, a rain came up faster than brains and machinery could engage and start the closing of the roof at the fairly new downtown Houston ballpark. So, Greg needed shelter from the rain to protect his hand mike while he continued his slightly time-perishable story. He grabbed some of the field tarp and sort of pulled it out and got under it, as I recall, and he kept trying to finish his story, even though now the visual of him seeking shelter was all that viewers could focus upon.

Jimmy DeShaies somehow sensed that same distraction as it unfolded. And so, with the impromptu use of a line that was straight out of “The Wizard of Oz,” JD pulled the audience back to Brownie and himself in the booth while saving Greg from an awkward moment of trnsition:

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, folks. We’ve got a game to get back to up here.”

"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"

With broadcasters like Brownie, JD, and Greg Lucas, Houston is well covered. In fact, with these guys aging like fine wine, I’m betting that the best is yet to come.

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