I don’t remember any of the specific jokes that Hank Greenwald made. Others have a much better memory and have cataloged them well. I tried, but I was too young when I heard them for the first time. I just remember that there were jokes, good jokes, and there were a lot of them.
It wasn’t just about the jokes, though. Greenwald was a master mixologist who knew how to take all of the required skills of the greatest broadcasters and blend it into an absolutely splendid cocktail. There was the storytelling. There was the dramatic setup and the dramatic reveal. And there was occasionally a time to scream at the top of your lungs, and there was occasionally a time to let the crowd scream instead. There were the legendary calls.
Twenty-seven years of waiting have come to an end!
Giants fans have been spoiled in all sorts of ways over the last two decades, from the ballpark to the championships to the record chases, and we are all aware of this. But we’ve also been spoiled for longer than that because we’ve been blessed with announcers who could engage us and make us laugh. Greenwald wasn’t the beginning of this tradition, but he was a tremendous, worthy continuation of it. (Call it “the Lon Simmons tradition,” perhaps). For as long as we can remember, the Giants have had someone engaging and funny calling their baseball games. Greenwald was one of the most important reasons that we’ll never be able to imagine a broadcaster who was a self-serious grumplepuss lacking the required dry sense of humor.
I’m not fluent enough with every team’s broadcasters throughout baseball history, so I can’t have an unbiased opinion about whether or not Greenwald should have received the Ford C. Frick Award, which is the broadcasting equivalent of a Hall of Fame induction. But if you’re arguing that he doesn’t deserve it, that means you’re telling me that there have been 42 announcers who were better, and that there will be a future procession of announcers who will have been better. That sure sounds absurd. The burden of proof is on anyone making that argument, because as someone who grew up on Greenwald, I can’t fathom it at all.
I don’t remember any of the specific jokes that Hank Greenwald made, but I remember that they made the game fun to listen to. He made the game fun to listen to, as reliably as anyone else who has ever sat behind a microphone. I grew up knowing that baseball could be funny because of Greenwald, and I’m honestly not sure what I would be doing right now if it weren’t for him. It’s a powerful thing to be in the backyard, watching your dad stop raking leaves to laugh at something an announcer said. Hey, wait a sec, baseball can be funny?
The highest compliment anyone can pay to an announcer is this: He or she makes the broadcast better. Reliably and forcefully makes the game better at every opportunity. Greenwald did that, and he was the perfect voice for a team that had crawled out of the abyss and turned one of the worst teams in franchise history into a pennant winner.
He will be missed.