Thanks to Michael Clair at MLB’s Cut4, I saw this clip of St. Louis Cardinals’ Dan McLaughlin doing his impression of Hall of Fame broadcaster Jon Miller (click here if your reader strips the embed out of the article):
Chuckling along the whole time was former Giants color commentator and Hall of Fame broadcaster Tim McCarver, whose review of the impression is controversial:
That gets me and you know it. That’s wonderful. He does a better Jon Miller than Jon Miller.
Disputable, Tim McCarver! Disputable!
We all know that there’s only one Jon Miller, and that’s KNBR’s Jon Miller. But how does McLaughlin’s impression compare to the genuine article? Since it’s Friday and it’s the Internet, let’s be hyper critical of a fun little moment in the middle of a baseball broadcast by breaking it down.
Jon Miller’s voice can best be described as mellifluous. It’s pleasant to hear. Also, he’s a baritone. McLaughlin would at least need to satisfy these two conditions to get in the ballpark of an accurate impression.
McLaughlin certainly goes for nailing both of these qualities, but his baritone is a little bit lower than the real Jon Miller’s. Sort of like how he can sound a little bit rusty and downbeat at the beginning of a day game after a night game. He didn’t quite pitch it up into Jon Miller’s Full Enthusiasm broadcast voice.
It was about as good as the mellifluousness. McLaughlin sounded a little bit like he was biting down on a sock to really nail the way Miller trails off between words and that gave his voice a gruffer quality than necessary.
Grade (using baseball scouting’s 20-80 scale): 50
If you’re not clear on the definition of the word, we’ll go with Google’s definition:
a modulation or inflection of the voice
Jon Miller makes a meal out of his sentences, so that’s an important part of the impression, too. You’ve got to modulate your tone to bring a regality to the mundane.
He really does a nice job with Miller’s stutters and pauses, especially when he launches into what it would sound like if Jon Miller read his (McLaughlin’s) grocery list. That’s where he really nails the cadence of how Miller would sound as he did a bit where he read a grocery list on air.
Getting the cadence right almost makes the impression aces, but for me (and I’m an unfairly harsh critic), it’s important to nail the “character” of the impression. However, that’s on a bit of a sliding scale — the worse your voice matches the actual figure’s voice, the more “in character” I need that impression to be.
For example, my Obama impression is just one long “Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh,” followed by a clipped “deploy my drones.” It doesn’t sound quite like him, but the content puts it more on the right track. The opposite of that is Kevin Pollak’s Christopher Walken impression, where the story he tells is so absurd but it sounds so much like Walken that it doesn’t matter:
Now, this was covered a bit in Cadence, but reading the grocery list combined with the tone of the voice really does nail an impression of Jon Miller, especially since, again, he did the grocery list reading bit almost as Jon Miller might do the bit, right up to
Uh, uh milk. A little Coca-Cola. Y-you can mix in a-a salmon... or steak... and, uh, the Matt Carpenter salsa and Schnuks. Thank you.
Reviewing character can be boiled down to “does the impression capture the essence of the subject?” and I think in this case, McLaughlin’s does.
That gives Dan McLaughlin a grade of 67, or rounding down, a 65. You can round up to 70 if you’re feeling generous. Either way, per MLB:
A future overall grade of 65 or better is for a player who could develop into a future impact Major Leaguer, perhaps an All-Star-caliber standout.
Congratulations, Dan McLaughlin. You have nailed your impression of Jon Miller. You are not better than Jon Miller and you could not convince a high-tech computer that your voice print matches exactly, but you could certainly make or alter dinner reservations at a top-rated place in the city.