Jon Miller on 300 Wins, Spanish Accents and FJM

Before Jon Miller called yesterday evening's Giants-Nats game, in which Randy Johnson earned his 300th win, I chatted with him for a few minutes about baseball milestones, proper pronunciation of Hispanic surnames and Internet critics.
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↵Do you treat [a milestone game] different for yourself, do you prepare differently?
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↵Well, every broadcast, you always try to figure what is the big story going in. And then the story might change as the game goes along, and you try to stick with what’s really going on that’s of primary interest. So 300th win, that’s the story.
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↵Is there an equivalent for broadcasting, is there a number that would be the equivalent of 300 wins?
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↵Oh, no, not to me there isn’t. I don’t think so. I mean, there have been some broadcasters who never missed a game, for years and years. Monte Moore, whom I broke in with in Oakland, he broadcast every A’s game for, I don’t know, 15 or 16 years, whatever that number comes to. There was no record for it, nobody seemed to know if that was a record or not. Hank Greenwald did every Giants game for at least that many years, if not more.
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↵Do you know how many you've done?
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↵No. I started in ’74, but I haven’t done every game. When I was in Baltimore, I always had a deal where I could take the series before the all-star break or after the all-star break off, so right away I wasn’t doing every game. Then I did some NBC games where I’d go and miss a Friday or Saturday three or four times a year, and then I’ve had this ESPN thing, this is the 20th year for that. I suppose it could be figured out, but I wouldn’t know how to figure it out.
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↵Can I ask a question about the pronunciations? Do you get asked about it a lot, the way you pronounce the names? You know, kind of enthusiastically?

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↵Well, I was taught that you endeavored to pronounce everybody’s name correctly. So I speak a little Spanish, and I have a very good accent; at least all the Spanish guys say so. And if there’s a question on how to pronounce somebody’s name, whether it’s Hispanic or otherwise, I ask the guy. Because I want to get it right. I think that’s the job, actually, to try to be correct, get the names right, get the score right, get all the facts right, whether you’re writing it or telling it, one way or the other. But with the Hispanic guys, I mainly just try to get the accent on the right syllable, you know.
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↵You do say it with a certain flair, though, I think.

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↵Oh, I don’t know. A lot of those names are very euphonious. Bob Sheppard called them euphonious names. He said his favorite was [Jose] Valdivielso. Salomé Barojas. And so Bob really kind of relished those names. But I just try to get the accent on the proper syllable, I don’t try to pretend like I’m from Venezuela and really roll the Rs, but I try to at least do justice to it, you know? And the players appreciate it. I hear from players, I hear from their families. Because a lot of people could care less about it, they just mangle the name, but I think that’s wrong. I think that’s the first thing you learn, is get the name right.
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↵And you’ve been like that your whole career?

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↵Yeah, I think so. I mean, my first year we had Jesus Alou in Oakland, 1974. And Monte Moore was calling him Hey-zoo, but it was Hey-soos. And so I asked Jesus, and he said, 'Well, however you want to say it, it doesn’t matter to me. Some people call me Jay, some people call me Hey-zoo.' I said, 'well, what does your mom call you then?' He said, 'Oh, she calls me Hey-soos.' So I said, 'Well, that would be correct.' All right. That’s all. It’s not that hard to say it. So we have this guy now, Uribe. Everybody calls him You-ribe, but it’s Oor-ibe. It’s not that hard to say Oo-ribe....[The fans] know how to do it. It’s not that hard. For whatever reason, some people talk themselves into, ‘Oh, that’s not the way you say it here, you know, it would be You-ribe.' But he likes Oo-ribe. That’s the way you say it. It doesn’t seem that hard to me. [We then had a long discussion about his meetings with each of the past four presidents in a baseball context, during which he briefly mentioned Joe Morgan.]
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↵Hey, speaking of Joe, do you get irritated with some of the criticism?
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Well, I figure for any of us in this business, the fact that there are critics, radio/TV sports critics, it’s all a positive for us. Because if you go back years ago, really before my time, Walter Winchell had the big column. In San Francisco, it was Herb Caen. I know here in Washington, in the Style section they’ve always had columnists. PR people are trying to get showbiz people and clients in those columns, so that they’re around town, getting their name in the paper. And now the sportscasters have these critics, and we get talked about.
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↵What about the Internet stuff, do you read blogs?

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↵Oh no, I don’t even understand what the point of it is. I mean, I know people are communicating, but it’s not interesting to me. I like the blogs that the beat writers have now. Henry Schulman with the Chronicle, in addition to whatever he’s writing for the paper, he’s got other stuff on his blog. And Bruce Jenkins is a great columnist for the Chronicle, he’s got other columns on the blog.
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↵But for the rest of it, I don’t really care about it. I mean, for me, if there’s criticism, and it’s about something that I could do something about, or at least something that I could say that’s a good point, or no I disagree with that for this reason, well, that’s good. I mean, we all need feedback, and maybe somebody makes a good point. You know, I was a terrible English student in high school. I couldn’t probably diagram a sentence today. I mean, if somebody uses the phrase dangling participle, I’m going 'Huh?' I don’t have a clue what that is.
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↵But over the years, people would send me letters, saying you said such and such, and that’s really improper usage, the proper way to say that would be this way. I'd say Eddie Murray awaits on deck, and the guy wrote me and said it would be awaits his turn on deck. You couldn’t say "'awaits' without 'his turn;' you have to say what he’s awaiting. So that was good, so I learned from that. A lot of stuff, that’s how I learned it. I thought that was very instructive.
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↵But if somebody just says, this guy sucks, or he stinks? Well, that’s not interesting to me. You know, there’s nothing I can do with it. With Joe, you know, Joe knows a LOT about the game. Whether occasionally he mangles the language or says something that maybe comes out different from what he meant to say, like a million other ballplayers, that all could be. But they told me that there’s a Web site called FireJoeMorgan.com or something. Well, what’s the point of that? That’s just mean, mean-spirited. I mean, what is the actual point?
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↵The Web site kind of evolved [into] more criticism of people who are opposed to the use of numbers or the use of some of the modern measures

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↵But, I mean, has he ever spoken to Joe? A guy in Chicago registered FireLouPiniella.com before Lou had ever managed a game. What really was the point?
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↵Is there Fire Jon Miller?
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↵I don’t know. Could be. Whatever it’s evolved into, if he hasn’t changed the name, then it’s just mean spirited and not worthy of being spoken about in civilized society. My opinion. I’ve never seen it, I have nothing to say about it other than if that’s the phrase he uses, then it’s just something that’s mean-spirited, and the guy is a mean-spirited person who’s almost by definition not a good person, so I have no time for him, I have no interest in him. ↵

↵For more of Dan Steinberg, visit his blog with The Washington Post, D.C. Sports Bog. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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