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Going, Going, Gary

Just when I was looking for a little news to inspire a blog posting comes word that SportsNet New York named Gary Cohen as its Mets television play-by-play voice.

This is great news from a TV viewing perspective and rather sad news from a radio broadcasting perspective. My colleagues at "Faith and Fear in Flushing" have articulated their feelings for Gary's work on a couple of occasions and I share those sentiments. Radio baseball is losing one of its best play-by-play announcers. Whether the Mets were cellar dwellars or NL champs, winners or losers, Cohen's broadcast work was entertaining and riveting.

While in college, I had my ear glued to the radio in to hear how he would call the end of Darryl Kile's no-hitter against the Flushing 9 in 1993 ("Swing and a miss, he did it!") and when the Mets won the 15 inning playoff games against the Braves in 1999, one of my first thoughts on the ride home from Shea (besides 'what was the final score?) was that I'd better make sure I could get a tape to hear how Gary called various moments in this game (Miley Collection charged $20, if I remember right). On more than one occasion, I've pestered a friend I know who works at WFAN to send me an MP3 of a Cohen call. On more than one occasion, I've tried to time my drives to work such that I'd hear Gary call the end as I pulled into the parking lot (that doesn't usually work out, but it's fun anyway).

One of Gary Cohen's best qualities is that he does an excellent job at broadcasting the walk-off win (and he's not bad with the walk-off losses either). While you wouldn't call him a homer in the mold of a John Sterling, it's evident from listening to the tone in his voice that Gary still gets pretty psyched by a thrilling Mets victory. You've probably heard the call of Todd Pratt's Division Series clinching home run or Robin Ventura's "grand slam single", and/or Benny Agbayani's playoff-game winner, which I think are his best known examples of that, and are readily available on the Mets highlight films. While I can't put up a group of audio clips to show examples of why I like Gary's walk-off work so much, here's the text of one moment that I like a lot.

"The 1-2 ...and it's hit in the air to right field...deep. Back goes Sosa...back to the wall...looking up...It's outta here!! Craig Brazell's first major-league home run is a game-winner in the bottom of the 11th inning! A walk-off home run by Craig Brazell. He hit it off the lefthander, Kent Mercker. His first major-league home run. And the Mets are mobbing Craig Brazell at home plate. The Mets win it, 4 to 3 in the 11th inning......It was Wrigley Field East last night. It is Norfolk North tonight. Victor Diaz with a 3-run homer to tie it in the 9th and Craig Brazell with a game-winner in the bottom of the 11th inning!"

What the written word doesn't convey is the buildup of anticipation and the anxiety that comes with the mini-pause (referenced by the "..."), which doesn't last more than half a second. Waiting for the magic words could cause a diehard fan to die 1,000 deaths. But it's well worth it because you get such a great call. There's the description of the moment, a reference to the statistical significance, the on-field reaction, and a 'happy recap' (apologies to Murph) punctuated by the well-thought out headline ("It's Norfolk North tonight!") .

Thankfully Gary isn't 'outta here.' He's just moving on to bigger and better. Here's hoping the move is a home run for him.

True Methens know...Lifelong Mets fan Gary Cohen has been with the Mets full-time since the start of the 1989 season. In that time, the Mets have 128 walk-off wins, including 40 via walk-off home run. Cohen also broadcast a handful of Mets games in 1988, so I don't have any way to figure an exact count for the number of walk-offs that he's actually called.

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