Bonds Call Gone in a Glitch

It could have been one of his greatest calls — announcing Barry Bonds' historic 715th career home run to surpass Babe Ruth on Sunday. But KNBR play-by-play announcer Dave Flemming's microphone went dead at the crucial moment. Flemming discusses the unfortunate interruption.

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NEIL CONAN, host:

Baseball slugger Barry Bonds reached a hallowed number yesterday as he blasted his 715th homerun to pass Babe Ruth for second place, all-time. Last night on the news, you probably hear the play-by-play call of Dwayne Kuiper on Fox Sportsnet Bay Area TV.

(Soundbite of TV broadcast)

Mr. DWAYNE KUIPER (Announcer): The pitch, Bonds hits one high. Hits it deep to center. Out of here, 715. The wait is over, and they are on their feet here at AT&T park.

CONAN: As it happens, Fox Sports TV has the only call of record on the historic homerun, because a funny thing happened on the radio side as Dave Fleming described the play on KNBR Radio.

(Soundbite of radio broadcast)

Mr. DAVE FLEMING (Announcer, KNBR Radio): Finley runs. The payoff pitch. A swing and a drive. Deep...

CONAN: A technical glitch killed Fleming's mike mid-word at the absolute worst moment. As a broadcaster, it's about the worst thing you want to have happen on a once in a lifetime call. After the game yesterday, Dave Fleming and the Giants hopped a plane to Miami for the Giants' game tonight against the Florida Marlins. He joins up now from Dolphins Stadium in Miami. Thanks very much for talking with us.

Mr. FLEMING: Okay, Neal, no problem.

CONAN: We just heard a clip of the call. What happened?

Mr. FLEMING: Yes, that was a great call, wasn't it?

CONAN: Yes.

Mr. FLEMING: Let me tell you, the rest of it was fabulous. Well, I don't know what happened. You know, one thing about our jobs here is we don't - in the minor leagues, or when I was in college at a college radio station, I would set up the equipment myself, and if something went wrong I guess I could blame myself. But here at this level, we've got such complicated and high tech stuff, that I don't ever even touch it. I just turn the mike on and go. So I don't think anybody knows still what happened. But they - I did the whole call. It wasn't like I heard that I went out. To me, in my own ear, it sounded like I was still on the air, and so I did the whole homerun call and it was only probably 15, 20 seconds after he actually hit it that we started hearing some yelling from the back of the booth, and we realized something had gone very wrong.

CONAN: And those people in the back of the booth; are they still living?

Mr. FLEMING: They are, although they may be being watched pretty carefully right now. I know that our engineer from yesterday, and the station, they feel terrible about it. It's a huge moment for them, too. You know, not just a big moment for Barry or for the fans, or even for me personally. For the radio station, they've built this whole chase up for a long time, and homerun number 714 to call on the radio is going to be remembered for a long time, and they wanted to have 715, too, and they don't have it.

CONAN: We're speaking with Giants announcer Dave Fleming, who's play-by-play call of an historic homerun was clipped by a technical glitch. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And you must've given a fair amount of thought, I know you want to react to the moment, but you probably had something, some things you were thinking about saying at this dramatic moment.

Mr. FLEMING: Well, I didn't really, only because I think it is so different on radio as opposed to on TV. And the great thing - one of the most disappointing things is I do think, you know, not being immodest, but I do think my call was good, and a reason that it was, I think, is because it was like the easiest homerun to call. It was absolutely going to be gone as soon as he hit it. He just obliterated it. And so that lets a broadcaster kind of air it all out. I didn't have to measure it out and see, well, is it going to g out or not? I could've start to go into the...

CONAN: Oh no. Oh no.

Mr. FLEMING: ...define the call. I mean if it had been one that just got over the fence, it would've been described like that. But as I described it, it was (unintelligible) the Babe. It was 450 feet. It was majestic to watch and the fans were going nuts. So I mean, I've thought about the moment and thought about the possibility of doing the moment, but I try desperately not to pre-script anything that I'm going to say, just because I think homeruns and great moments like that can be so different one to the next.

CONAN: We - we had a technical glitch. Your cell phone cut out a few times. But we're glad to have you back, Dave. It seems to be following you around. One of the odd things, you're 28 years old, as I understand, the youngest play-by-play guy in the major leagues, and you know as well as I do, you might go the rest of your career and not have a homerun that big.

Mr. FLEMING: Yeah, you know, I thought about going up to Barry and asking him if we could just go out on the field and recreate it. But I figured he probably wasn't going to be all that into that idea. So you're right. I mean, nobody may have - there are very few broadcasters who've ever had a moment quite like yesterday. So yeah. But before I feel too sorry for myself, you know, I am still very young, and I got to call Bond's 700th homerun, and the homerun that he passed Willie Mays with, and I called a no-hitter, and Greg Maddux's 3,000th strikeout. So for somebody who has not been doing this for very long, and is still as young like I am, I have a great job, and I've seen a lot of great moments. So while I - I regret that it happened and I'm very, very disappointed that the call is not on record, you know, I try not to feel too sorry for myself

CONAN: And I think you also know, you've worked in the minor leagues, I know, and done college, as you mentioned. Despite the horrific schedule, that at the end of that game you get on a plane and fly to Miami across the country, where you must've arrived what, 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, and getting ready for a game tonight, you have one of the great jobs ever.

Mr. FLEMING: I do. You know, not only being with the Giants organization. I mean, from day to day, I'm down at the clubhouse talking to Willie Mays or Orlando Cipeda(ph) or Willie McCovey(ph) and you know, I get to watch Barry Bonds. And out ballpark, I think, is the most beautiful stadium in all of sports, and that's my home office, and I get to watch baseball. You know, today I'm sitting on the beach here in Miami. On Wednesday night, we're flying to New York for the weekend. So again, like all of that tempers the disappointment that I had yesterday, because things really are not so bad.

CONAN: And when do you think you're going to stop hearing about this from John Miller?

Mr. FLEMING: I don't know. You know, John was with me yesterday. He was doing the ESPN Sunday night telecast, and I have not seen him yet today. So I'm sure we'll have a long conversation about it. What I'm wondering is when I'm going to stop - I figure everywhere I go now for the rest of the season and I see people for the first time, other broadcasters or players that I know, that'll be a conversation number one. So I think this'll probably have a life that lasts for a while.

CONAN: Well, say hi to John for us.

Mr. FLEMING: I will for sure, Neal.

CONAN: And good luck, Dave.

Mr. FLEMING: Thank you.

CONAN: Dave Fleming, the play-by-play announcer on KNBR on last night's San Francisco Giants game, when Barry Bonds hit number 715, and the mike went dead.

This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

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