Baseball Memories: The Red Barber Centennial Walter Lanier Barber, better known as "Red" to countless baseball fans who heard his memorable broadcasts over the decades, was born 100 years ago this Sunday. Before his death in 1992, Barber spent a dozen years as a Morning Edition commentator.
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Baseball Memories: The Red Barber Centennial

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Baseball Memories: The Red Barber Centennial

Baseball Memories: The Red Barber Centennial

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

We've dusted off some old theme music to remember a man who was nicknamed the old redhead. The late Red Barber owned this part of the show for years as he chatted live with our former host, Bob Edwards.

(Soundbite of archived recording)

BOB EDWARDS: Red Barber joins us now from Tallahassee, Florida. Red, good morning.

Mr. RED BARBER (Sportscaster): It's a good morning, Colonel. And in this troubled world of ours, I am happy to report to you that the camellias are beginning to show their blossoms here in Tallahassee.

MONTAGNE: Red Barber was a legendary sports broadcaster who told tales about those camellias and the greatest moments in sports with equal grace. His 100th birthday would've been this weekend.

NPR's Ketzel Levine has this remembrance.

KETZEL LEVINE: Once upon a time, felines and flowers had it all over drugs in the sports news.

(Soundbite of archived recording)

EDWARDS: Well, let's see. We have some excitement Sunday, don't we? The United States Football League's championship game. I'm sure you're all up for that.

Mr. BARBER: Well, I think the people down in Tampa are very excited about it. But by the way, Bob, something serious in sporting is going on down here in my front yard. There's a mockingbird that's got a nest and he's got some young ones in there - and you know about our Abyssinian cat, Arway(ph).

EDWARDS: Certainly do.

Mr. BARBER: His life is now miserable. He likes to go out, but he doesn't anymore. He's just hanging inside because I want to tell you that the father mockingbird is a rough customer. He is dive-bombing our cat.

EDWARDS: I don't blame him.

Mr. BARBER: And now with the mockingbird he doesn't want to go out.

EDWARDS: Well, keep your eye on that situation and we'll get an update next Friday. Okay?

Mr. BARBER: Okay, Robert. Good Luck.

EDWARDS: Thank you much. The comments of Red Barber...

LEVINE: Red Barber was my father's hero, the radio voice of my father's team, the Brooklyn Dodgers. So when NPR launched MORNING EDITION and I took on the sports segment, the temptation was too great. All that power. To delight my dad, I booked Red, who went on for a dozen years to delight you.

(Soundbite of archived recording)

EDWARDS: Last week we talked about spring training for broadcasters and how broadcasters use spring training to get back into shape. Does a broadcaster have to retrain the eye to follow the ball when the new season begins?

Mr. BARBER: Bob, you're bringing up a point that you follow the ball from the moment that it is hit, but then you pick up the defensive ball player. A lot of broadcasters make the mistake of trying to judge that a ball's going to go in the stands, and then it gets caught by an outfielder and then they've got egg on their face. And I understand you've got a call that I made in the World Series in 1947, which is a matter of broadcasting technique I think might be interesting.

EDWARDS: Okay. Game six and it's the bottom of the sixth, two men on, and the Dodgers are leading eight to five.

(Soundbite of 1947 World Series)

Mr. BARBER: Joe DiMaggio up. And the crowd well knows that one swing of this bat, this fellow's capable of making it a brand new game again. Outfield deep, round toward left, the infield overshifted. Here's the pitch. Swung on, belted. It's a long one. Deep into left center, back for Gionfriddo. Back. Back. Back. He makes a one-handed catch against the bullpen! Oh, Doctor!

(Soundbite of cheering)

EDWARDS: So the crowd was watching the ball. You were watching Al Gionfriddo.

Mr. BARBER: Well, that's what I learned, Bob, when I first go to the big leagues in 1934. Always go with the outfielder. And if the ball goes into the stands, he will look up and watch it go into the stands with you.

EDWARDS: Well, thanks for another lesson, Red. Talk to you next week.

Mr. BARBER: Okay, buddy.

LEVINE: This month, as baseball's spring training gets started once again, we salute Red Barber - oh, Doctor - who put us all in the catbird's seat each Friday morning, bringing life to sports and sports to life.

Ketzel Levine, NPR News, Washington.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: And I know that was too short. It was always too short. We've got lots more of Red Barber's colorful comments at npr.org, so you can listen to more.

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