Herb Carneal’s voice is silent — except in our memories.
The voice of the Minnesota Twins since back in the days when a .265 hitter and a 12 -10 pitcher weren’t worth millions of dollars, Carneal’s easy languid voice tied us to simpler days.
He wasn’t a great broadcaster nor an insightful analyst. When the Twins came to Minnesota in 1961, Bob Wolff and Ray Scott were the Twins’ radio broadcasters, and they were damn good. Halsey Hall was their sidekick (Wolf left after one season, and Carneal came on then), and Hall’s color commentary and bright gravelly laugh were fueled by the stogies he smoked in the booth and the onions he chomped on to keep his pipes lubricated. Imagine his breath! Those were the voices I fell asleep to during night games, a transister radio tucked under my pillow in South Minneapolis.
But Carneal’s was the voice we pulled in for the last few decades while driving across the Dakotas, or up at the lake, coming fluidly through the scratchy reception. For younger friends of mine like Jorg Pierach, Carneal’s was the voice that meant Twins, summer, long slow games delivered with respect but no histrionics.
In the great 1987 season, when the Twins beat the Tigers for the pennant in Detroit on their way to their first World Series victory, I covered the Detroit games off the Strib city desk, doing color stories, not sports stories. Before one game, in the hotel, Carneal’s wife came up to me and asked if I’d be on his pre-game show — she knew I was a reporter, but we’d never met. I told her I wasn’t a good candidate, that there were far more knowledgeable baseball people around. She looked pained. “He doesn’t have anybody, huh?” I said, and she shook her head sheepishly. I went on the air, Herb was a gentleman who feigned great interest in whatever the hell it was I said, and my friend Dick Meryhew back in St. Paul up a ladder putting on his mom’s storm windows heard me. The magic of the airwaves. Pulling the easy, comfortingly dull, sporadically ecstatic game of baseball into our lives from states away.
Herb loved the game. And he made it come alive for us with just the feel of sitting in the left-field bleachers at the old Met on an endless afternoon where lots of other things that might have mattered and might have bothered us couldn’t get into our consciousness because Herb’s voice was laying baseball out in the spacious green fields of our minds.
A pleasant good evening to you, Herb.