Hall of Fame broadcasting legend Herb Carneal's smooth baritone narration of the Minnesota Twins radio broadcasts have been a staple of Minnesota radio for the past 45 seasons - all but the first year the Twins came to Minnesota. He passed away Sunday morning of congestive heart failure at the age of 83.
Carneal called Athletics and Phillies games in Philadelphia and Orioles games in Baltimore before coming to Minnesota in 1962 - a year after the Washington Senators moved west to become the Twins. It was then that he became one of the most beloved figures in Minnesota sports.
He was honored with the Ford C. Frick Award for major contributions to baseball broadcasting by the Hall of Fame in 1996.
"He is the absolute consummate pro of broadcasting," his longtime partner, John Gordon, said in an interview last summer. "He works very hard. He does all of his homework. He's never been a guy that's been real flashy. He just kind of slips into the seat and says, 'Hi, everybody."'With that signature greeting, Carneal had a mind like a steal trap - easily recalling old facts and stats well into his 80s - when his duties had been drastically cut back.
Sadly, he stopped traveling with the team in 1998 and his time on the air was cut back even further in 2003. Last year, Carneal called only the first three innings of weekend and weekday afternoon home games and was scheduled to do the same this season until a series of health problems began to cast doubt on that scenario as well.
One of the most recognizable calls and his all-time favorite came in 1987, when the Twins won their first World Series: the final play of the Game 7 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.
"Willie McGee hits a little bouncer down to Gaetti, there's the throw to Hrbek ... and the Twins are World Champions! The Twins are World Champions!"Garrison Keillor's "Porch Song" he wrote for one of his Prairie Home Companion shows paid tribute to the Twins icon with this stanza:
"Just give me two pillows and a bottle of beer. And the Twins game on radio next to my ear. Some hark to the sound of the loon or the teal. But I love the voice of Herb Carneal."Amen.
This marks the third year in a row the Twins organization has lost a beloved personality just before the season. Longtime announcer Bob Casey died at the age of 79 in 2005 and Hall of Fame center fielder and fan favorite Kirby Puckett passed away last March at the age of 45.