Like thousands of you, I spent Sunday afternoon staring at the taillights of the car in front of me, both of us inching two miles-per-hour on the Jersey Turnpike. Shoobie traffic is a killer. There’s no escape.
Except that inside my car, none of it bothered me. For the three-hour crawl, I had the company of two smart, funny, entertaining friends — Franzke and LA.
It’s cliché to say, but it’s true — there’s no simpler pleasure in sports than listening to baseball on the radio.
In this town, that means enjoying Scott Franzke supply play-by-play and (for the home games) Larry Andersen on color.
“Color” is a vast understatement for what LA delivers. It’s a symphony of wisdom, humor, cynicism and — when required — biting honesty about the franchise that feeds him.
It helped on Sunday that the Phils awoke from their torpor against the Braves, mashing four home runs in a 9-4 win. But that doesn’t really matter with Franzke and LA. Sometimes a loss or slow game will send them off-script, and the broadcast becomes even more entertaining as they jab, joke, or swap stories of their lives.
Scott came north from Texas in 2006, and his slight twang fits the role of baseball announcer perfectly. He’s accurate and an easy listen. He knows his stuff. And there’s nothing contrived about his descriptions in this ESPN era of pre-rehearsed calls.
Larry’s familiar grumble is in its 22nd year in the booth, following a 17-year pitching career (five with the Phils). After a lifetime on the road, he curtailed his schedule in 2018 to call just the games at Citizens Bank Park.
On a side note, I’ll give thumbs up to Kevin Frandsen, who now handles color on road games. It’s tough to fill a legend’s chair, especially when that legend still keeps it warm half the time. Frandsen initially appeared overeager and chatty, but has settled into doing a solid job – and Franzke’s radio embrace has certainly made it easier.
The chemistry between Franzke and LA is what makes them special. It’s born from genuine attachment. I interviewed them separately for a book (The Great Book of Philadelphia Sports Lists) I wrote with Big Daddy Graham that’s coming out in October. Here’s what each guy said of the other:
Larry Andersen: “He’s salt of the earth. One reason we click on the air is the rapport we have off the field as friends. Our families, too.”
Scott Franzke: “I can’t sell short what he’s done for my career. I’m a voice and he’s the personality. I was just my dumb luck to end up with such a great partner and a great friend.”
Philadelphia fans have not always watched talented teams, but the guys calling the games have been brilliant. Before this duo, we had 22 Phillies seasons of Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn, both Hall of Famers. Back in the day, Gene Hart taught us hockey. And we’re still blessed with Merrill Reese, now in his 43rd season of punctuating Sundays with, “It’s gooooodddd!”
They become part of our lives. Comedian Joe Conklin may be alone in earning a living off their voices, but every single Philadelphian musters up a decent imitation of Merrill or Harry or LA.
With LA, it’s usually a shot at the umps—brief, acerbic and always deserved by the men in blue.
I could listen to Franzke and LA all day. And on a summer Sunday, when the Shore snarl gives me no choice, there’s no better way to pass an afternoon — even at two miles-per-hour.