I got the call from my dad last night. Chuck Thompson was dead. It wasn't a big surprise. He had been sick for awhile but it is still a loss. I grew up listening to Chuck. My earliest memories of Orioles baseball are associated with Chuck Thompson. The man oozed class and old school charm.
He was past his prime by the time I was listening but he still had that wonderful wonderful voice. He was low key and interesting to listen to. I remember listening to him on the radio but my main memories of him are when he was teamed with Brooks Robinson on the TV broadcasts. My dad and I used to imitate him all the time to annoy my mom. All the high schoolers who used to come to our house to hang out with my dad and listen to his records also used to love to imitate Chuck. "Go to War Miss Agnes," and "Ain't the Beer Cold," were the most famous. But for some reason, we used to love to cry out "You hate to see that kind of thing." I have no idea if Chuck actually ever voiced that sentiment during a game but it was the kind of thing that he would have said.
His fashion sense was a perfect complement to his folksy radio style.
Chuck stood for old school baseball, the "Oriole Way", and playing the game the way it was meant to be played. Earl Weaver yelling at umpires, Eddie Murray hitting clutch homeruns, and Chuck Thompson calling the game, that was Orioles baseball for me in those early years. I have such great memories of going to games at Memorial Stadium with my dad and his fan club, the older kids up the block. I remember that great route to the Stadium, the Harbor Tunnel where for some reason we always would put on the tape of the Searchers' "Hearts in Her Eyes." I loved the orange line on the street that directed us to the ballpark in case we got lost. I loved Erdman Ave. I loved the drive through the golf course. I loved the lake near the park. What was the name of that lake? I loved the walk from the college that we used to park at. Chuck was an integral part of these amazing memorires.
By 1983, Jon Miller was the main radio voice and he, of course, is amazing. He was younger, more talented, and more willing to be blunt in his assessments of the team. While I have always associated Chuck with "You hate to see that kind of thing", I always associate Miller with his brutal assessment of Juan Bell (Cal Ripken's heir apparent!) during a game in the lean years, "Juan Bell is singlehandedly killing the Orioles!"
After he retired, Chuck still did a number of home games every year on the radio (including many games on the weekend when Miller was doing ESPN games). It was nice to hear him again on the radio but he wasn't quite the same. He had a difficult time calling the action and it was clear that he didn't know all of the players anymore. And then he lost his eyesight. But he still persevered as a guest color guy sharing old stories with the fans.
I had the privilege of meeting Chuck in 1993 as part of the pre All Star game festivities in Baltimore. He was a few weeks away from being enshrined in the Hall of Fame. I asked him if we would sign the ball and also write "Go to War Miss Agnes" on it. He graciously accepted and underneath his name, he signed, "HOF '93."
A Hall of Famer, a class act, he will be missed.
Chuck and Brooksie
Doesn't Handwashings own that hat?
The Baltimore Sun has many columns today on Chuck. But none are as good as the tribute on Handwashings.
My dad ended his message last night by saying, "I'm going to go listen to Chuck right now on that great talking bobblehead you bought for me!"
I can't wait to go home again so I can listen to Chuck again.
2 days ago