Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Jimmy jack this

Driving into work yesterday morning, I suddenly felt a stabbing pain that started in my left eye and shot clean through my head and down to the stem of what's left of my brain. Fortunately, it was nothing more serious than a traditionalist's reaction to hearing a sportscaster describe a home run as a "three run jimmy jack."
I don't know when home runs became jimmy jacks, but it must be in the five to ten years since I pretty much lost day-to-day interest in major league baseball. I do know this: Vin Scully, the dean of baseball broadcasters and the best who ever practiced the craft, would never call a home run a jimmy jack, just as Danny Gallivan would never refer to the puck as "the biscuit" or say that someone went "top shelf, where Daddy keeps the dirty magazines" or "Mommy keeps the anti-depressants." The great ones don't lean on cliches, and if they make something up, they make sure it's something of substance, like Gallivan's Savardian Spinorama or Scully's wonderful desciption of Bob Gibson pitching as though he's doubled-parked.
Memo to aspiring play-by-play announcers: don't imitate the masters, but emulate them. Respect longstanding tradition and stay within the established, time-honored vernacular if you can't do any better than "jimmy jack," which sounds more like a cheap prize in a box of kids' cereal than it does a legitimate home run call by a broadcast professional.

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