You could read between the lines that things weren’t going well healthwise for Herb Carneal, who died this morning after battling an assortment of health issues. But news of his death, a day before the Twins’ first pitch of the season, is jarring nonetheless.
Many words will be written — and, more appropriately, spoken — about Herb in the days to come. He was a local legend, going back to the arrival of the team in Minnesota, and he had the national reputation that earned him a spot in the broadcasters’ wing of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. To listen to Herb the last few years, during the innings he worked at the Metrodome, would make me think about my years of covering the Twins and benefiting from the wisdom that he brought to the ballpark every day.
Herb was one of those people willing to share. He had opinions about the way the game should be played and the way it should be announced. He would tell funny stories and make introductions to those who had shared the years with him. I met Detroit’s legendary Ernie Harwell through Herb…and for years after I was done covering baseball, I would get a “hello” from Ernie when I wandered through the Metrodome press box.
Introduction from Herb Carneal was all the entre needed.
As kind as he was, Herb didn’t suffer foolishness. The Twins’ lean years bothered him more than he would let on, overshadowed I think by the knowledge that calling play-by-play for a terrible baseball team was better than anything except calling play-by-play for a good one. And his partners needed to be prepared. Herb told me the story once of a partner who told Herb that he couldn’t figure out what a pitcher was throwing, an inexact art but something that good announcers can do well. Instead of asking Herb for pointers, he asked Herb for signals — 1 finger for a fastball, 2 for a curve, etc.
That partner didn’t last long.
Games on radio have been different these recent years with Herb taking on a diminished role. I know I’ll be thinking about him during tomorrow night’s opener. I suspect many other folks will, too.