In a move that might not mean much for the present, but which speaks significantly to the future, the Pirates have elevated announcer Greg Brown to a role equal with Lanny Frattare, long known as the Voice of the Pirates.
The announcers will be co-No. 1s and co-Voices of the Pirates for the 2007 season and beyond.
The only on-air change listeners will experience is during radio broadcasts. In the past, Frattare has done the first three innings and the last three. In the future, the two men will more equally share the broadcast. Additionally, some of the ceremonial duties which mostly fell to Frattare will be more evenly divided.
To the surprise of many, the move was initiated by Frattare, who has been with the team since 1976.
"I didn't want to see Greg leave," said Frattare. "Greg is a talented guy, and I know that good broadcasters leave for better opportunities. I didn't want to see that happen with Greg."
The Pirates were only too happy to accommodate.
Tim Schuldt, the team's director of marketing, sales and broadcasting, said: "This is about giving Greg Brown the knowledge that when the club and Lanny agree it's time for Lanny to go off into the sunset, Greg is the guy. We feel Greg is as good as any No. 1 guy and we wanted him to know that."
Frattare and Brown, along with analyst Bob Walk, have agreed to three-year contracts through 2009, although the deals have not been finalized. Their existing contracts expire at the end of the season. The club had one-year options on analysts Steve Blass and John Wehner, and those deals have been extended through '07.
"I'm thrilled, absolutely thrilled," said Brown, who had expressed an interest in the Chicago Cubs' job after the 2005 season. "What's great about it is that Lanny went out and lobbied for this. I think that is unprecedented."
It is something Frattare would not have considered in the past.
"I'm really an insecure guy," he said. "But over these last two years, which have been extremely enjoyable for me, I've got myself mentally where I need to be. It meant a lot to me years ago to be the No. 1 guy. It's not as important to me now."
Frattare soon will finish his 31st season as a Pirates broadcaster, a span in which he has done more than 4,700 games. He has announced longer and done more games than any broadcaster in team history.
He joined the Pirates in 1975, after the controversial firings by KDKA of Bob Prince and Nellie King, as a junior partner to veteran Milo Hamilton. Frattare had been broadcasting for the Pirates' Class AAA minor-league affiliate in Charleston, W.Va. In the early years, Hamilton dominated the broadcasts, allowing Frattare to do only the second and seventh innings.
When Hamilton left after the 1979 season to go to work for the Chicago Cubs, he was replaced by Dave Martin. Martin left after one season, and Frattare became the principal voice of the Pirates from that day on. He has been criticized over the years, once a stunning public rebuke by Bill Craig who ran KBL (the forerunners to FSN Pittsburgh), which was the television station that carried Pirates games. Over the years, Frattare has come to realize criticism is part of the business and never really stops.
When it was announced last week that Frattare would be back for three seasons, reader Dave Rider, an XM Radio subscriber from Bloomsburg, Pa., wrote:
"I wish the Pirates had changed announcers. I have heard many of the other team's announcers, who I believe do a much better job than Lanny and Bob [Walk]. I'm so tired of hearing their personal discussions. I would rather hear about players, managers, strategy, etc., as opposed to their current snacking preferences or their plans for dinner."
It's a legitimate complaint, something to which Frattare will listen, but it won't cause him to change his style.
Brown, who grew up a Pirates fan in Harrisburg and whose parents were from Western Pennsylvania, started with the team in 1994 and seems set for the long haul. "I'd like nothing more than to retire as the Pirates announcers," he said.
By all accounts, some day he'll be No. 1. And Frattare won't stand in his path.
Junker gets weekend job
After going more than three months with a one-man on-air sports staff, WTAE has hired Guy Junker as weekend anchor and promoted Jon Burton to the No. 1 role, where he replaces Andrew Stockey, who moved to morning news anchor in June.
Junker will continue to do the Junker and Crow show from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on ESPN Radio 1250. He worked at WTAE in a weekend role from 1984-90. He is a native of Baldwin, steeped in Pittsburgh sports expertise and best known for playing host to Sports Beat on FSN Pittsburgh with Stan Savran.
Bob Smizik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .