July 11, 2009
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
Walter Lanier â€œRedâ€ Barber was born in Columbus in 1908. He left the Friendly City decades ago, going on to become one of the most famous broadcasters in sports history. He was the play-by-play pioneer of televised Major League Baseball, the first voice of the Cincinnati Reds and the Brooklyn Dodgers, and, in 1978, the first broadcaster to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Mel Allen. With colorful phrases like â€œtearinâ€™ up the patchâ€ and â€œIâ€™ll be a suck-egg mule,â€ he carried a bit of his Southern roots with him wherever he leaned into a microphone.
Now, thanks to renowned announcer Pat Hughes, voice of the Chicago Cubs on station WGN in Illinois, excerpts of Barberâ€™s ground-breaking commentary live on in a tribute CD available at the Tennessee Williams Welcome Center at 300 Main St., Columbus.
Hughes grew up listening to the voices of baseballâ€™s past over the air waves. He is paying his respects by compiling the Hall of Fame Series of recordings honoring greats like Barber. According to baseball researcher and public speaker Glenn Lautzenhiser, of Columbus, â€œItâ€™s an amazing story and one I never expected to be a part of.â€
Out of the blue
As part of a local group spearheading the February 2008 centenary celebration and historic marker dedication remembering Barber, Lautzenhiser was on the receiving end of a surprising phone call from Hughes in the fall of 2007.
â€œJust out of the blue, he called and said something like â€~Glenn, I know you donâ€™t know me, but this is Pat Hughes at WGN. I heard what you folks in Columbus are doing to honor Red Barber, and Iâ€™m going to do my part,â€™â€ said Lautzenhiser, a member of the Society for American Baseball Research, as well as the Brooklyn Dodgers Fan Club.
This past spring, Hughes contacted the baseball devotee again, to say the tribute to the man known as Olâ€™ Redhead was near completion.
â€œRed Barber had so many firsts associated with his name,â€ said Lautzenhiser. â€œHe truly was one of the all-time greats, and an inspiration and mentor to many other announcers. Pat Hughes is a first-rate broadcaster himself, and the fact that a guy of this stature would honor a fellow Columbian means a lot.â€
The CD, with a running time of 46 minutes, contains 17 segments, including excerpts from Barberâ€™s play-by-play of the 1934 and 1947 World Series. The cost is $15, plus tax. The Welcome Center is open Monday through Saturday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sundays from noon until 5 p.m.
For more information about the Baseball Voices Hall of Fame Series, visit www.baseballvoices.com.
The historic marker honoring Barber can be seen on Military Road, near Fourth Avenue North, where he spent his early years.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.