BUDDY BLATTNER, 89
Buddy Blattner Dies; Broadcaster, MLB Player for Cardinals, Giants, Phillies
Monday, September 7, 2009
Buddy Blattner, 89, a former Major League Baseball player whose career as a broadcaster included seven years on "Baseball's Game of the Week" with co-host Dizzy Dean, died Sept. 4 of complications from lung cancer at his home in the St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield.
Mr. Blattner was the dependable straight man of the broadcast duo. The colorful Dean, a Hall of Fame pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1930s, could be depended upon to mangle the English language, resort to such country colloquialisms as "he slud into second base" and break into a rendition of "The Wabash Cannonball" during on-the-field lulls. TV viewers could always rely on Mr. Blattner to at least give the score.
"People liked [Dean] giving everything but the score but wanted me to restore sanity," he told author Curt Smith for his book "Voices of Summer" (2005).
Mr. Blattner and Dean began broadcasting "Baseball's Game of the Week" for ABC-TV in 1953 and were together through the 1959 season, the last four seasons on CBS. They also broadcast nationwide on the Liberty and Mutual radio networks at a time when Major League Baseball fans in the South and West, before expansion, had to rely on Mr. Blattner and other distinctive radio voices to follow the careers of Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Willie Mays and other stars of the era. The voices of the announcers, mingled with the crowd noise and the sharp crack of the bat, brought the game to life for radio listeners in neighborhood barbershops, on the factory floor and in trucks making deliveries.
Mr. Blattner got tired of Dean's antics after awhile, prompting him to ask for a release from his $75,000-a-year contract. "Diz can be charming," he told The Washington Post in 1959, "but he likes to push people around. I made up my mind he'd do it only once to me."
Mr. Blattner also had play-by-play stints for the St. Louis Browns and Cardinals, the California Angels, the Kansas City Royals and the NBA's St. Louis Hawks.
He was born Robert Garnett Blattner in St. Louis on Feb. 8, 1920. As a youngster, he started sneaking into a St. Louis pool hall to play table tennis on a wooden board atop a pool table, and at age 15 he won the St. Louis and Missouri state championships. At 16 and 17, he traveled to Czechoslovakia and Austria with the U.S. team, which won two world championships.
In 1938, the summer before his senior year in high school, he signed with the St. Louis Cardinals as an infielder and played Class AAA ball in Columbus. Four years later, the Cardinals called him up. He played 19 games with his hometown team before enlisting in the Navy.
He started broadcasting games on the radio while stationed in Guam during World War II. He came home to play for the New York Giants from 1946 to 1948 and for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1949, his final major-league season. He hit .247 for his career, with 16 home runs, and then ascended to the broadcast booth. "As former ballplayers go, he's the most glib, with the exception of Waite Hoyt who broadcasts in Cincinnati," Post sportswriter Shirley Povich observed.
After his retirement from broadcasting following the 1975 season, Mr. Blattner competed in senior tennis tournaments across the United States. He also created the Buddy Fund, a charity that provides athletic equipment for underprivileged youth in the St. Louis area.
Survivors include his wife of 68 years, Barbara Freimuth Blattner of Chesterfield; three daughters, Barbara Young of Chesterfield, Debbie Knop of Olathe, Kan., and Donna Whitcombe of Durango, Colo.; seven grandchildren; and a great-grandson.