Frattare a familiar voice for Pirates fans

Frattare a familiar voice for Pirates fans

Lanny Frattare has been the voice of Pirates baseball for a generation of fans.

In his 31 years as a Bucs broadcaster, Frattare has covered two no-hitters, four division champions and the 1979 World Series championship team. He's been on hand for some of the finest moments in the careers of Pirates superstars such as Willie Stargell, Dave Parker, Barry Bonds, Brian Giles and Jason Bay.

Recently, Frattare sat down with to discuss his views on the team's recent change in affiliate stations, the challenge of having to take over for Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Prince, and the highlights and lowlights of a career spent calling the games of the team that he loves. What is your take on the team's decision to move the flagship station from KDKA to WPGB?

Lanny Frattare: I have tremendous faith in the Pirates organization to do what's in the best interest of the ballclub, and yet, I'm positive that everybody associated with the team and with the radio stations knows how much I appreciate what KDKA did for me.

KDKA had the rights when I was chosen as a Pirates broadcaster 31 years ago. The executives there had a lot to do with the decision to hire me. I'm deeply indebted to a lot of people over there and I've developed a lot of strong friendships. I know a lot of those friendships are still going to be there because of the substance of those friendships.

I'm also quite confident that I'll be developing a lot of other great friendships with the Clear Channel family. Your voice has become the soundtrack of summer for so many Bucs fans over the years. What does it mean for you to be the official voice of the Pirates?

Frattare: One of the things I realized when I took over for Prince -- and I learned a great deal from talking to Pirates fans about how much Prince meant to them -- is that whatever you get as a baseball broadcaster is given to you by the fans. If you are doing a great job and they can feel some affinity towards you, and you develop those "air friendships," they're the ones that basically make you the voice of the team.

I have had hundreds of people say to me that my voice is the voice of summer to them, and I'm extremely pleased about that.

I learned early on in Pittsburgh in the late '70s that Pirates fans loved Prince and they developed some tremendous memories through him. I thought that I would love to create a whole new generation of baseball fans. I've been afforded that opportunity. As I go out and make a lot of appearances for the ballclub, I have people that come up to me and say they remember listening to me when they were six years old, and now they're 37. It means a great deal to me. How difficult was it to emerge from Prince's shadow early on in your career with the Pirates?

Frattare: It was probably more difficult a few years down the road.

When I first got the job, I was elated about having realized my goal. My goal was to be a Major League announcer. I told myself, "If this is only a one-year deal for me, I can still say I reached my goal -- my dream."

Fortunately for me, Prince was my biggest supporter. He pulled me aside on regular occasions and told me what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong. Here I am, one of the guys that replaced him and Nellie King, and he cares enough to share his advice with me. That was very important to my progress as a Pirates broadcaster. He pointed out that I had a ways to go. I was a raw broadcaster with a lot to learn. So it was just a matter of time before you felt comfortable in the role?

Frattare: There have been two or three bumps in the road for me in my career.

After you've had a job for a little while, I did become somewhat paranoid about losing the job. That can become a negative, because you start worrying about how you are doing things. You second guess yourself as a broadcaster.

Finally, there came a point in my career -- probably later than it should have come -- where I said, "I can only be Lanny Frattare. I can't be Bob Prince. I can't wave green weenies. I can't wear loud sport coats. I can't be Vin Scully. I have to be Lanny and I have to hope that is good enough." Once I got that into my head, I was fine.

Then, the second bump in the road was the Bill Craig episode, where Bill lashed out at me publicly. [Craig was a general manager at KBL during the time when that network held the rights to the Pirates TV broadcasts.] I had lunch with him a week before he lashed out at me publicly, and he and I had a chance to go through this process of him telling me what he didn't like about my style, etc. And I was just disturbed that he wouldn't have given me an opportunity to take what advice I thought was valuable from him and blend it into my broadcaster. He didn't give me any time to do that.

There was a strong part of me that wanted to lash back at him publicly, and I didn't do that. It was probably wise that I didn't, but there was still a part of me that wanted to stand up for myself.

It was also very painful for my family. My daughter was going to school and being exposed to comments from her classmates. After I had gone to Spring Training, my daughter wrote a letter to the newspaper defending me. It was a wonderful letter, and at the time, my daughter might have been 16 or 17 years old. I knew nothing about it, but there were people in town that maintained that I put her up to it. That was difficult in that regard.

When the Craig article came out, I have to tell you that I had a ton of friends who came over to my house that night. It was like somebody had died. They all rushed to my side to defend me and support me. What do you think fans would be surprised to find out about you?

Frattare: They probably would be surprised to know that through much of my career I have been a real insecure person.

A couple of years ago, I took 10 days off from the broadcast because I was battling some bouts with depression. The club, my wife, my friends, Kevin McClatchy and the Pirates organization were outstanding. They were very supportive of me.

I can talk about it now because I have gotten to the other side of this issue. I have been able to put a good bit of that insecurity behind me. Now, I can bask in the glow of my successes in the time I have spent here as a Pirates broadcaster.

Before, I was one of those guys that, if I had nine people tell me wonderful things and one person told me something negative, I used to dwell on that one person's comment. I've been able to get past that.

At times, people might think about broadcasters and egos, and at times, may even think that guys who are on the air, because of the way they carry themselves, are arrogant. But my issue was never ego or arrogance. It was insecurity and paranoia. I've gotten past that.

Ed Eagle is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.