Frattare recalls ups and downs of career

Frattare recalls ups and downs of career

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 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 favorite players, the best and worst games he has called, the future of the team and his future as a broadcaster. Which Pirates have you most enjoyed covering?

Frattare: I have developed some favorites based on performances on the field or friendships. Kent Tekulve and I were together [in the Minor Leagues] in Charleston, W.Va., when I was a broadcaster in Triple-A and Teke was first coming up. In fact, Teke's wife, Linda, is godmother for my daughter, Megan. There was always a strong bond between the Tekulves and the Frattares.

My friendship with Jimmy Leyland is front and center. Jimmy gave me the opportunity to be with him a lot off the field. He trusted me with a great deal of information. It was very common for me to go after games to his suite, where he would be talking to his coaches about players.

I'm a big fan of Phil Garner. Ed Ott was another player who came up with me through the Minor Leagues. I was a huge fan of Art Howe. I think Art's a wonderful individual and I'm glad to see he had success as a big-league manager.

Most recently, I've spent a good bit of time trumpeting Freddy Sanchez. Freddy was on the Caravan with us this winter and enjoyed the experience immensely. I wasn't bashful when I introduced Freddy at a chamber lunch as my favorite Pirate.

In my 31 years covering baseball, this current crew of Pirates players is the best group of guys that I have ever been with. That's not to say that there weren't good guys from the '79 team -- Willie Stargell, Garner, Chuck Tanner -- or from Jimmy's teams, but from 1-to-25 or 1-to-32, [this group is the best]. There have been times this year where it was hard to see them not be successful. I really wanted to see these good people be successful, because I really have respect for the people that they are. You have covered thousands of games since 1976. Which one has been the most memorable?

Frattare: There are number of games that stand out for different reasons.

First of all, there was the clincher in 1990 in St. Louis, with Doug Drabek pitching a masterful game against Joe Magrane, and the celebration [that followed]. I had developed a strong friendship with Jimmy Leyland, Gene Lamont and Kent Biggestaff, and I was so thrilled to watch Jimmy Leyland and his people put together this ballclub, and here they were celebrating.

Interestingly enough, after we clinched in 1990, I didn't go down to the clubhouse for maybe an hour after the game because I didn't want to impose on the celebration. But I was afforded the opportunity after we got on the airplane and then got back to Pittsburgh and went to the Clark Bar to watch them celebrate. I got great satisfaction from that.

The other game that stands out for me is in that 1990 season. Doug Drabek almost pitched a no-hitter against the Phillies. Sil Capusano broke it up. The reason that's been such a big deal to me is because I went through a period of my career where I was trying to do perfect broadcasts, and realized at some point that that was next to impossible. But that game, I thought I had come as close as I possibly could to doing a perfect broadcast, in terms of setting the stage, in terms of bringing in the history notes and the drama of the whole game. I was extremely proud of that, and that's why it's always stood out for me. I was extremely proud of that broadcast. You've seen your share of stinkers, too. Which one stands out the most?

Frattare: I can vividly remember when the Cubs clinched the division title, it might have been 1984. It was at Three Rivers, and it was a painful game to do, because there were a lot of Cubs fans in the ballpark. So much of the excitement level that was in the park, it was just very frustrating to announce a game with that backdrop.

The most painful game, obviously, was Game 7 of the '92 playoffs, because I knew it was painful for Jimmy and his troops. I also wanted to make sure that I called the game with the professionalism that it deserved, and I'm pleased that I did that.

When I closed down the broadcast, because of my relationship with Jimmy, I was anxious to run down there and see if he was doing OK. I learned in the process what a true champion he was, dealing with the adversity of that painful loss. You've seen the highs and lows with this organization. Obviously, with 14 consecutive losing seasons, this hasn't been the best of times. What signs do you see that lead you to believe that the team is ready to turn the corner?

Frattare: I see a lot of good signs. But one of the things that I strongly believe is that ... I'm to the point in my career, not only with the Pirates organization but with life itself and other sports teams, where I am turned off by disingenuous, phony platitudes.

I understand that spin is a part of baseball. Nevertheless, I'm quite confident of the fact that when a team is successful, that speaks a great deal more to fans than do discussions about who is in the Minor Leagues coming up or who has promise. I try to focus more on the fact that this is one game that I am doing, and I am going to zero in on it and talk about the things that happen. But in terms of what it means in the long term, I really don't know.

I want to help sell tickets. I want to get people excited about the team. But I also want to do it with some credibility. And the team understands that, as well. Consequently, that's probably the toughest thin line in which to walk, as a broadcaster. You want to be credible. You want to get people excited about the team. But you also know that if a team is right, if the team is good enough, that does a lot more for the organization than all of the talk about where we are, how close we are, etc. How much longer to do you plan to call games for the Pirates?

Frattare: There a couple of issues here.

First of all, I want to tell you that I am ecstatic that I just signed a new deal with the ballclub.

In years past, there was so much made of being the voice of a team that consequently, talented "No. 2 guys" moved on to other teams. I've long believed that Greg [Brown] is an outstanding broadcaster, and this organization must make sure that Greg is happy here. What we're going to do next year is split the broadcast down the middle. I'm excited about that, because I don't want to see Greg go anywhere.

It's important that baseball teams have two strong play-by-play announcers and two color analysts, or in our case three, so that the broadcast doesn't miss a beat whether I'm on or Greg's on. I'm proud that that's where we are, in that regard. I'm excited that for the next three years, Greg and I are going to share more of the responsibilities.

I must admit that something about doing 40 years would be a nice, round number. I would be 67 at that point, so that might be the time for me to say, "Thank you, and goodbye." But the other big issue is I've seen a lot of broadcasters that have stayed longer than they should have stayed. And, if at any point in the next nine years I get the sense, or my wife tells me or my bosses tell me that I am slipping too much, I don't want to stay longer than I should stay.

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