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No doubt about it: Lanny Frattare retires

By Rob Biertempfel
Thursday, October 2, 2008

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Summertime in Pittsburgh won't sound the same without Lanny Frattare in the Pirates' broadcast booth.

Frattare -- the Voice of the Pirates since 1976 -- retired Wednesday, ending a 33-season career as the team's radio and television play-by-play announcer. He was the longest-tenured announcer in team history.

"A couple of generations have grown up listening to Lanny Frattare," said Greg Brown, who has worked the past 15 years with Frattare. "I'm one of them. I became a Pirates fan listening to him."

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Next season, Brown will take over as the Pirates' senior announcer. The rest of the broadcast crew -- color analysts Bob Walk, Steve Blass and John Wehner -- will return.

President Frank Coonelly said the team will begin an "exhaustive" search to replace Frattare, who had one year remaining on his contract.

A Pirates' spokesman said Frattare, 60, was too emotional to conduct interviews. Frattare did not return a phone call from the Tribune-Review.

In a prepared statement, Frattare thanked his family, his broadcast partners and Pirates' fans.

"The decision to retire ... was something I have been thinking about and have discussed for some time, but (it was) a decision I did not make until after the final road trip of the season," he said. "It was a difficult and emotional decision, but, in the end, I decided it was time."

On Aug. 10, Frattare broadcast his 5,000th game, a 6-3 loss against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Coonelly said he will lobby for Frattare's induction into the Hall of Fame. The team will honor Frattare before a game next season.

Brown said he "almost dropped the phone" when Coonelly called with news of Frattare's retirement. Former Pirates relief pitcher Kent Tekulve, who has known Frattare for more than 30 years, said the announcer never indicated he was ready to retire.

Members of the Pirates' front office, however, were not caught off guard.

"It wasn't expected, but it wasn't a shock," Coonelly said. "I sensed from talking to him last year that he wasn't certain how much longer he could go."

According to Coonelly, Frattare late last season indicated he was growing weary of the travel and daily grind of the job. Two weeks ago, during the Pirates' final homestand, Frattare asked about working a reduced schedule in 2009.

Coonelly said the Pirates were considering Frattare's request but had not made a decision. A few seasons ago, Blass gave up traveling with the team and now only broadcasts games at PNC Park.

"It's difficult to have the continuity you'd like to have in a broadcast if your play-by-play man is on a reduced schedule," Coonelly said. "But we were willing to at least talk about it."

Coonelly stressed that Frattare was not forced out by the Pirates.

"It was Lanny's decision," Coonelly said.

In August 2004, Frattare was granted a 10-day leave of absence as he battled clinical depression. He has taken several days off over the past few seasons.

"It's hard to imagine Lanny's not going to be in the broadcast booth next year," Brown said.

Frattare grew up a Yankees fan in Rochester, N.Y. After getting his broadcasting degree from Ithaca College in 1970, he worked as a disc jockey in his hometown.

After spinning records for five years, Frattare was hired as the announcer for the Charleston (W.Va.) Charlies, the Pirates' Triple-A affiliate.

After the 1975 season, the Pirates fired longtime announcers Bob Prince and Nellie King. Frattare got the kind of promotion every ballplayer craves: a call-up to the major leagues.

Frattare and Milo Hamilton became the Pirates' on-air duo in 1976. When Hamilton joined the Houston Astros, Frattare became the official Voice of the Pirates.

Frattare's signature lines -- "Go, ball! Get outta here!" and "There was no doubt about it!" -- became part of Pittsburgh soundtrack, along with Fred Rogers' neighborly hellos and Myron Cope's joyful, jolting yelps.

Yet, Frattare's hallmark was more than one-liners. He worked a ballgame the way a CSI team works a crime scene, gathering even the tiniest details and filing them away in a briefcase for later use.

"It's the history of Pirates baseball for the last 33 years in there," Tekulve said. "Those details always have been important to him. Being right, being able to get the information and present it right away to the listeners.

"That's why he was so good at what he did. He didn't cut corners or take the easy way out. He did it the way he felt was the best and most complete job."


Longest tenured play-by-play announcers in Pirates history:

Lanny Frattare: 33 years (1976-2008)

Bob Prince: 28 years (1948-1975)

Rosey Rowswell: 19 years (1936-1954)

* Color analyst Steve Blass has been with the team for 23 years (1986-present)

Memorable calls

"There was nooooo doubt about it." -- After a Pirates win

"Go ball, get outta here, it's gone." -- After a Pirates home run

Memorable gaffe

In 1998, Frattare mistakenly told listeners that James Earl Jones had passed away when, in fact, it was Martin Luther King Jr. assassin James Earl Ray who had died. Frattare became the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question: "What is the name of the announcer who misidentified the death of James Earl Ray?"

By the numbers

2,499 -- Pirates wins during Frattare's tenure

2,714 -- Pirates losses during Frattare's tenure

2 -- No-hitters called (John Candelaria, 1976; Francisco Cordova-Ricardo Rincon, 1997)

4 -- Division series called (1979, 1990-92)

1 -- World Series called (1979)

8 -- Managers employed by the Pirates during Frattare's tenure (Danny Murtaugh, Chuck Tanner, Jim Leyland, Gene Lamont, Lloyd McClendon, Pete Mackanin, Jim Tracy, John Russell)

9 -- General managers during Frattare's tenure (Joe O'Toole, Joe L. Brown, Harding Peterson, Syd Thrift, Larry Doughty, Ted Simmons, Cam Bonifay, Dave Littlefield, Neal Huntington)

4 -- Ownership groups during Frattare's tenure (John Galbreath, Pittsburgh Associates, Kevin McClatchy, Robert Nutting)

4,500 -- Scorecards available for sale on

5 -- Batting champions on the Pirates during Frattare's tenure (Dave Parker twice, Bill Madlock twice, Freddy Sanchez)

20 -- Innings broadcast by Frattare when the Pirates beat the Cubs, 5-4, on July 6, 1980

4 -- Players who hit for the cycle during Frattare's tenure (Mike Easler, Gary Redus, Jason Kendall, Daryle Ward)


A look at Lanny Frattare's broadcast partners:

Milo Hamilton (1976-79)

Dave Martin (1980)

Jim Rooker (1981-93)

John Sanders (1981-89)

Bob Prince (1985)

Steve Blass (1986-2008)

Kent Derdivanis (1990-92)

Greg Brown (1994-2008)

Bob Walk (1994-2008)

John Wehner (2005-2008)

Rob Biertempfel can be reached at or 412-320-7811.
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