Longtime ESPN personality Chris Berman accepted a new role at the network earlier this year, and tonight’s Home Run Derby will be the first without his polarizing call.
In January, it was revealed that ESPN talent Chris Berman would be taking a reduced role with the network, surrendering his duties hosting in-house NFL shows, the NFL Draft, as well as the MLB Home Run Derby. Tonight marks the first time in 20 years that Berman will not be serving as the voice of baseball’s power-hitting exhibition.
As Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and others—Cody Bellinger is getting +600 odds to win from online bookmaker OddsShark.com, for instance—prepare to duke it out in Miami with baseballs blasted into the stands, viewers will not be treated to Berman’s notorious “Back, back, back… GONE!” home run call, nor his lessons in local geography. Which really, amounted to no more than Berman looking up towns surrounding the site of the Derby and choosing the ones with the funniest-sounding names: “All the way to Sheboygan” is a favorite among fans.
In Berman’s stead will be longtime ESPN personality Karl Ravech, who told Sports Illustrated that Berman reached out to wish Ravech luck in his new role. SI’s Richard Deitsch has more:
"“Chris had a unique approach to this and I think everybody associated the Derby as much with him as they did with the guys hitting the baseballs,” Ravech said. “He brought this to a bar as a broadcaster that I would not even attempt to jump over. But having Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and the rest of the field, I can hopefully complement their ability to take us to a higher level. If I can be a condiment to the main course, that is my goal. What I think has helped me is not to rely on any shtick and to be like the Chris Fowler or Mike Tirico’s of the world.”"
It might be worth noting that Mike Tirico is no longer with ESPN.
The 2017 Home Run Derby being without Chris Berman, rumored to be one of the highest-paid talents at ESPN in 2016, dovetails with the exodus of ESPN talent seen earlier in 2017. The big, expensive personality is gone, and in his stead is someone pledging to be more somber, more reserved, perhaps so as not to make any waves with viewers or potential sponsors.
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Like Chris Berman or not, his larger-than-life personality and boisterous tone became a staple of summer for many baseball fans, and the 2017 Home Run Derby now begins a new era for the Midsummer Classic.