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Voices of the Game, Part 3: Tom Grieve to Ben Davis

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A look at the playing careers of the men who bring us the game.

Jeff Huson #29
Jeff Huson

It’s now day 3 of our countdown of the broadcasters of the game, as ranked by their playing careers.

There’s a story stream that you can follow to see the earlier entries. Also see the first entry for the rules of the series.

56. Tom Grieve—Texas Rangers. WAR: 1.8

Grieve was the Washington Senators first-round pick in 1966, the second year that there even was a draft. With the exception of two years in the late seventies, he’s been with the Rangers/Senators organization ever since.

Grieve made his debut with the Senators in 1970 and then played with the Rangers from 1972 to 1977. He was a right-handed outfielder/DH and was usually platooned throughout his career. That was a thing back in the seventies. Before teams decided to carry 8 or 9 relievers so they’d always have the platoon advantage on defense, they used to have bench players so they could have the platoon advantage on offense.

Grieve had one year as a full-time starter in 1976 and he hit .255/.301/.418 with 20 home runs and 81 RBI. Back then, that was a pretty solid line for a starting corner outfielder. Anyway, he was traded to the Mets after the 1977 season as part of a rare four-team deal. After nine games with the Cardinals in 1979, he was released and re-signed with the Rangers, although he never made it back to the majors.

Tom Grieve hit .249/.301/.401 from 1970 to 1979. That’s not great, but it’s better than it looks in the context of the offense-starved 1970s.

When he retired in 1980, Grieve immediately joined the Rangers front office. From 1984 to 1994, Grieve was the Rangers general manager. Grieve was the guy who traded Sammy Sosa to the White Sox for Harold Baines. On the other hand, he also got Rafael Palmeiro from the Cubs for Mitch Williams.

Grieve was fired as GM during the strike of 1994. When baseball started up again the next year, he became a Rangers broadcaster and has been there ever since.

55. Jeff Huson—Colorado Rockies. WAR: 2.2

Huson was a utility infielder who couldn’t get on base, couldn’t hit for power and couldn’t run, as noted by his career line of .234/.304/.295 with six home runs and 64 steals over 827 games. He was a pretty good glove however, and that kept him employed from 1988 to 2000 with seven different teams.

Most retired players have some tie to the team they’re broadcasting. Huson was with the Rockies twice, but he never actually played for them in the majors. When the Orioles released Huson in August of 1996, he signed a week later with the Rockies. He played 23 games with Triple-A Colorado Springs in 1996 and early 1997 before the Rockies dealt him to the Brewers in late April. He re-signed with the Rockies as a free agent after the 1997 season, but a week later the Mariners took him in the Rule 5 draft.

Huson finished his career with the Cubs in 2000 and I have to admit that I’d forgotten all about that. Of course, I have pretty much forgotten everything about the Cubs’ 2000 season. I know Sammy Sosa was on the team. The Cubs then made Huson a minor league infield instructor from 2001 to 2005 which made sense, since defense was the one thing he did really well as a player. He left the Cubs in 2006 to join the Rockies broadcast team and has been there ever since.

54. Mark Grant—San Diego Padres. WAR: 2.3

Grant was the Giants first-round pick in 1981 with the tenth pick in the draft out of Joliet Catholic Academy. In 1982, in the second minor league game I ever saw, Grant pitched a complete game shutout for Clinton against Madison in the Midwest League. My memory tells me it was a one-hitter and Grant struck out 10 or 11. It’s still the greatest minor league pitching performance I’ve ever seen in person. Of course, it’s extremely rare that any minor league pitcher throws a nine-inning complete game these days.

Grant went 16-5 with a 2.36 ERA over 198⅔ innings in the Midwest League in 1982. He struck out 243 batters. His pitching career was all downhill from there. Grant’s goofball personality didn’t go well with the old-school managers and executives that dominated the Giants organization at the time. In 1986, two years before Bull Durham was released, Giants GM Al Rosen said that Grant had “a million dollar arm and a ten-cent brain.” Grant’s response was to wear a headband that said “10-cent brain.”

The Giants traded Grant to the Padres in 1987 and the Friars moved him to the bullpen in 1988. He responded by having the best two seasons of his career in ’88 and ’89. He also thrived under manager Jack McKeon, who was known as a players’ manager with a higher tolerance for nutty ballplayers like Grant. The Padres traded him to Atlanta in 1990, which was the start of the end of his playing career. He missed most of the 1991 season with shoulder surgery. After playing for the Mariners, Astros and Rockies, Grant sat out the 1994 season but attempted a comeback with the Iowa Cubs in 1995. He retired after that season.

Grant went 22-32 with an ERA of 4.31 and eight saves over 233 games from 1984 to 1993.

Grant’s goofy personality may have clashed with the old-school managers that he played under, but it made him a natural fit for the broadcast booth. He started calling Padres games immediately after retiring in 1996 and has been there ever since. He’s one of the most popular broadcasters in the game these days and the Padres were ranked number one in Awful Announcing’s most-recent poll of local broadcast teams.

53. Bill Schroeder—Milwaukee Brewers. WAR: 2.7

Schroeder had an eight-year career as a backup catcher, the first six with the Brewers and final two with the Angels. He got his first taste of the majors in 1983, just one year after the Brewers played in their only World Series, backing up Ted Simmons and Ned Yost. He had a bit of power, hitting 14 home runs in only 61 games his rookie season in 1984. But he struck out a lot (for that era, at least) and had a career batting average of .240 and a career on-base percentage of .281. That was a pretty common profile for a backup catcher of the eighties. He retired after the Angels released him at the end of the 1990 season.

Schroeder’s career line was .249/.281/.426 over 376 games from 1983 to 1990.

Schroeder joined the Brewers broadcast team in 1995 and has been there ever since. Only Bob Uecker has called more Brewers games than Schroeder. I do listen to a lot of Brewers broadcasts and Schroeder’s style can best be described as “gruff but not nasty.”

52. Ben DavisPhiladelphia Phillies. WAR: 2.9

In general, there are two ways a former ballplayer gets hired as a team’s broadcaster. The most common route is to be a well-liked former member the team. The other way is to be a local boy who had a decent career for other teams. Davis is the second one.

Davis was a huge star for Malvern Prep in suburban Philadelphia in the nineties. A switch-hitting catcher, Davis was the 1995 Baseball America High School Player of the Year. He was the second pick of the 1995 draft by the Padres, going two picks before the Cubs took Texas high school pitcher Kerry Wood. (Both teams passed on Todd Helton and Roy Halladay.)

It’s fair to say that Davis’ major league career was a disappointment. He only had one year as a starter in the majors, playing 138 games for the Padres in 2001. He hit .239/.337/.359 with 11 home runs that season, which is impressive if you were a 16th-round pick and not the second overall pick in the draft.

In that 2001 season, Davis caused a big controversy by breaking up a perfect game by Curt Schilling in the eighth inning with a bunt. In Davis’ defense, it was a 2-0 game at the time and the Padres needed a baserunner. Also in Davis’ defense, it was Curt Schilling so he deserved it.

After that “big” season in 2001, the Padres dealt Davis to the Mariners, where he spent 2½ seasons backing up starter Dan Wilson. The Mariners traded him to the White Sox in July of 2004 and he was the starting catcher for the Pale Hose for the rest of that year.

That was the last season Davis played in the majors. Davis had Tommy John surgery and missed most of the 2005 season. But Davis was one of those players who was going to keep playing until absolutely no one wanted him anymore. He played in the minors for the Yankees, Dodgers, Orioles and Reds as well as for Camden in independent ball until he finally gave up the dream in 2010 at age 33.

Davis’ final career line was .237/.276/.366 over 486 games from 1998 to 2004.

Davis joined the Phillies as a pre- and post-game studio analyst immediately after retiring in 2011. He was promoted to the booth in 2015 and he’s been there ever since.