We’re up to day 4 of our countdown of the careers of the MLB broadcasters.
51. Pat Tabler—Toronto Blue Jays. WAR: 3.1
I’m old enough to remember when Tabler was the Cubs second baseman of the future. He hit .342/.444/.580 for Iowa in 1982, although he was already 24 years old at the time. We didn’t understand the aging curve all that well back then. The Cubs dealt him to the White Sox as part of a package for Steve Trout and Warren Brusstar before the 1983 season and the White Sox almost immediately sent him to Cleveland.
Tabler was a good hitter with fair power, but he was a defensive nightmare at second base and the Indians eventually had to move him, first to the outfield and finally to first base. But in 1986, Tabler hit .326/.368/.433 as the Indians starting first baseman. He was one of the reasons that Sports Illustrated ran that infamous “Indian Uprising” cover story before the 1987 season that promised a return to greatness in Cleveland. The Indians would go on to lose 101 games in 1987. But hey, Tabler hit .307 and was named to his only All-Star team in 1987.
Tabler was known for one other thing as a player — a ridiculous ability to hit with the bases loaded. Tabler batted with the bags juiced 109 times in his 12-year career and he hit .489/.505/.693. He only hit two grand slams, but he did have 43 hits with 11 walks and he drove in 108 runs with the bases loaded.
After a three-year stint with the Royals and 17 games with the Mets, Tabler signed with the Blue Jays before the 1991 season as a free agent. He wasn’t very good in Toronto, but the Blue Jays won the AL East both seasons he was there and he was on their first World Series-winning team in 1992. He pinch hit twice in the Series and went 0 for 2.
His final hitting line was .282/.345/.379 over 1202 games from 1981 to 1992.
Tabler retired after the ’92 Series to take a job as a studio analyst with the Blue Jays. He moved up to the booth in 2001 and has been the Blue Jays color analyst since.
50. Geoff Blum. Houston Astros. WAR: 3.3
Blum was a switch-hitting infielder with a 14-year career with seven different teams. Early in his career he was a regular third baseman with a a below-average bat and an above-average glove. Those types tend to become utility players as they age and Blum was no different. He played a lot at all four infield positions and even played some as a corner outfielder.
Blum came up with the Expos in 1999 and was traded to Houston during Spring Training in 2002. He spent five years with the Astros in two different stints—from 2002 to 2003 and 2008 to 2010. He played in 1389 games over the course of his 14-year career and hit .250/.310/.384 with 99 home runs.
For all the great memories Blum provided for Astros fans (and most of his best years were in Houston), he may be best remembered for actually breaking their fans’ hearts. Blum was traded by the Padres (he had two different stints in San Diego as well) to the White Sox at the trade deadline in 2005. He was pretty bad on the South Side, hitting just .200/.232/.274 over 31 regular season games. But in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series, Blum entered the game as part of a double-switch in the bottom of the 13th inning with the score tied 5-5. With two outs and the bases empty in the top of the 14th, Blum got his one and only at-bat in the Series. It was a solo home run. The White Sox added a second run later in the inning and ended up winning Game 3 7-5 and they took an insurmountable three-games-to-none lead in the Series. The Astros would have to wait another 12 years (and switch leagues) before winning their first title.
Blum signed with the Diamondbacks as a free agent in 2011, but he was mostly injured. When he did play, he didn’t play well. Arizona released him in July of 2012 and with no team interested in a 39-year-old utility infielder who didn’t hit, his playing days were over.
However, Blum timed the end of his career really well. After the 2012 season, longtime Astros broadcaster Jim Deshaies left Houston for another opportunity. Blum was hired to replace Deshaies for the 2013 season and he’s been there ever since.
49. Duane Kuiper. San Francisco Giants. WAR: 4.2
Kuiper, along with Toronto’s Buck Martinez, are the two former major league ballplayers who are their team’s play-by-play broadcaster not the color analyst. (Duane’s younger brother Glen Kuiper, the play-by-play man for the Athletics, played two seasons in short-season A ball.)
Kuiper was the starting second baseman for the Indians in the late ‘70s. At the time, middle infielders were not expected to hit and the Indians were not expected to be good. Kuiper lived up to those expectations. In his 12-year career form 1974 to 1985, Kuiper had a batting average of .271 and on on-base percentage of .325, both respectable for a second baseman of that era. He was a guy who put the ball in play and several years he walked more often than he struck out. He had a reputation for being a good defender and the numbers back that up, at least in the early part of his career when he was a starter.
But oh boy, did Kuiper not have any power. Middle infielder of the seventies weren’t supposed to have much power, but Kuiper really didn’t have any. In 3754 career trips to the plate, Kuiper hit one home run. On August 29, 1977, the left-handed hitting Kuiper came to bat in the bottom of the first inning and pulled a line drive to right field that just barely cleared the fence at Municipal Stadium.
As luck would have it, Kuiper hit that home run off of White Sox pitcher (and current broadcaster) Steve Stone. The Giants make a big deal of that home run every August 29 and every time the Giants play the White Sox. They run a mini-documentary on the home run and every year they ask Steve Stone to talk about it. Every time, Stone’s response is “No comment.” This has been a running gag in the Giants broadcast booth for years.
The Indians traded Kuiper to San Francisco for Ed Whitson after the 1981 season and he’s (almost) been there ever since. Kuiper played for the Giants as a backup infielder until he war released mid-season in 1985. Among his teammates on those Giants teams were fellow future broadcasters Bob Brenly, Mark Grant, Dan Gladden, Joe Morgan and his current partner Mike Krukow.
Kuiper hit .271/.325/.316 over 1057 games from 1974 to 1985.
Kuiper had a local sports radio show in San Francisco while he was still playing and upon retiring in 1985, he immediately moved into the booth as a color commenter. In 1993, the Giants were planning to move to St. Petersburg and Kuiper, not wanting to move with them to Florida, took a job with the expansion Colorado Rockies. When the threat of the Giants leaving the Bay Area subsided, Kuiper returned to San Francisco in 1994 and has become an institution there. He’ll probably win the Ford C. Frick Award one day and he will no doubt mention that he homered off of Steve Stone in his induction speech.
48. Mike Blowers. Seattle Mariners. WAR: 4.3
Blowers was a corner infielder who was drafted three times before he finally signed with the Expos on the fourth time he was drafted. (There was a second draft in January back in the 1980s.) He never did play for the Expos as they sent him to the Yankees for John Candelario in 1989.
Blowers made his debut with the Yankees in that late ‘80s, early ‘90s period when the Yankees were really bad. But after three years of bouncing between Triple-A and the Bronx, the Yankees sent the Washington State native to the Mariners in 1991.
In 1993, the then 28-year-old Blowers had a breakout season in Seattle, establishing himself as their starting third baseman, hitting .280/.357/.475 with 15 home runs.
Blowers’s rise happened to correspond with the Mariners actually being good for the first time in franchise history. Blowers was still the Mariners starting third baseman when they made the playoffs for the first time in 1995. Combine that success with the fact that he was a local kid, and it was obvious that he was going to be a fan favorite in Seattle.
The Mariners traded Blowers to the Dodgers after that 1995 season, but he re-signed a one-year free agent deal with Seattle for the 1997. He signed with Oakland for 1998 where he was a starter for the final time in his career, but came back to sign with Seattle for 1999. By this time, the 34-year-old Blowers didn’t have much left to offer, so the Mariners released him mid-season so he could sign with the Hanshin Tigers in NPB. He had a fine half season in Japan before retiring after the 1999 season.
Blowers career line was .257/.329/.416 in 761 games from 1989 to 1999.
As a fan favorite and a Washington native, Blowers was a natural for the Mariners broadcast booth. He started as a pre- and post-game analyst in 2003 and joined the booth as a color analyst in 2007.