A Swing and a Drive!
Tom Hamilton shares his favorite Tribe memories and what makes Cleveland Special
By Adam Sockel
"And we're underway at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario!" Since the opening of Progressive Field in 1994 (then known as Jacobs Field) Cleveland Indians home games have begun with Tom Hamilton saying that familiar phrase. Announcing the game for tens of thousands of passionate Cleveland sports fans, Hamilton's radio announcing is the soundtrack to a city that loves its baseball.
The voice of the Tribe since 1990, "Hammy" as he's lovingly known locally, has become synonymous with summers full of late inning magic and memorable home run calls. He has a front-row seat to what makes going to a game at Progressive Field a special occasion for locals and visitors alike. Recently, we sat down with Hammy to get his thoughts on the Indians, the city and the fans.
Everyone loves your home run call. Is that something that came about organically?
I've been asked that a lot, and truly it's nothing that I've ever sat down to think about because if you're not spontaneous, then it comes across as fake. I think it's a byproduct of those teams in the 90s hitting so many home runs! I don't call every ball the same, because a lot of times you don't know it's a home run. I think you have to make the call based on how the ball is hit. The worst thing you can do is go into a home run call and the ball is caught by the shortstop.
To you, what makes a great play call?
The crowd. I've heard Vin Scully say that and if it's good enough for Vin Scully, it's good enough for the rest of us. There is nothing better than hearing a crowd roar at a ball game. You've got to let the crowd be a part of the call. That's what we're all here for.
You've been calling Indians games since 1990. Are there a few favorite games that you always look back at fondly?
The first one is always the best. Nothing tops that. It's the impossible dream coming true. Game 6 of the 95' ALCS in the Kingdome against Randy Johnson, when Kenny Lofton scored from 2nd base on a passed ball. That's when you knew we were going to go to the World Series for the first time in 41 years. Also, clinching the division title in 1995. It was a forgone conclusion that we were going to win the division title, but to see the outpouring of emotion in the city was special. For fans here it was like, "I can't believe this is a reality." Even recently, one of my great memories is Jason Giambi hitting a walk-off home run in 2013 to clinch the Wild Card. What made that moment so great is who did it. He is one of my favorite people in my 27 years in the game.
On the rare times that you do get days off in Cleveland, what
do you like to do around the city?
For us, it's all about our family. Wendy and I have raised four children here. I have an incredible wife so we kind of hunker down and do stuff as a family. This is just such a great place to raise a family that we know how lucky we've been to raise four children here. To have the kind of support system that you have in these schools and everything else, we couldn't be in a better spot.
What do you think about Cleveland fans, and what makes the Progressive Field fan base stand out to you?
Most of the people that are in Cleveland or Northeast Ohio grew up here or are from this area. Here, you really feel like you're a part of people's lives. The team is more important to people than it is in a lot of other cities and that's, to me, what makes this a great job. The passion of the city of Cleveland.