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Robert Ford and Steve Sparks are an Oasis in the Postseason Announcer Wasteland

If not Buck and Smoltz, why not Ford and Sparks?

Houston Astros v Toronto Blue Jays
One half of the Astros radio duo, which is hard to find pictures of apparently.
Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

What I remember most about Game 2 of the 2017 World Series is being mad. Real mad.

After finally making it back to the Fall Classic the Astros were ready to face off against the Dodgers. Full to the brim with optimism going into Game 1, I was disappointed to see the Dodgers take the first round in rather convincing fashion off of Dallas Keuchel.

But no matter! It was always going to be rough to come in and steal 2 from the 2017 Dodgers in their own house! We would simply need to come back out and take care of business in Game 2. Against soft-tossing Rich Hill no less, who was little more than a good story in 2017 (I convincingly told myself). It was in the bag.

But it became clear in the 6th inning that there would be no bag for this to be in as the Dodgers tagged 3 runs from August trade deadline hero Justin Verlander, while Houston barely managed to scrape a single run off of Hill and a string of relievers. My blood pressure had been slowly rising throughout the course of the game, but then came the point where I could stand it no more.

In the top of the 7th Marwin Gonzalez took a walk, which was immediately followed by Reddick hitting an 0-2 pitch on the ground for a double play. A double play late in the game with the Dodgers’ all-world closer still lurking in the wings. And that was it, I literally couldn’t watch anymore.

Now normally I’m a hot mess when I watch postseason games. My palms are sweaty and my heart is racing for like 4 hours straight. Prayers and indigestion both multiply exponentially whenever an opposing player gets on base or one of ours is facing a 2-strike count. But that’s not what I felt here. This was anger, both hot and pure.

My thinking was something along the lines of “Don’t you want to win at least one game?! Do we need to get swept twice in the World Series before we do something?!?! MADABLARGAABLURGLBLA!!!” So not exactly rational.

I had to get away. I had to breath. I grabbed my phone and loaded up the MLB At Bat app because I wasn’t willing to completely leave the orbit of a close game like that. And in that moment I found a forgotten joy from the regular season because Robert Ford and Steve Sparks were there to greet me.

Now I’ve written before about how much I enjoy Todd Kalas and Geoff Blum on the TV call, but at the same time I like to listen to the games more often than I watch them. I’m what my wife calls “a hobbies guy,” which means that I’m usually doing something with my hands and eyes, even during games. When you’re doing stuff like that, radio lends itself so much better to being able to enjoy the games.

So there I was washing dishes at 10 o’clock at night while listening to the game. And I felt better. Not because things were getting better, but because Ford and Sparks were part of my team. They weren’t neutral observers who care more about an exciting game than an Astros win like Buck and Smoltz, they had been there with me for all 162. When I needed to calm down, their familiarity brought me back to earth.

Then, as I returned to my home office, I heard the call of Correa hitting a single off of Kenley Jansen to score Bregman in the bottom of the 8th, and I knew how I would be spending the rest of the game. I flipped the TV screen off and just listened as Ford and Sparks expertly weaved the tale of the Astros winning a thrilling game in the bottom of the 11th after two drama-filled innings.

I got to listen as Marwin hit the home run that saved the Astros’ postseason and tied the game. Later I jumped out of my seat with fist pumps all over the place as I listened to the crack of the bat from both Altuve and Correa’s back-to-back homers in the 10th and Springer’s two-run shot in the 11th. Finally, I was there holding my breath as Ford described the change up that Devo threw to Puig to end the game and send the series back to Houston tied at 1 apiece.

And that win sealed my fate. I didn’t watch another inning of the World Series that year, and I don’t regret that decision one bit. I got to hear some amazing calls from Ford and Sparks, especially the see-saw roller-coaster of Game 5. I know that a lot of people reference “Right side, this could do it...” from Game 7, but Ford’s call of Bregman’s final at bat in Game 5 is permanently etched into my memory. That was the moment I knew we were going to win the whole damn thing.

And now it’s the only way I’ll watch a postseason game. While I usually have the screen on in the background it’s been synced up to the radio the whole time, which is rather convenient for bathroom breaks when one has a nervous bladder during the late innings. I got to hear Robert Ford’s awesome call for both game-winning home runs in the ALCS, and Steve Sparks declaring Michael Brantley’s superb double play to be the defensive play of the series.

I’ll get at least four more games with them, and I’ll cherish every moment. Because after this it will only be the cold months of winter and the echoes of “See you later! See you later! See you later!” to keep me warm until next Spring.

But for the moment, I recommend that everyone who can’t stand Joe Buck and John Smoltz calling a game for the Astros give a listen to the Robert Ford and Steve Sparks. They’re part of the Astros family and I know they are always welcome in my home when I watch the team play.