For Twins announcer Dick Bremer, more hits than errors

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 9, 2013 - 11:19 AM

During high school in Staples, Minn., Dick Bremer took speech classes, which planted the idea of building a career around his voice. His plan worked well.

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Twins announcer Dick Bremer is almost as recognizable as manager Ron Gardenhire and many players he mentions in his broadcasts.

Photo: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

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Count his first job as a swing and a miss. During his student days at St. Cloud State, Dick Bremer spent two years working an overnight shift for a local radio station, spinning records under the handle “The Duke in the Dark.” The job made him realize two things: He could make a living from his voice, and he didn’t want to do it by playing ABBA and the Bay City Rollers.

Strike two came in 1985, after Bremer had found the perfect venue for that silky baritone. Three years into his tenure as play-by-play man for the Twins’ cable television broadcasts, his employer folded, leaving him jobless and devastated.

“I honestly felt like I was never going to get a chance to do Twins baseball again,” Bremer said. “I did whatever I could to pay the bills, hoping I could get involved with them again. I know it sounds corny, but I believe I was meant to do this.”

So did the Twins, who put Bremer in the booth in 1987 for a second stint that became a solid hit. That distinct voice — strong and authoritative, yet warm and relaxed — has provided the TV soundtrack for 30 summers of Twins baseball, delivered by a guy who’s followed the team since boyhood.

His colleagues describe Bremer, 57, as diligent and detail-oriented. Bert Blyleven — his broadcast partner for 19 seasons — marvels at his mental warehouse of team history and statistics, while Twins pitcher Glen Perkins is among those who laud his knowledge of the game.

Early on, Bremer made the choice not to fabricate a home-run call or a catchphrase. He believed his identity would be forged through the bond he shared with his audience, as a Minnesotan and a lifelong Twins fan. Though he works hard at his craft in the broadcast booth at Target Field, he can’t help but feel that his summertime office is really just the best seat in the house.

“Even in those bleak years, when the Twins were losing 90 games a year, he was the one guy who was most disappointed when the season came to an end,” said Ryan Lefebvre, a Kansas City Royals broadcaster who began his career working with Bremer on Twins telecasts. “There are some people in this business who love the exposure, or they love the money. Dick really loves his job. That comes across on the air.”

Local product

Before a recent game against the Royals, Bremer sat in his booth behind home plate and scanned his smartphone for baseball news.

“Hey, Dick,” a man called from the concourse just below. “How about a shout-out for Wadena?”

Bremer instantly struck up a conversation, asking the man his name and inquiring about the state of Wadena’s baseball field, which had been damaged by a tornado in 2010. He exchanged friendly chatter with other passing fans, then pulled out a marker to sign the caps that some tossed into the booth for autographs.

That kinship comes naturally to Bremer, who has lived in Minnesota nearly his entire life — and yearned for it during his few years away. He wears his provincialism proudly: in the fishing stories he tells the Fox Sports North crew, in the TC logo cuff links on his wrists, in his ability to locate any obscure Minnesota town mentioned during a broadcast.

“Dick is a consummate pro, but I don’t know if he’d be as good if he wasn’t broadcasting his hometown team,” said Twins spokesman Kevin Smith, who also worked with Bremer as a former program director at Midwest Sports Channel. “In Minnesota, we like our local things and people, and Dick is about as local as you can get.”

The son of a Lutheran pastor, Bremer grew up in Dumont (pop. 200) in west-central Minnesota, with the town-team baseball diamond in his back yard. He memorized the Twins’ TV schedule so he would not miss a game; when he wasn’t watching the Twins or the town team, he was rounding up friends to play.

During high school in Staples, Minn., Bremer took speech classes, which planted the idea of building a career around his voice. He turned to radio after being cut from the baseball team at St. Cloud State. His TV career began in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he honed his play-by-play skills before returning to Minnesota as a weekend sports anchor for WTCN (Ch. 11).

Bremer began calling Twins games for the Spectrum Sports cable network in 1983. When the network folded in 1985, he worked as a youth director for his church and did occasional play-by-play for Gophers sports, riding out a stressful year before resuming his Twins career when the TwinsVision cable network was established in 1987.

“It was a very difficult decision to stay here and try to make ends meet, rather than going to Seattle or Milwaukee and trying to hook up there,” Bremer said. “But this was, and is, my home.”

Distinctive voice

Bremer’s voice has become instantly recognizable to Twins fans, and not just on the air. Whether he is chatting with his wife, Heidi, ordering dinner at a restaurant or describing a double play, it always sounds the same.

“Some people go into announcer mode when the red light comes on,” Lefebvre said. “With Dick, it’s just an extension of his personality.”

As he developed a broadcast style, he found a wide variety of role models in Minnesota giants such as Ray Scott, Al Shaver and Herb Carneal. In them, Bremer saw two qualities he hoped to emulate: They retained their natural enthusiasm and had deliveries that never became grating or dull.

Last season, between his work for Fox Sports North and national assignments, Bremer called 158 games. Bremer prepares meticulously for each one, culling fresh information by reading, surfing the Web and talking with players, staff and visiting broadcasters.

Smith said that during his tenure with the Twins and MSC, he never has received a phone call suggesting that Bremer be fired. Still, sports announcers can be as polarizing as politicians, a fact made clear by two sets of randomly chosen fans at Target Field. One pair said they couldn’t stand listening to Bremer and didn’t know anyone who could. Two others seated about 50 feet away said they enjoy Bremer’s calls, and so do all their friends.

Perkins, a Stillwater native who listened to Bremer before joining the Twins, is in the latter camp.

“He’s a smart guy who knows the game very well,” he said. “But he explains it without going over people’s heads.”

Bremer also is happy to let Blyleven be the star. The two are an “odd couple,” Blyleven said, but their complementary personalities clicked from the moment they were paired in 1995.

“He makes it fun and easy for me to do what I do,” Blyleven said. “He remembers Twins history as well as anyone I’ve ever met. He’s not going to yell, ‘Twins win! Twins win!’ because he’s a professional. But sometimes, when the Twins aren’t doing well, you can hear it in his voice, because he is always going to be a Twins fan.”

Over the course of his 30 years with the Twins, one of the few things Bremer hasn’t done is call a playoff game. The national networks handle the postseason telecasts — giving the professional fan the brief opportunity to return to the ranks of the regular ones, enjoying the view from the second-best seat in the house.

“I know very well how fortunate I am,” Bremer said. “There are 30 people who get to do what I get to do. And within that very select group of very lucky people, how many get a chance to do it for the team they grew up following? What a wonderful feeling that is, to feel you’ve found something that was almost predestined for you to do.’ ”

 

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