By Megan Filipowski/Indianapolis Indians
When asked to describe Opening Day in one word, legendary broadcaster and “Voice of the Tribe,” Howard Kellman, did not even pause before answering:
As Kellman so eloquently suggests, It’s a day unlike any other. It means spring has arrived and baseball season has begun in the city. “Hope springs eternal”, he said.
“You always have such great anticipation no matter how many times you are there,” Kellman said. “It’s the first of 72 games there. It’s just a prelude of what’s to come.”
Above all people, he would know.
Kellman has called over 6,000 baseball games during his broadcasting career, and the 2014 campaign will mark his 39th season behind the microphone for the Indians. And even after calling 38 different Opening Days, the allure of a home opener hasn’t lost its special touch.
“It’s a beautiful time,” he said. “It’s a great, great day.”
The Voice of the Tribe received a more-than proper introduction to the home opener’s effect on the fans during his very first game with the Indians. In an experience he holds dear to his heart, he called the play-by-play action for Indianapolis’ contest against the Omaha Royals on April 20, 1974, when future MLB Hall of Famer George Brett suited up for the opposing ballclub.
While just a minor stop in the illustrious career of Brett, who later retired as one of four players in big league history with 3,000 hits, 300 homers and a career .300 average, the 1974 season opener left a lasting impression on Kellman.
“That’s one you never forget,” Kellman said.
Fast forward to the Tribe’s home opener in 1997 and Kellman, to this day, still fondly remembers his exact description of the scene at Victory Field’s first official Opening Day.
“It’s is the crown jewel of minor league ballparks,” Kellman’s voice resounded over the airwaves.
Even as both he and Indians fans were still adjusting to the two-mile move from the team’s first home ballpark of Bush Stadium, Kellman was moved to share his passion for the ballpark at the corner of West and Maryland.
“That’s our field,” Kellman said.
Along with a winning tradition on the diamond, Victory Field has also received praise for its enjoyable, fan-friendly atmosphere, perhaps never-more-so than when the gates open for the first time each season. According to Kellman’s expertise, the mood is festive, and he said it’s wonderful to walk around the park and enjoy the beauty of both the field and surrounding area.
What’s more, he added, fans never have to worry about less-than-ideal weather, as the Indians and their weather partner WTHR annually promise 60-degree weather at Victory Field’s home opener.
“The Indians Opening Day 60 Degree Weather Guarantee says if the temperature at game-time is below 60 degrees, everyone in attendance will receive a free ticket to another April home game of their choice,” Kellman recited.
And Opening Day “game-time” has featured several meanings of its own over the years for Kellman, most notably when the Tribe opened the 1978 campaign on the road against the Redbirds in Springfield, Illinois.
“[Springfield] had just gotten the franchise and the clubhouses hadn’t been built yet,” Kellman recalled. “The team had to be bused there while I took a cab (separately). When I got to the stadium the team wasn’t there. The bus got stuck behind a train. The game started 30 minutes late.”
Luckily for Kellman and Tribe fans, the only 30 minutes late for tonight’s home opener will be the extra time spent at the ballpark as friends re-live moments from the game, take one last look at their new Indians gear and enjoy the first postgame fireworks of the season.
As the Voice of the Tribe begins each home-game broadcast,
“We welcome you, to Victory Field.”