The Voices Of The Royals / How I Hear Them — And Your Takes In The Comments Section

With the baseball season passing the halfway point in the season, here is my review the broadcasters, writers and media who cover our Kansas City Royals. Please feel free to offer your input in the Comments section that follows.

Denny Matthews, Royals Radio play-by-play voice
Denny is The Voice of the Royals. He is also known as the Voice of Summer by generations of Kansas Citians like me who hear Denny and immediately think baseball. I have been a loud critic of Denny for his grumpy on-air nature and his trademark refusal to express excitement. Denny believes you save the excitement for when it really matters. I believe that is a convenient excuse for a guy who stayed too long in his job and no longer can muster the daily energy it takes to be a MLB play-by-play voice. Denny is now coddled by his audience and boss instead of held to the same standard as the team’s much-maligned GM and manager. I don’t think Denny cares anymore…except if the game is going to be over in less than three hours.

Ryan Lefebvre, Royals TV and Radio play-by-play
Lefebvre replaced Fred White in the Royals radio booth in 1999 and he was awful. I started a “Held Hostage by The Beaver” campaign and updated the growing list of days Beaver was allowed to remain on the Royals air. Ryan took the criticism that I and others leveled at him as blowback from him replacing the popular Fred White. This was not the case. It was time for Fred to go. I was excited that the Royals had hired a young voice to add to Denny’s deep Royals knowledge. But the young Beaver was as bland and forgettable as a drive through West Lenexa. But the Royals are nothing if not loyal. They stuck with Lefebvre through bad and worse, and after 15 years they have themselves a professional if not memorable play-by-play voice.  Lefebvre is now my favorite voice on the Royals broadcasts – which should be a big hint as to what I think of the others in this lineup.

Steve Physioc, Royals TV and Radio play-by-play
I was actually excited when the Royals announced they had hired the former Kansas State alum and broadcaster who had spent so many years calling games for the Reds, Giants, Padres and Angels. I was always impressed with Physioc’s innate broadcast-quality pipes. His voice purred like a DJ from the 1950s. It is that same melodic, saccharine-sweet voice that makes me cringe when I tune into a Royals game now. Physioc is definitely a talent that is appreciated from afar – like seven-states-away far. He is a sickeningly sweet glob of gosh-gee-super-dooper-ness that my baseball-loving ears treats like a Billy Butler double play ball. And Physioc’s speech pattern might even be slower than Butler’s gait. It takes him so long to form a thought or complete a sentence that I am sure Denny takes his bathroom breaks during his conversations with Phys.

Rex Hudler, TV color analyst
Rex came with Physioc as part of a package deal from California. The Angels had canned the pair and the Royals picked them up off the wire for the price of whatever out-of-work MLB TV broadcasters are making nowadays. You can bet it was Walmart cheap. And just like that plastic laundry basket you bought for $2 at the local Wally, the Royals got what they paid for – a cheap imitation. Hudler is who he is – a goofy, life-loving man child who fashioned a successful career with his body not his mind. So why place him in front of a live mic and tell him to be informative and entertaining? Rex is about as prepared for his job as @feministstripper is for a job in marketing. There is a portion of the Royals fan base who love Rex’s quirkiness, goofy sayings and his friendly egoless demeanor. But people in the media all have a portion of their audience who loves them. Fescoe even has fans. Having fans is no reason to be a homer of Ruthian proportions. I just think Royals fans deserve so much more than Physioc and Hudler. My wife, who knows less about baseball than Whitlock, hears Hudler’s voice on TV as she passes through the room and says, “That guy just sounds stupid. Who is he?” That’s the guy the Royals think their fans deserve.

Steve Stewart, Royals radio play-by-play
Stewart might be the most forgettable guy in the Royals franchise. And that’s a franchise where I am counting Aaron Brooks. His role on the Royals radio broadcasts is to give score updates during the broadcasts and to fill in for Denny when he doesn’t want to make a road trip to Minnesota, Cleveland or Detroit – you know the teams in the Royals division. Stewart is a decent sounding play-by-play guy who is utterly safe – which is exactly what the Royals like in their broadcasters. Stewart has few opinions and those he does have he keeps to himself. He’s just a guy. He’s that C-minus you got in that math class you had to take. Nothing more than something to step over to get where you’re going.

Joel Goldberg, Royals TV pre- and postgame host and on-field reporter
I like Joel. He seems like an easy-going kind of guy who has never raised his voice in anger. He is perpetually upbeat – even after the Royals get their butts beat. No matter the score, you can bet Joel will find a nugget of positivity to mention to the Royals faithful. I am trying to remember a memorable interview of Goldie’s with a Royals player. They all kind of sound the same, don’t they? “Well, you had a pretty good game tonight, right?” Sideline reporters are all pretty much dreck when it comes to watchability and so Joel’s job is not an easy one. The guy is basically Slugerrr without the costume.

Andy McCollough, Royals beat writer for the Kansas City Star
The new kid on the Royals beat had some big shoes to fill when Bob Dutton retired to Tacoma, Washington to tweet about the Mariners. Dutton had a Bob Newhart sense of humor in how he interacted with his Twitter followers – and I miss that dearly. But McCullough is a capable young writer who I would take far more seriously if he didn’t look like the paper boy. This is Andy’s first season with KC, the Royals and Ned. He is just trying to survive and not get Nate Bukatied by the Royals. He plays it far too safe for my taste but the guy’s got to eat. I am hoping he gets a bit hungrier as this season progresses and starts in on some backside.

Josh Vernier, 610 Sports Royals postgame radio host
Vernier is the guy Nick Wright accused of being a nepotism hire by his old boss when he was brought here from Milwaukee to be the anchor host of 610 Sports afternoon drive show that also included Jayice Pearson and Jay Binkley. That show never worked and Vernier was left hanging when they cut Jayice and moved the football-loving Binkley to midday. To Vernier’s credit, he has found a niche as 610’s Royals insider. Is he any good? Meh… He does show up every night. I will give him that. He’s in a tough spot in that he is a twenty-something nerd who has to go face-to-face with Ned Yost and the players on an almost nightly basis. We are not going to get Bill O’Reilly out of him. Vern is ultra-protective of Ned on his show and readily shouts down callers who criticize the manager’s mistakes. The Royals probably love Vern’s show. I do not.

and Twitter @greghall24

About Greg Hall

Software guy who has been writing my Off The Couch column in KC newspapers, publications and websites since 1994. Has been bounced from some of the finest media establishments this side of State Line Road. Dad first and everything else second...and there are a lot of everything elses.

40 Responses to The Voices Of The Royals / How I Hear Them — And Your Takes In The Comments Section

  1. Herb says:

    Denny honestly sounds like a cartoon version of Harry Doyle….with less enthusiasm.

  2. artemmis says:

    Confirmed bachelor , lisping Denny Matthews has overstayed his welcome by about 15 -20 years.

    Uninterested droning is truly unlistenable.

    • Hot Carl says:

      The lisp gets worse every year. Sad to hear him talk about the “Royalsh”. And having to say “Mooshtakash” every night is really taking a toll on the poor fella. Just retire already, Denny!

  3. MT says:

    I can put up with Denny, Beav, Stewart. All I really need is balls and strikes, fair or foul, count, situation and score. I can do my own analysis since I’ve either watched, listened to or played the game for more than 50 yrs. I absolutely CANNOT STAND Physioc. He needs to just SHUT THE F***K UP!!!! His dronings are the worst I’ve ever heard in a play-by-play guy. I just want the count,score and situation from him. I don’t give a shit how in spring training you talked to Shield’s father and he gave you the impression that he’s some sort of hard ass and you can now understand what a battler his kid is. Why these guys think they need to impart this knowledge? on the listener is beyond me. I think he fancies himself a Vin Scully except that Scully, who I actually have a chance to listen to a few times a summer when we visit kids who live in LA, at 90 YEARS OLD!!, is still inciteful, informative and entirely appropriate in his analyses and analogies. AND, he does this with a paucity of words that is a joy to listen to. When you listen to Scully, you realize that Denny should not belong to any club that includes VS. I wish somebody would physically throw Phys’ ass out of the booth to the hard concrete of the contrived, more expensive seating area below. Or choke him out. Or have Hud shove his baseball down his throat. Now that would be some fine radio!

    • Wait Staff says:

      While I don’t physically wish harm on Physioc, I know where his thinking originates.

      I’ve stated on this blog before my absolute disdain for Physioc. He is so bad that at times he has me pining for Bob Davis (he of the ‘I think I’ll say what Splittorff just said and pass it off as an original thought’ fame). I always thought Davis had something on someone at One Royals Drive to explain his gig (don’t have an issue w/ his KU duties). Davis and Physioc are the only announcers I can think of that have ever caused me to yell at the radio after particularly asinine commentary.

      For old time’s sake:

      http://greghallkc.com/index.php/take-5-time-for-bob-davis-to-hear-the-truth-from-his-fans/

      Did anyone else catch Physioc stating his surprise at how quickly the 1919 World Series games were played. He thought the radio commercials would have lengthened the game. Fact; KDKA of Pittsburgh was the first commercially licensed radio station in the United States in November 1920 and the first World Series broadcast was in 1921. You would think that someone in the industry (both the sports world and announcing) would know this or at least know not to spout off their ignorance.

      BTW, on an unrelated subject, can anyone tell me what has happened to Craig Brenner at WHB? Has he moved on?

      • bs says:

        i think Brenner was just on vacation this week. someone else was running the board on the program this week i noticed, but his tweets still reference his co-workers and his twitter account still shows that he works for whb. also, whb still lists him as the engineer for both of the shows he usually works on.

  4. Harry Balczak says:

    Sorry, long time Royals fans, but Denny Matthews is the most boring, bland nothing play by play guy in the history of baseball, just because the absurdly crappy Royals front office hasn’t figured that out yet does not excuse the fact that he is the radio cure for insomnia. Rex and Physioc are the waiver wire versions of late career Juan Gonzalez, Reggie Sanders etc, bums that the Royals picked up after no one else wanted them. Just like everything else the Royals try to pass off as major league, the radio team is crap.

  5. tiad says:

    Well, “Hud” and “Fizz” certainly make any other name mentioned above seem infinitely better than they really are. If Denny would just take his “Vin Scully” style of play-by-play (and that is NOT a knock) more seriously, he would still be fine. Instead, we get these stupid diversions with Steve Stewart into “Gargling” factoids that make no sense whatsoever. A little of it is O.K., but it’s gotten way out of control. I guess Denny is proud of the fact that he apparently doesn’t own (or know how to operate) a computer or a smartphone. Greg: Terrific point about Denny not travelling to cities in our own division. (But, to be fair, they are Minneapolis, Cleveland and Detroit!)

  6. Kevin says:

    I like Denny Matthews. He’s the only guy on the Royals payroll who can criticize players lack of hustle, mental errors, or lack of plate discipline and not suffer any repercussions from management.

    I’ll admit that a few years ago Denny sounded like he was mailing it in. He refused to engage his PxP partners in any kind of banter. But now that he’s working fewer games and watching a better team, I find him entertaining, especially when teamed with Lefebvre.

    Steve Physioc is a guy I want to like, but I’d rather have him as a neighbor than someone broadcasting baseball at me.

    Rex Hudler is ok. He’s not as good as Frank White, but not as bad as The Mad Hungarian on the other side of the state.

    Ryan Lefebvre is one of the best. I hated him when he arrived because he assumed everyone watching had never seen a baseball game before. Now I wish he could be on television and radio at the same time.

  7. Ron says:

    Ditto on Phys and Hud. Although, I’ve actually grown to tolerate Hud, but Physioc is the absolute worst broadcaster this side of that “boom goes the dynamite” kid.

    My favorite broadcast is on radio when Denny and Ryan are together. They have great banter, and I actually enjoy those broadcasts. Unfortunately, the Royals’ decided to create some sort of strange revolving door schedule for these guys. And it’s uncanny how Phys is announcing the medium that I happen to be consuming. Every. Single. Game. Ugh!

    I agree with Mr. Hall regarding both Ryan and Phys. Didn’t like Ryan at first, now I love his broadcasts. I was excited to hear about Phys at first, but now I can’t stand him.

    Denny is just there. His broadcasts are better this year, and I do miss him when he’s taking the game off.

    I know they aren’t paying these guys much, but do we really need this many broadcasters???

  8. nick says:

    GH: “sickeningly sweet glob of gosh-gee-super-dooper-ness”

    Great term to describe what I feel, in whole, is how Dayton Moore is selling his Royals to the public. It’s just TOO much feel-good. It has a sorta Truman Show feel to it. That’s the movie where Jim Carrey’s character lives in an outwardly everything-is-peachy-keen world, but he starts sensing that everything is not what it seems.

    - Denny Matthews: He’s still interesting. Lack enthusiasm? Yes. But he offers good stories and his “grumpiness”, to me, is a bit of cynicism that sounds SO refreshing in his Truman Show surroundings.

    - Ryan Lefebvre: Pretty much exactly how you feel. Don’t have any issues with Lefebvre. Does a good job.

    - Rex Hudler: Teamed with Lefebvre, for me, he works. Ryan balances him out nicely. Hudler’s personality is wearing on me. I still like his quirkiness and uniqueness most the time, but I get why many don’t like him.

    - Steve Physioc: I literally can’t take it. Nails on chalkboard for me. Seems like a great guy, but I don’t want to listen to him calling my team’s games.

    - Steve Stewart: Agree with your take.

    - Joel Goldberg: Could be the President of Truman Show world. I seriously wonder how guys are wired to be SO good at being good soldiers and touting the company line. He’s fantastic at what the Royals want him to be. I just don’t like it.

    - Josh Vernier: Liked him initially. Now he seems to often get irritated by people who want to be negative on the Royals. He has more Goldberg in him now than I remember early on.

    Guys I miss hearing before, during or after Royals games):

    1. Frank White: The best color commentator the Royals have had.
    2. Paul Splittorf: Pretty likable and did a good job.
    3. Al Fizmorris: Best post-game Royals host I can remember hearing.

  9. pdinop says:

    Great stuff, Greg. Here’s one guy’s thoughts.

    Denny – not as good as he was, but I appreciate his knowledge of the game and the fact that he’s not a cheerleader.
    Ryan – he’s better on radio than TV. Or maybe his company makes it seem that way.
    Physioc – “to be perfectly frank”, I feel like an eavesdropper as he, Hudler, and Joel engage in their private conversations. Not that they say anything worth hearing other than counting his “Well, Hud, what did you think of…” suckups.
    Hudler – the “Rex” button on my remote (sometimes misspelled ‘mute’) broke from overuse and now I’m stuck with a guy who thinks that we are all watching our first baseball game. “We players call them dingers or doinks (wink, nod, chuckle).
    Joel – he personally doesn’t drive me nuts, but the in-game interviews that reduce the on-field action to a rumor do.
    Frank White – please come back.
    Dutton – please come back.
    McCullough – I thought the chipmunk school of sport writing died with Dick Young, but its last breath may happen in Kansas City.

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