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.

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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. Hank Hill says:

    In the short time since I moved here from Texas I’ve listened to a few Royals games while making my propane deliveries. Hud and Phys and Stewart are horrible. They should be banished to soccer. Denny and Ryan are the best combo in my book I tell you what.

  2. JS says:

    I can handle everybody but Hudler. He is annoying and many times way off base with his analysis. He should be jettisoned back to the West Coast as quickly as possible.

  3. GM says:

    Is it just me, or does anyone else think that someone went to Hudler in the last week or two and told him he needed to be even more condescending and an even bigger cheerleader for the Royals? I finally had enough on Wednesday and checked out the SAP button, but unfortunately, there’s no SAP feed.

    As for Denny, I think his level of interest in the game is higher when he’s with Ryan in the booth. As a listener, my level of interest is also higher when Ryan’s in the booth.

    I can’t decide which of the two annoys me the most: Phyisoc or Hudler, but it is usually whoever’s voice I heard last.

    As for the Star, one thing McCullough does quite differently than Dutton is express an opinion. Dutton rarely gave his own view, but instead let you know the team’s view. If Dutton did give you his view, it was hidden in the often funny way he expressed something. McCullough doesn’t try to hide his opinion of how ridiculous it is to have Hosmer bat 2nd or 3rd. Dutton was a journalist, and McCullough is half journalist, half commentator. I like McCullough, but I miss Dutton.

    • Mike says:

      McCollough’s good. Just like Dutton. Their game stories are a go-to for me, and their Twitter work (interactions) are entertaining as hell too.
      I don’t get to hear 610 much, so I don’t know much on Vernier. (I caught one guest-hosted by Lake last year, and it was way too sugarcoated for my taste.)
      Phys and Hud are ok. I sometimes shake my head and chuckle at some of the weird things Hudler says, because I had a feeling some of it goes viral, which it does. (Moon?) I’ve said it before: Hudler’s main use is talking about the game between the foul lines. Stray from that, especially into areas especially needed to cast an eye toward criticism, and Hudler is just uneasy with it. Physioc’s voice reminds me of Rick Dees’ old Top 40 countdown on radio.
      At this point, after so many years, Denny is who he is. I don’t think he’s that much different than his style 18-20 years ago, but I don’t blame him if he comes off a little grumpier. He’s just praying…PRAYING…that the Royals can string enough together to make a postseason appearance. How Denny hasn’t gone all Drunk Harry Doyle once yet is a miracle, especially with the excess horseshit he’s seen in the last 15 years. His is the voice that makes you instantly know you’re on the Royals.
      And Ryan is the best of the bunch. I remember the “He’s not Fred!” backlash, but Ryan is steady. He doesn’t get too worked up, he doesn’t get too dour. He’s totally bought in (after 17 years-ya think?!), and he calls a solid game. He calls it the way it is, without relying on an urge to sugarcoat or pander to the masses that like their play-by-play guys with a dose of syrup. That’s what I like best.

      If you really want stupid thinking, how about the Texas Rangers front office deciding to jettison Josh Lewin from the Rangers’ TV booth a few years ago? About as dumb a decision as I can recall. Lewin was good. Now? Rangers telecasts are okay, if but a little more staid and unremarkable.

    • Joe Blow says:

      McCullough gives his opinion, but it’s not very good. He tries to be clever, but…no. He’s like a bad version of Mellinger, which is pretty awful..

  4. Jack Wagon says:

    Moved to KC area in early 80′s, grew up in Houston area listening to Gene Elston and later to Milo Hamilton with the Astros who I compare pbp voices to. Never have cared for Matthews, still don’t. Fred was ok. Physioc, Hud & Stewart are hard to listen to. My opinion of Ryan L. is almost identical to yours. I couldn’t listen to him in his early years but over time has become my favorite Royal pbp voice. Time for Denny to retire, I think the only reason he got the Frick award was because he had been with the same team for 30+ years, I just never thought he was that good to merit that award. The Frick award puts him in same company as Elston, Hamilton, Vin Scully, Jon Miller, he just doesn’t belong there. Really no opinion on McCollough. Vern does show up and seems to handle the post game ok, nothing stellar but not terrible either.

  5. The Word says:

    Denny Matthews, Royals Radio play-by-play voice
    “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.”

    So what do you want? You want the Mitch Holthus school of play-by-play? You want someone who has an “O” after every one yard gain?

  6. fecklessfan says:

    Fake laughing Phizz & ball-choker Rex should pack up their old turd polishing kits & hit the road. I feel dumber after listening to their broadcasts of how hard these goshdarn millionaires are trying.

  7. Steve Pychosioc says:

    Greg I can’t believe. You would write such a hurtful. Column about my colleagues and. I. People like you who. Criticize everything are the reason. This team struggles at. Times. These Angels are such a fun young hungry aggressive exciting team to watch how can you not love these guys they are in this race for. The long haul. So stop hating and love. Love, Greg love.

  8. Paul says:

    Denny is the voice of Royals baseball. He’s certainly getting older and less enthused, but did anyone hear Jack Buck during his last few years? His voice was gone, but he was the voice of the Cardinals. People tuned in expecting to hear Jack Buck. Denny is still a big part of summer in KC for guys my age. Maybe we’re filtering him through our memories, but I’m okay with that.

    Ryan is solid. Not over the top, just professional and consistent. He’s been a favorite for years. As an earlier commenter said, he and Denny together are easily the best combination.

  9. Rex Hudler says:

    Greg, it’s a beautiful thing when you can criticize all of my fellow broadcasters and not git in trouble. You won’t be driving the bus tonight!

  10. George Wilson says:

    By the time we moved to Kansas City, Fred had evidently given up on following what actually was happening in baseball. I remember him describing Rob Deer as a guy you like to see up with a man on first because he was a double play waiting to happen. The year before Deer, who was a strikeout/flyball hitter his whole career, had set a major league record for the most plate appearances without grounding into a double play. Nice insight, Fred. So I was thrilled when they replaced Fred with a guy who actually researched the opposition and gave you good information about who was hot and who was struggling on the other ball clubs we played. Of course, I still had to listen to Fred on NCAA basketball broadcasts call Drew Gooden “Dwight” for three years.

    I always have liked Lefebvre. He is always prepared, and as the son of a major league manager and a college player himself he knows the game and throws out more strategy concepts than any play by play guy I am aware of. Physioc is a pro and Denny is too, although I think Denny has gotten as tired as Fred was. I don’t really care that Hudler is a goofball. He’s got a lot of baseball knowledge and passes it on to the listener in a layman’s form that even the casual viewer can understand.

    I really like Greg’s writing, but I’ve always felt he is way too concerned about broadcasters having an extremely hard edge. It’s a theme that gets played in his columns over and over. To me there are other ways to broadcast besides skewering the players and management. Give me guys who love the game, understand the nuances, and are up on what’s happening around the league. I’m fine with what we have.

  11. The Independent Rage says:

    “Fesco even has his fans.” Listeners from the St. Luke’s Trauma Center don’t count, Greg.

  12. Joe Blow says:

    Denny & Ryan on the radio are the best combination. Denny gets excited when it’s actually warranted, which I’m not sure GH understands. Lefebvre might be a little goody two-shoes, but he’s always been clever enough to make it work. Physioc is boring as all get out.

    Hudler — if you actually fuckin listen, he gives you more info than Frank White, and does it without stuttering through everything he’s trying to say. And, don’t get me wrong, I really liked Frank White — I wear #20 in my own local adult baseball league — but Hudler really is a better broadcaster. Yeah, he’s corny, and yeah he’s a homer…but he played 10+ years in the Majors and drops all kinds of insights during each game.

    Steve Stewart — I DVR every game on TV, so I never hear him.

    Joel Goldberg — I don’t know. He talks to people.

    Andy McCollough — I think he thinks he’s way more clever than he really is. Have you read his crappy KC Star chats with people? He throws off one liners like he thinks they’re funny, but they’re actually pretty crappy. People will ask him questions, and he’ll basically tells a really bad joke instead, without ever even responding to the question..

    Josh Vernier — I don’t listen to sports talk radio, so, eh…but, We are not going to get Bill O’Reilly out of him.…you mean we’re not going to get a super opinionated asshole who shouts down everything he disagrees with? That’s a bad thing?

    • Joe Blow says:

      I forgot that GH is STILL referencing @feministstripper…it was a non-story to begin with!

    • Feto says:

      I play in the men’s adult baseball league and I’m going to drill every no. 20 I see. To quote Josh Vernier, “Let’s be honest” you’re a dick. You need to quit posting your stupid opinions on every column you disagree with. Please LET IT GO. Nobody cares what you think.

      • Joe Blow says:

        “Let’s be honest”, drilling people is a dick move to begin with. So, you’re a dick! You like Josh Vernier and think people want to hear your opinions, so you’re also probably not very bright.

        BTW, I don’t play in KC leagues anymore, so you’ll be a super dick by drilling people for no reason. I doubt that would stop you, but you probably also throw like 50 mph, so it doesn’t matter..

  13. Tom says:

    The disappointing aspect about Denny for some of the older crowd (I’m 58) can be that we remember how he used to do it. His lack of excitement and passion are so evident to fans that listened in the 70′s and 80′s that many of us ask, “Where’s Denny Matthews and what have you done with him?” The sad part is despite his diminishing effort, he’s still better than everyone else on the broadcasts except possibly Ryan.

    Steve Physioc is trying so hard to sound like Vin Scully that he forgets to “paint the picture”. Lofty and poetic are nice but don’t forget to inform and be entertaining. He is plastic in his delivery and doesn’t come across like a guy you’d enjoy sharing a beer with at your local pub. It’s not that he’s dislikable but he doesn’t move the needle to likable. Indifference by the listener can be lethal.

    The Hud can has been kicked all over the street. Nothing to add here.

  14. Platte Woods Shawn says:

    The bad Idea t-shirt ad on the right of the screen makes it hard (no pun intended) to view your site in a work setting Greg! But I’m glad you’re making some money.

  15. b12 says:

    FWIW, my two cents:

    Denny. Voice of the Royals. Good for some dry wit every game, and random, well placed history…simply because he’s been around 46 years. Good storyteller. I think he and Ryan really work well together. I think he tolerates Physioc. I’ve noticed he has much more interaction with Steve Stewart than with Physioc. Tl:dr: I like Denny.

    Ryan. A pro. Works best with Denny. He has grown on me.

    Physioc. Holy crap. He sounds like he is reading a bedtime story. The warranty expired on the personality installed on him at the robot announcer factory. Every time he starts with “Fans…” I want to reach through the radio and strangle him.

    Hudler. Goofy as hell…but he’s just Hud. Joe Blow is right, he’s gives some pretty solid insight between tokes.

    Stewart. Greg nailed it.

    Goldberg. Websters definition of a company man. Seems like a nice guy. Somebody needs to hack his twitter feed more often. Google “Goldberg hacked twitter” for reference.

    McCullough. I like his writing.

    Vernier. In over his head.

    • Mike says:

      You picked up on something there, b12. I forgot that Physioc commits the sin of cattle-calling everyone as a huge group. You’re supposed to convey the feeling that in calling a game, you’ve got to connect with listeners on an individual level. Make it seem like you bring in the listener, as an individual, into a conversation about the ballgame. Speak to them like its a 1-on-1 interaction, or as if they’re eavesdropping in. Never lump everyone together as ‘fans’. The broadcast should project a 1-on-1 environment between broadcaster and listener.

  16. Jim says:

    It’s amazing to me that there is bitching about Denny and Ryan…when the alternative is the likes of Physioc and Hudler. People…watch what you wish for!

    Listen to other PBP announcers, especially when the ball is put into play. Darned few are as smooth and descriptive as Denny and Ryan.

    It’s not easy to find PBP guys the caliber of Denny and Ryan. Appreciate them. Or run them off and get another Physioc and Hudler.

  17. Johnny G says:

    WIN GAMES AND NOBODY WILL CARE WHO’S BEHIND THE MIC.

    • Stringer Pete says:

      Winning cures a multitude of ills but not bad broadcasts. If anything, you’d have more people paying attention and griping.

  18. Herb says:

    The entire Royals broadcast ensemble has become absolutely hideous these last couple of years since Frank White got bounced. God forbid there’d be a voice with some brains and experience on the air. Vernier sounds like a twelve year old puking up his voice and playing radio at home. The only person who doesn’t suck is Beav.

  19. mike says:

    Denny Ryan Vern Steve (Stewart) Andy Hudler Steve (Physioc) in that order

  20. Phaedrus says:

    I like Denny. The Royals have been so bad for so long that their announcers should be grumpy.

    Hudler has grown on me. He doesn’t take himself or the game too seriously, unlike Beav and Physioc.

    I like Beav on the radio, but not on tv (although he’s the best we got there). Maybe he talks too much on the tv broadcasts. He seems to be somewhat arrogant too.

    Stewart is blah. I can’t get too worked up about him.

    Goldberg annoys me. He’ll start a sentence, pause for 15 seconds, and then finish it.

    Physioc is god-awful. He sounds like he’s trying WAY too hard to sound like an old time broadcaster.

    I’m not a big fan of Vernier, but he’s not terrible.

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