Q&A: Bob Carpenter
The voice of the MLB’s Washington Nationals discusses his 38-year career in sports broadcasting.
The voice of the Washington Nationals, Bob Carpenter, is in his 31st year announcing Major League Baseball. He has two Emmys to his credit and also designed a well-loved scorebook used by broadcasters and fans all over the world.
It might be stating the obvious, but Bob Carpenter has accomplished much during his nearly four decades in sports broadcasting.
Now in his ninth season as the television play-by-play voice of Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals, in 1976 Carpenter got his start in Tulsa as a radio broadcaster for Tulsa Oilers baseball, then the Triple-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.
After the 1976 season, the Oilers moved to New Orleans and were replaced by the Drillers. However, Carpenter remained in the area, calling Tulsa Roughnecks soccer, various high school sporting events and some basketball games at The University of Tulsa.
In 1984, he began a long stint in St. Louis with the Cardinals. Starting in 1990, when he announced ESPN’s first regular season game on Opening Day at Kansas City, he announced baseball for the network for well over a decade.
Since 2006, he has been with Washington, and even though his primary gig is in D.C., he’ll always call Tulsa home. We talked with Carpenter about his career, Tulsa and his profitable side business.
How deep are your roots in Tulsa? Well, I think at the end of May it was 38 years since I moved there Memorial Day weekend of 1976 to go on the radio with the old Tulsa Oilers. It was minor league baseball that brought me to Tulsa. After the Oilers left town, I sold radio advertising; I did whatever high school games I could get my hands on. I got a chance to do a few TU basketball games on the radio.
The decision to stay in Tulsa when the Oilers left proved to be a great decision; I met my wife, Debbie, about four months after the team left. While I’m from St. Louis, Tulsa’s my hometown now. My kids, Katie and Allison, were born there. No matter where I’m at, Tulsa’s my anchor, and I always look forward to coming back.
Is it hard to believe this is your 31st year in Major League Baseball? When I think about that, it staggers me a little bit because I have been so fortunate just to be in the big leagues. I feel unbelievably blessed that I’ve been able to just be a major league announcer, and for it to last as long as it has, it just amazes me. I’m having a hard time believing I’m in my ninth year up here already. It just seems like yesterday when I was still working for the Cardinals and ESPN in ’05.
To what do you credit your impressive longevity? I take pride in it, but I know it’s not because of anything wonderful I’ve done. I try to work hard, be on time, be prepared, treat everybody I work with and around with politeness and respect, and hope everything falls into place from there. I feel honored probably more than proud that it’s gone on this long.
What are the most memorable events you’ve broadcast? I did golf for USA Network for about four years, and getting to do the Masters three times in ’86, ’87, ’88, was an unbelievable highlight. I did tennis for USA Network; I got to do the U.S. Open in 1985.
In soccer, I got to do the ’82 World Cup. And then, I got to do play-by-play on 10 World Cup games in 1994.
In baseball, calling a couple of clinchers for the Cardinals when they won the division. I got to do some playoff games on radio in 1996 in the League Championship Series. When Jack Buck (legendary Cardinals play-by-play announcer) wasn’t feeling well, I got to do four games with Mike Shannon (now longtime Cardinals announcer). That was a real thrill.
Basketball — I did seven NCAA Tournaments, including the Final Four in St. Louis in 2005.
Being so versatile must be a source of great pride for you. I think throughout my career I’ve been able to be versatile and do different sports and different events in various scenarios. And I’m kind of proud of the fact that in at least six different sports I’ve been able to do high-level events, and hopefully I did them well.
How did you start selling your “Bob Carpenter’s Scorebook” to broadcasters, statisticians and even baseball fans? In 1984, when I was first doing the Cardinals, I started my career with a softball scorebook I bought from Buck’s Sporting Goods in Tulsa. After a month or two, I’m like, this isn’t working.
So, I sat down in a hotel room with a couple of sheets of paper, a pencil and a ruler and laid out a grid. I went to a little print place in south Tulsa, had them print me a book with 70 or 80 pages on it and put on a cardboard cover.
Guys would see me on the field or in the booth, and they’d ask, “Where’d you get that scorebook?” I said, “I designed it.” Enough people told me, “You ought to market that thing,” so in 1995, I did. In 1998, when Mark McGwire started hitting all those home runs, I designed a smaller book for fans ... Broadcasters still use the bigger books.
I’ve sent these scorebooks all over the world. It’s been kind of a cool connection between me and a lot of baseball fans around the country and around North America ... so it’s been a real cool little project that’s turned into a nice little business.