On June 6, 2004 I was sick. I had an awful, nasty stomach bug. Dry heaving, the whole nine yards. I could barely raise my head off the pillow.
I should have been in bed, trying to sleep. Instead, I was lying on the couch with the stereo on. The rich tone of Chuck Barrett’s voice coming through the speakers. There was some tension in his voice as Brady Toops stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth inning of this NCAA Regional game. Arkansas trailed 9-7 with the bases loaded and two outs. The Hogs were on the brink of elimination.
However, that is when Toops hit the shot heard round Razorback Nation and put Arkansas up 11-9. Barrett was cautiously optimistic as the ball flew off Toops’ bat. Barrett told us the ball was well-hit, but was it going to clear the wall or be a long fly out. He finally erupted when it trickled over the wall. “That ball is gone. That is a grand slam home run. Brady Toops just hit a grand slam home run, and the Razorbacks have taken the lead,” Barrett shouted.
For a moment I forgot I had puked my guts out the past three hours. I popped up off the couch and yelled for my wife, Sheena, to come into the living room. She came running with the puke bucket thinking it was an emergency. I said, “You’re never going to believe this. Arkansas just went ahead.”
The last time she checked, Arkansas was trailing and the hopes of a win seemed bleak. I cautioned her that pitcher Jay Sawatski still had to get out of the ninth. And I said, “They have to win another game. I don’t know if they have enough gas in the tank after this finish.”
Turns out they did, barely. After resting during the break, I flipped the radio back on and listened as Barrett called another tight game, a 4-3 Arkansas win which earned them a birth to the Super Regional.
The Hogs had to come from behind again, this time they added the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth inning. I was finally starting to feel somewhat better as it was approaching later in the evening. I thought about how fun it was listening to Barrett and Rick Schaeffer call what ended up being a doubleheader. I grew up in my Iowa farmhouse listening to Chicago Cubs games on our local station because we didn’t have cable. Those games confirmed why I love baseball, and baseball on the radio. While I wished the game was on TV, the radio added to the drama. and Barrett painted the picture beautifully. I know Barrett was almost as tired as the players by the time the night was over.
The next weekend, I headed to Fayetteville to cover Arkansas’ clinching Super Regional win over Florida State. I ran into Barrett before the game and told him how much I enjoyed the two games, despite my condition. He humbly smiled and thanked me for the complement. It really was one of the better broadcasts I had listened to.
Over the years, I have been an avid listener of the Hogs on radio. On Saturday afternoons during the SEC slate, running errands and tuning to 103.7 The Buzz to listen to Barrett call the Hogs game while I am in and out of the car. While he added Hogs football and basketball play-by-play to his responsibilities over the years, I always thought of Barrett as a baseball broadcaster.
Barrett and that 2004 game were brought to mind because he announced Monday he is stepping away from the UA baseball broadcasts after 23 years behind the mic. Honestly, it’s hard to believe he juggled all three sports that long. That is a major grind. Plus, Barrett attends many Razorback Club functions across the state. That is a lot of traveling and time away from family. The decision made sense, even though I know I will miss his familiar voice when I am running to Walmart on Saturday spring Saturday afternoons.
So, the good news is we can still hear Barrett during the fall and winter, but I don’t know if Hogs baseball will be the same, but Barrett left us with some great memories including 18 innings of excitement on June 6, 2004.