Greg Brown was in a journalism class at Point Park University and had the assignment of writing a five-minute newscast and then going into a recording booth to record it on tape.
What followed was his first moment of realization – a moment which now has him in year 22 as the Pittsburgh Pirates play-by-play announcer.
“I got [the assignment] back and on the front page of my script in bold red pen ‘A++ Greg do not pass go, go directly to a job in broadcasting’,” Brown said. “He signed it and I thought that it would be so cool to be an announcer but nobody ever at that level told me that I had what it took. That was the moment where I really thought there was a chance there if I pursued it.”
For Brown, fulfilling his dream first began at a high school where he did some PA announcing. Brown saw commotion at the scorer’s table since the regular public address announcer was out sick and he persuaded them to let him try his hand at the job. Additionally, he had an early job doing morning reports for a neighbor, who was a Harrisburg disc jockey.
Brown’s Pirates career started at the very bottom of the totem pole: the Pirate Parrot. Brown was staying with his brother and was one of 500 to audition to be the infamous mascot. Following a round of interviews, Brown was one of the final 10 up for consideration. That meant Brown had to don the Pirate Parrot costume and perform a dance to the Leo Sayer song “Long Tall Glasses”.
There was a problem. Brown is self-diagnosed as a poor dancer. His brother tried to help him out with a record player, but it was to no avail. For some reason, the record sped up from the 45 rpm format to 78 rpm and Brown did his best to keep up. He compared his movement to a whirling dervish. His brother laughed and declared that to be the routine. Brown performed it and got the same reaction from the judges, but he found out two days later that he did not get the job.
It was not all bad news though, as Brown was asked to intern and stay on as the backup Pirate Parrot. That role continued for a while and grew into roles with the promotions department, becoming a broadcast coordinator and then writing and voicing commercials.
Brown also had a role in football, serving as a color analyst for the Buffalo Bills broadcasts for three seasons. He also hosted the pre and postgame shows and a sports talk show. Brown was on the broadcasts with Bill Polian was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier this year.
“Marv Leavy and Bill Polian got to know me because I was the host of their shows before our radio station had the rights to their games and, unbeknownst to me, they went to the owners of our radio station when they were looking for a color man for Bill’s broadcasts and they suggested me,” said Brown. “I wasn’t even aware of it.”
For 22 years now, Brown has been one of the play-by-play voices of the Pirates, starting off alongside veteran Lanny Frattare before his retirement. Brown now shares his duties with Tim Neverett. His duties start in of spring training, include 162 regular season games and, for the past two seasons, postseason games. He admits that it can be a grind.
“It does help when they’re better and it makes the season go a lot faster,” Brown said. “Clint Hurdle even has said that he’s never heard anyone who, in a pennant race, says it’s the dog days of August.
“There’s a lot of truth to that, because it felt for almost two decades that the dog days came in June for us. It’s a grind and the travel is really tough — not that we don’t have first class amenities. Living out of a suitcase from almost literally February until hopefully this year until the beginning of November, that part can be tiresome. Every game was a new game and there is always a story to talk about.“
In between baseball games, Brown participates in many speaking engagements, giving back to people who are interested in the profession. He gives strong advice to those who are serious.
“My philosophy when I speak to high school or college kids about getting this job is in anything in life you have got to want it badly, more than anything in the world,” said Brown. “I am convinced that there is not enough conviction in that amongst the kids that I’ve spoken to. If you have the drive, desire and the want to, the nobody’s going to stop me attitude which I think is gigantic in anything, then you get there.”
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