By STEVE KRAH
Like raindrops, no two baseball games are exactly the same.
That’s kept things fresh for Howard Kellman, who has called more than 6,000 games for the Indianapolis Indians since that first one on April 17, 1974.
“Everyday at the ballpark is wonderful,” says Kellman. “It never gets old at all. Everyday is unique.”
The “Voice of the Indians” for all but two seasons (1975 and 1980) since 1974, Kellman likes to see the Tribe emerge victorious. But his main job is to keep the radio or TV audience informed and entertained.
“The most important thing is to pursue excellence – not fame,” says Kellman. “Calling the game is the most important thing. It’s about doing the job, enjoying the moment.
“I want the Indians to win, however I maintain professionalism and paint an accurate word picture. I will certainly display more enthusiasm when the Indians win.”
Kellman is now in his 42nd season with the Indians and serves as one of minor league baseball’s broadcast deans along with Jim Weber (who called his first Toledo Mud Hens game in 1975).
A 2016 heart attack caused Kellman to miss 10 games, but he plans to keep on painting those word pictures.
“I feel great and I would like to go for a long while if I still can,” says Kellman, who majored in radio and television at Brooklyn College receiving his B.A. degree with Cum Laude honors in 1975.
When he started the gig in Indianapolis, the Indians played at Bush Stadium (opened in 1931).
Since the middle of the 1996 season, the Triple-A club has called Victory Field home and Kellman has let folks know that “The lights are on in this beautiful downtown ballpark, located on the corner of West and Maryland.”
Fueled by his devotion to preparation, including pre-game research and chats with those around the game, Kellman is able to share information and stories.
“I can tell things that people don’t know because of my access to players, coaches and managers,” says Kellman. “On radio, it’s about painting a word picture. On TV, it’s about adding captions.”
For more than 20 seasons, he has had a broadcast partner. The past three seasons it’s been Andrew Kappes.
From Vern Rapp in 1974 to Andy Barkett in 2017, Indianapolis has employed 23 different men as managers since Kellman first went behind the mike for the team.
Former big league catcher Buck Rodgers impressed Kellman with his knowledge of moundsmen.
“I saw the way our pitchers improved that (1984) season,” says Kellman.
The Indians were in the American Association through 1997 and have been in the International League since 1998.
Kellman says the IL was very much a pitcher’s league in those early years, but that changed with the addition of newer ballparks. In the 14-team circuit, the oldest stadium is Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium (opened in 1946). All the others debuted since 1988.
A change that Kellman has appreciated is the addition of a pitch clock installed at Triple-A and Double-A parks in 2015. The idea is the speed up the pace of play.
After each pitch during an at-bat (except for those following foul balls), the pitcher has 20 seconds to start his windup or come set if there are baserunners. If he does not comply, a ball is to be called.
“That’s a good thing,” says Kellman. “You don’t need hitters to step out of the box after every pitch. After two years, it has become habit and has shaved 15 minutes off the average times of games.
“You want the ball in play. You want action. It’s important. You want a batter to be up there ready to hit and for a pitcher to throw strikes.”
During Kellman’s tenure, the Indians have been affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds (twice), Montreal Expos, Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates. A Bucs’ AAA affiliate since 2005, Indianapolis signed a Player Development Contract extension with Pittsburgh that carries through 2020.
Many honors have come Kellman’s way, including induction to the Indiana Sportswriters & Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame in 2009 and Indiana Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame in 2015.
Kellman is also an author and professional speaker. He produced “61 Humorous & Inspiring Lessons I Learned From Baseball” and belongs to the National Speakers Association.
His speeches cover Becoming a Champion, Leadership and Teamwork and more. He recently addressed the Indiana Sheriffs’ Association.
Indians games can be caught on several broadcast platforms, including cable TV, over-the-air radio and online streaming.
Howard Kellman broadcast his first Indianapolis Indians game in 1974. He is able to inform and entertain his radio and TV audience through his access to players, coaches and managers. (Indianapolis Indians Photo)