By Joe Tash
Mel Proctor has spent decades behind a microphone, describing thousands of sporting events from baseball and basketball games to college football and boxing. These days, he’s using a different medium to tell stories — a word processor.
The local resident’s sportscasting career has spanned 41 years, including five years with the San Diego Padres, and 12 years as the voice of the Baltimore Orioles. Along the way, he’s witnessed moments ranging from the sublime to the comical, and his new book, “I Love the Work, But I Hate the Business,” is chock-full of anecdotes. It’s available in bookstores and online (including amazon.com).
Proctor, broadcasting for Channel 4 San Diego, did the play-by-play: “Gwynn facing Dan Smith… a drive to center field… there it is! Number 3,000 for Tony Gwynn! In his first at-bat of the night, in a foreign country, in Canada and Olympic Stadium, Tony Gwynn has done it.”
Another was Sept. 6, 1995. The scene was Camden Yards, the Baltimore Orioles’ home stadium. The occasion? Shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. played in his 2,131st consecutive game, breaking a record set by Lou Gehrig of the Yankees that had stood for 56 years.
“Bobby Bonilla and Rafael Palmeiro pushed Cal out of the dugout and he began an impromptu victory lap,” Proctor wrote. “Cal ran down the right-field line, high-fiving fans and the grounds crew, then ran to the left-field line, slapping more hands, stopping occasionally for someone he knew. As he passed in front of the California dugout, the Angels stood, clapping and cheering. He hugged shortstop Gary DiSarcina, who had idolized Cal as a kid. The ovation finally subsided after 22-and-a-half minutes. It was magical.”
The title of the book refers to Proctor’s love-hate relationship with the business of sports broadcasting, which he said is summed up by a cartoon version of himself on the front cover, in which he is depicted with a well-worn suitcase at his feet, a black eye and a hatchet in his back.
On the plus side, he said, was being able to spend his working days in stadiums and arenas, and getting to know players, coaches and fellow broadcasters.
“It was fun for me. It was never work,” he said.
But on the flip side was the business aspect of sports, which can be cold-blooded and heartless. “Those are the hard parts of the business. There’s no real security. You’re at the whim of so many people.”
Many broadcast executives are egomaniacs who come from a sales or marketing background and really don’t understand the “nuts and bolts” of a radio or television broadcast, he said. “They resent you because you can do something they can’t.”
Proctor grew up in Denver. His father was a high school baseball coach, and Proctor knew he wanted to work in sports in some capacity. He has criss-crossed the country over his career, landing gigs from Colorado to Baltimore, from Hawaii to Texas. His first break-through job in sports was producing and editing videos for NFL Films.
When he’s not behind the microphone, he’s appeared before the camera, acting in film and TV, including a recurring role on the NBC drama “Homicide.”
These days, Proctor is promoting his book, and trying to publish his first novel, “Second Chances,” based on his daughter’s experience as a 5-foot-2-inch point guard on her basketball team.
Fans who miss Proctor’s commentary can tune into a June 14 matchup between the Padres and the Arizona Diamondbacks, when Proctor will call the game in commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the Friars’ 1998 season, when they won the National League pennant and went to the World Series.
Along with his books, Proctor writes a sports blog, which can be found at http://
He and his wife, Julie, a preschool teacher, have two children: Billy, who works in production for sports broadcasts with the TNT network in Atlanta, and Maile, a writer and editor with Activenow.com.
When asked which broadcasters he admires, among the names Proctor mentioned was veteran Padres announcer Jerry Coleman.
“That’s one of the highlights of my career, getting to know him,” Proctor said.
As far as the qualities of a successful broadcaster?
“Perseverance. Just stick to it. You have to be yourself and hope people like it,” Proctor said.