Baltimore Orioles telecasts on MASN this year have been very different without Gary Thorne (seen at left above with Jim Palmer), who’s been the team’s lead play-by-play announcer there since 2007 but hasn’t appeared this year thanks to a contract dispute. That’s about to change, as Dan Connolly of The Athletic reported Wednesday that the Orioles have reached a deal with Thorne to have him appear on MASN broadcasts. However, while specific details on Thorne’s role are still being worked out, it sounds like he won’t be calling games in-person from Camden Yards. Here’s more on that from Connolly’s piece:
The specific duties are still being decided upon, but it does not appear Thorne will be at Camden Yards to broadcast games this year. Instead, his participation likely will be in the form of Zoom calls during broadcasts as well as some other potential on-air responsibilities that would be taped remotely. None of the details have been determined.
“We are trying to work out arrangements on how I might be involved in broadcasts for the remainder of the season,” Thorne told The Athletic.
Thorne’s situation is an interesting one, as while some older broadcasters (including Cardinals’ broadcaster Tim McCarver) have specifically opted out of this season, that’s not what happened here. The 72-year-old Thorne never opted out. He works on a year-to-year contract, and was announced as part of Baltimore’s broadcast team in February before the COVID-19 pandemic struck and postponed the season. But in July, Connolly reported that the Orioles would not have Gary Thorne, Jim Palmer, Rick Dempsey, Tom Davis and Jim Hunter calling games live this year, adding that “multiple sources have said Orioles ownership considers the five men, all in their 60s and 70s, to be high-risk candidates to contract COVID-19.”
However, the main MASN announcer who’s replaced Thorne this year is Scott Garceau, who’s 68. So age concerns don’t seem to be a real factor there. And Connolly’s piece Wednesday has multiple sources saying the Thorne dispute “had nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic or an attempt to freshen the broadcast with younger talent” and was “purely contractual.” But it’s interesting that this still is going to lead to Thorne working remotely rather than calling games from Camden Yards.
Thorne has been a prominent broadcaster for a long time, calling MLB, NHL, college football and college hockey games nationally (particularly for ESPN and ABC) and calling NHL and MLB games regionally. And he’s been calling Orioles games on MASN since 2007, and has generally been well-received; the Orioles’ broadcast booth overall finished fourth in both our 2019 and 2018 fan-voted announcer rankings, and Thorne was the lead play-by-play figure in both of those years. So having him back will undoubtedly be nice for many Orioles fans, especially as the team’s on-field product remains not great (they’re 12-12 on the year after a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays Wednesday).
But it’s interesting that Thorne will still only be back in a yet-unspecified role that looks to be smaller. And it’s notable that the team only came to a contractual agreement with him partway through this season, and that this deal is only for this year (although Thorne told Connolly the sides are “in discussions” about a more full-time role in 2021, and he “hopes that will be the case”). And it’s notable that the Orioles may be in even more of a cost-cutting mode than normal, as the MASN/Orioles/Nationals dispute has not been going their way lately. We’ll see where things go for Thorne and the Orioles from here.