A not-so-odd couple: Giants broadcasters Krukow, Kuiper are an attraction all themselves 

click to enlarge Personable TV announcers Duane Kuiper, left, and Mike Krukow have become as much a part of the Giants’ legacy as Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey. - ANDY KUNO/S.F. GIANTS
  • Andy Kuno/S.F. Giants
  • Personable TV announcers Duane Kuiper, left, and Mike Krukow have become as much a part of the Giants’ legacy as Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey.
The K guys were at it again. “Did you ever get picked off in spring training?” Mike Krukow asked Duane Kuiper. Without hesitation or hint of embarrassment, Kuiper told Krukow and all of us fortunate enough to be watching and listening, “I sure did.”

How do we rank our Bay Area teams? Giants? 49ers? A’s? Kruk and Kuip? “On the love meter,” Giants President Larry Baer once said, “as far as the fans are concerned, they’re off the charts.”

Because they’re on the ball. And on the air, they’re a couple of one-time major-leaguers who have developed into big-time major-league broadcasters, conversing instead of preaching, accepting rather than refusing.

The region has a history of great men behind the microphone in baseball: Bill King, Lon Simmons, Hank Greenwald, Don Klein, Al Michaels — yes, in a miracle of sorts, he did Giants games.

They’re in the past. In the present are Ken Korach and Vince Cotroneo doing radio for the A’s; Glen Kuiper, Duane’s younger brother, and Ray Fosse on A’s TV; and Hall of Famer Jon Miller and Dave Flemming mainly on radio for the Giants.

But Kruk and Kuip are special, if not unique.

“That’s going to be a tough play for somebody,” Kuip said of a ball toward foul territory during last weekend’s Giants-Los Angeles Dodgers Cactus Leaguer. When the camera followed the ball into the stands, he started again, “And that somebody was a fan.”

Interjected Krukow, “And he dropped it.”

The K guys, Kuiper, 64, and Krukow, 63, don’t drop anything, other than a hint or two.

“I think [the Giants] are pretty pleased with Matt Cain,” Kuip mused after Cain’s performance against the Dodgers.

Observed Krukow, the man who won 20 games for the Giants in 1986, “I think Cain is pretty pleased with Matt Cain.”

Surely you know about the muscle disease (inclusion body myositis, or IBM), which has struck Krukow. It is debilitating — he has braces on both legs, uses a walking stick or cane — but not life-threatening. Krukow never complains.

Probably you don’t know Krukow plays various instruments — guitar, mandolin, banjo, ukulele.

“Music is my therapy,” Krukow told ESPN the Magazine, “baseball is my life.”

As it has been Kuiper’s. Most are aware he hit only one home run in 3,379 major-league at-bats with the Cleveland Indians and Giants. Most are not aware he had two bases-loaded triples against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium, one of only three big-leaguers to accomplish that. It was with the glove that Kuiper starred. He twice led American League second baseman in fielding.

What led him to the broadcast booth was a sharp eye and smart-ass viewpoint. While on the bench in San Francisco, where Joe Morgan was the man in the lineup, Kuip would join Kruk, between his days on the mound in a rather raunchy play-by-play, to be heard only by those within earshot.

While Kuiper was Morgan’s sub at second, Krukow in 1990 became Morgan’s replacement as Giants color man when Morgan worked Sunday night games at ESPN.

Kruk was living in San Luis Obispo, where he had gone to Cal Poly, and had a restaurant. Roger Craig, humm-baby, Giants manager at the time, asked him to be a coach but Krukow’s wife, Jennifer, was expecting, so he didn’t want to travel with the team.

When Morgan went full-time to ESPN, Krukow went full-time into the TV booth. Except for a year doing Colorado Rockies games, Kuiper has been there with him, using words sparingly — “Sit down,” after a strikeout — and earning respect.

A year ago, Jesse Spector of The Sporting News rated Kruk and Kuip the No. 1 duo in baseball broadcasting. “Kuiper does not have a lot of wasted words in his play-by-play ... the feel is very much one of being at a game with two knowledgeable people behind you having a calm conversation.”

So when something big happens, Kuip can shout, “This baby is way baaack. Outta here.”

Krukow said his best advice about commentary came from Greenwald, who did the Giants on radio and TV before retiring.

“He told me the game may not be interesting but you should be,” Krukow said. “There’s so much history in baseball.”

Along with the Comcast SportsNet Bay Area production group, Kruk and Kuip pay attention to what’s happening outside the lines, especially when the Giants are getting beat big in the late innings. They’ll refer to a toddler eating popcorn or a teenager laughing with her friends.

Kuiper lives in the Diablo Valley. A year ago, Krukow moved to Reno, Nev.

“We’re together so much during the season,” Krukow said, “that when we’re apart in the offseason and somebody sees Kuip or me, the first question we get is: Where is the other one?”

Probably thinking up one comment or another. Such as they offered about the bricklike infield at Sun City, Ariz., where the Milwaukee Brewers played exhibition games in the 1980s.

“Our guys hated to slide in Sun City,” Krukow insisted.

“I hated taking ground balls there,” Kuiper said.

What Giants fans would hate is a game without Kruk and Kuip. Such is the remarkable power, appeal and wild popularity of Kruk and Kuip. Grab some pine, meat.

During the baseball season, the radio rights-holder of most teams have one of their club’s top broadcasters hop on for a segment or two once a week, providing fans with a little behind-the-scenes, inside-the-booth perspective. KNBR, which holds the Giants’ radio rights, does this every single weekday. And it does it with not one but two broadcasters, alternating days. And get this: They do it year-round.

Depending on how the rotation shakes out for that particular week, listeners of 680 AM’s morning-drive (5-9 a.m.) offering, “The Murph & Mac Show” starring Brian Murphy and Paul McCaffrey, will get Krukow on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Kuiper on Tuesday and Thursday, or vice versa. It matters not if there isn’t a shred of Giants news to break down. It doesn’t matter if there isn’t any baseball news, period. The always-energetic and upbeat musings of Kruk and Kuip are as welcome and well-received on a random Tuesday in mid-December as they are during the middle of a crucial three-game weekend series against the rival Dodgers during the dog days of August.

“It can be a challenge,” said Murphy, a longtime local scribe and, as the team-selected author of the club’s several commemorative coffee-table books, the world’s most prominent purveyor of Giants porn. “There are simply times when there is no Giants news. [But] this is where we draw on the deposits of their decades-long connection with the Bay Area. If it’s Christmas, it’s OK to ask them about the NFL, or Kringles from [Kuiper’s hometown of] Racine, Wis., or a trade between the Tigers and Red Sox.

“Almost anything they say resonates with the Bay Area sports fan. When you’re trusted and respected like they are, you have heft.”

Trust, respect and undeniable heft define the Kruk and Kuip dynamic. That both are former Giants players certainly helps. Krukow spent the last seven years (1983-89) of his 12-year career with San Francisco, winning 20 games and making the National League All-Star team in 1986 as part of a résumé that prompted fans to select him as the right-handed starter for the All-Decade team of the 1980s. Kuiper spent the last four (’82-85) of his 12 years in the bigs as an infielder with the club.

But you’ll find a popular former player on the broadcast crew for virtually every team in the majors, and few, if any, have reached the heights of Kruk and Kuip. They are, quite simply, local gods.

Krukow is a pioneer of sorts among color analysts. He doesn’t just take you behind the scenes. He takes you into the dugout and puts you right there on the bench with your heroes, talking the way they talk and teaching you that talk along the way. His “Grab some pine, meat!” is exclaimed by fans in living rooms, bars and backyards throughout the region. He’s an entertainer, to be sure. But he’s also an expert instructor on the inner workings of the game.

Kuiper is just as entertaining. But his job is distinctly different. He is the reader of the story, the turner of each page, and he guides you through it all with what seems to be a sixth sense, knowing exactly when to emote — “It is outta here!” is his iconic home run call — and when to simply keep his mouth shut. He, too, is responsible for coining the phrase that’s defined the Giants’ style of play during the run of three titles in five years. In a nod to all the drama-filled nail-biters the club was playing during the 2010 season, Kuiper, 64, said with a resigned exasperation, “Giants baseball ... torture!”

A cottage industry of T-shirts was born, and when Krukow delivered his moving sermon about “The Book of the Giants” while standing at the podium in front of City Hall as part of the 2010 World Series parade, the legend of Kruk and Kuip was cemented.

“I think the first World Series changed their status. It lifted them from beloved to an exalted state, as the messengers inextricably linked to the greatest Giants moment in San Francisco ever,” Murphy said. “Fans wanted and needed someone to put into words the incredible joy they felt and Kruk and Kuip were those guys.”

Since then, their connection with fans has gotten even deeper — as has the connection between Krukow and Kuiper. In 2014, Krukow revealed he suffers from a neurological disease that affects the quadriceps (and hands) and can make the simple act of walking difficult at times. But there’s someone there to help him.

The news of Kuiper’s touching gestures of friendship — carrying Krukow’s bags, promising to fall down alongside him if he fell down on the field — only showed the depth of their friendship ... and the good fortune we all have to be brought inside that friendship. It’s a love affair — between Krukow and Kuiper, and between Kruk and Kuip and their fans.

Affairs tend to end, to flame out.

This one rages on, burning brighter with every inning, every game, every season.

About The Authors

Art Spander

Art Spander

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.bleacherreport.com. Email him at typoes@aol.com.
Mychael Urban

Mychael Urban

Mychael Urban has been covering Bay Area sports for 25 years and has worked for MLB.com, Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and KNBR (680 AM).
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