When I think of local sportscaster's I think radio – not television, because I grew up with no television and an ear to the radio. Bill O'Mara and Leo Lassen were voices on the radio and Keith Jackson and Wayne Cody were faces on television, but the voices have a stronger mental image in my mind then the faces.
From 1931 to 1958 Leo Lassen was the radio voice of the Seattle Indians and then the Seattle Rainier baseball clubs at Sicks Stadium.Called "Mr. Baseball" Leo was the radio broadcaster for over 5000 games from 1931 to 1961. His voice was absolutely unique. I can hear it now in my mind - a rasping, nasal voice who spoke in a staccato voice monotone. He got into broadcasting by accident. When a play by play announcer failed to show up, Leo, a PI newspaper sports reporter went to the broadcast booth and announced the game.
The only games in town in the 1940's and 1950's were Husky football and Rainer baseball.
What's surprising is that Leo didn't travel to out of town games. Instead he read the ticker tape report of the game and created the scene without ever seeing the game. He would use his imagination to describe the pitcher's wind up or the throw to first without ever seeing it.
His phrases were repeated by school boys and became part of the lassen lore:
- Back, back, back and it's over…
- Roses are red, violets are blue, Barrett is pitching three and two
- It's a do or a don't and he did
- There goes Becker and he's no gazelle
- The play at first was closer then wallpaper
- He closed the broadcast with "Good night folks" and people would say "good night Leo."
When new management took over in 1959 Leo was summarily fired without explanation. He left the park and never attended another baseball game there. Leo H. Lassen went into retirement. A life long bachelor he tended his roses and took care of an aging mother. When he died he left no family and only his long time friend PI sports writer Royal Brougham was there.
So here's to the voice of Seattle baseball. Leo H. Lassen.