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Conversations with the Herd: Cleveland Guardians Broadcaster Jim Rosenhaus

By: Brian Frank

Jim Rosenhaus was on the call for some of the greatest moments in Bisons’ history. Currently a broadcaster for the Cleveland Guardians, Rosenhaus was the Voice of the Bisons for 11 seasons, calling 1,628 games, including three league championships and seven division titles.

Rosenhaus joined the Bisons in 1996, and quickly immersed himself in Buffalo's sports culture.

“I took the job sight unseen,” he said of joining the Herd. “I’d never been to Buffalo before – and I loved it. It was just a great sports town. I got there in the middle of winter and was fortunate enough to go to Sabres games at the old Aud – which was just tremendous. Compared to the modern arenas, it was just great. I loved it. Then going to Bills games. I kind of caught them at the tail end of their Super Bowl run, and they had some lean years – but it was still cool. Going to Bills games was really fun. Growing up, my grandpa was a New York Giants fan forever, and it’s the same 60,000 people every Sunday because the tickets are willed down and all that kind of stuff. But in Buffalo it’s as close to a college atmosphere as you can get. I just thought it was great.”

Rosenhaus at a Guardians' event in 2023. Photo Credit: Erik Drost, Wikimedia Commons

Rosenhaus grew up in New Jersey, closely following the New York City sports scene.

“I used to listen to a lot of games,” he said. “I grew up in New Jersey and was a baseball fan – really a fan of all sports. You know, when you’re little, you have to go to bed at 7:30, 8:00, 8:30. I used to just listen to games as I was falling asleep, whether it was Mets or Yankees, and in the winter Knicks or Rangers. I enjoyed all sports and I just really enjoyed listening on the radio a lot, not really thinking that that’s what I would ever do. I guess around junior high and high school I started thinking about it a little bit, but still the idea of doing it for a living was not something I even imagined.”

He attended Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. That’s where he got his first taste of broadcasting.

“I had an opportunity to do some games there on the student station, whether it was football or basketball – and a little bit of baseball, but not a whole lot,” he remembered. “I was majoring in economics and computer science, and I couldn’t see a career in any of that. It just kept coming back to – if I could figure it out, I would love to be able to do sports broadcasting.”

“Then I broke into the baseball end of it in 1991 with Cleveland’s Single-A team at the time. They were in Kinston, North Carolina. That was my first baseball job. I did two years there and then three years in Wilmington, Delaware, with that team in the same league, the Carolina League.”

When longtime Voice of the Bisons Pete Weber left the Bisons to join the Sabres' radio booth, an opportunity opened for Rosenhaus. He first heard of the Buffalo opening through former major-league catcher Rick Cerone, who was a part owner of the Wilmington team.

“He (Cerone) was doing a minor-league game of the week on TV, and I think they went through Buffalo a couple of times,” Rosenhaus explained. “He said to me, ‘Hey, I think that Buffalo job is open. I was just up there.’ So I sent my stuff up.”

Rosenhaus believes a good word from a legendary Bisons manager may have helped get him get noticed by Buffalo's front office.

“The field manager of the team in Kinston (when Rosenhaus was there), was Brian Graham,” he said. “Brian was now managing in Buffalo – and unbeknownst to me, when that job opened up, he told Bucz – (then Bisons general manager and current President of Rich Baseball Operations) Mike Buczkowski – ‘Hey, I worked with a guy when I was in Single-A and he might be good for the job.’ It was probably about the same time I sent my stuff up.”

The opportunity to join a Triple-A team that had recently set all kinds of minor-league attendance records was simply too good for Rosenhaus to pass up.

“I actually took the job sight unseen,” he remembered. “My first year there was ’96, so they had just kind of pulled back from expansion, but they were still drawing really well. If you were in the lower minor leagues at that time, you knew about Buffalo. That was a big-time job to be able to get. When he (Buczkowski) called and said, ‘Do you want the job?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, tell me when to show up.’ So I went from Single-A Wilmington, Delaware, to Buffalo.”

Rosenhaus went on to call some of the greatest moments in franchise history. One game that stands out from early on in his time in Buffalo was Bartolo Colon’s no-hitter against the New Orleans Zephyrs in June of 1997.

“It would probably never happen today because of pitch counts and how careful they are with prospects,” he said. “They let him go, which I don’t know that you’d see that now. It was a big crowd. It was a Friday night. That was a night where it was probably as close to a major-league atmosphere, and maybe there were some major-league games that night that were not as much of an atmosphere as that because it was a big crowd for a FridayNightBash. He was a well-regarded prospect who was really close to going to the big leagues and they let him throw a no-hitter. Which again, I don’t think you’re going to see minor-league no-hitters anymore, the way they’re so careful with guys. They were careful with him, but he had it rolling and they let him go.”

Calling a game in downtown Buffalo. Photo Credit: The Buffalo Bisons Baseball Club

Rosenhaus’s time in Buffalo corresponded with one of the greatest eras in Bisons’ history. In his first season behind the mic in Buffalo, the Herd finished 84-60, winning the American Association East Division, before falling in the first round of the playoffs in five games to Indianapolis. Buffalo won the division again in ’97, and then beat Indianapolis in a five-game series, before sweeping Iowa in the American Association Finals to secure the team’s first league championship since 1961. Despite being relatively new to the Queen City, Rosenhaus understood how special winning a league championship was to the organization.

“It was only my second year, but I completely knew of the frustrations they’d had and how important a championship would be to the Rich family and the franchise,” he said. “Here was this franchise that was drawing a million fans and had come as close as you can to winning them but had some real heartbreakers in the postseason. It just was cool because it mattered to them. It mattered so much. That was neat to be able to be there when they won their first one.”

“I kind of felt guilty because I’d only been there two years and they’re winning the championship,” he added with a chuckle. “The year before we came close. So I thought, well I guess this is just how it is – you just win a ton of games. This is great. I know for a fact, they really appreciated it and it meant so much to them. You could feel that as someone who was new to the organization and had only been there two years.”

The Bisons ‘97 title would be the final championship awarded by the American Association. The league disbanded when Triple-A baseball realigned following the season and the Bisons rejoined the International League for the 1998 season. The Herd went on to win the I.L. North Division, before sweeping Syracuse in the first round of the playoffs and then beating Durham in five games to win the 1998 Governors’ Cup.

“I think at the time Cleveland really put a focus on making sure they had enough guys to be able to win an International League title,” Rosenhaus said. “Just the people that were around. Jeff Manto was a part of both (the ’97 and ’98 championship) and Torey Lovullo was part of both. Guys like that, older guys who I still see in the game. It was kind of neat because at that level there are veteran guys who have been up before and then there are these young hot-shot prospects – and you never felt that there was a big divide because of that with those two teams. The older guys really went out of their way to teach the younger guys how to play the game.”

The Bisons continued their winning ways through the early 2000s, winning their division seven times between 1996 and 2005. Their next league championship came in 2004, when a new group of players, led by the likes of Jhonny Peralta, Brandon Phillips, Ernie Young, Russell Branyan, and Grady Sizemore, won the I.L. East Division, and then rebounded from a two games to none deficit against Durham to win the best-of-five semifinal series and reach the Governors’ Cup Finals. The entire championship series was played in Buffalo because Hurricane Ivan was bringing severe weather to the Richmond area, so unlike their ’97 and ’98 championships, the Bisons were able to win the clinching game in downtown Buffalo.

“The best night ever to win it at home,” Rosenhaus remembered. “I remember when they opened the gates, fans just bolting for the best seats because it was general admission, first come first served – and they were running down the aisles to get right down by the dugout. And they were so loud. They were out for blood. It was like a Sabres or Bills crowd. They really wanted to see them win a title at home.”

After the Bisons’ 2006 season an opportunity arose for Rosenhaus to take his talents to the big leagues.

“In the offseason after ’06, they (the Cleveland organization) had kind of redone how they were doing their TV and radio,” he explained. “Cleveland did all of SportsTime Ohio – took it all in house. The shuffling around created an opening on the radio side to be the pregame show host and engineer for the broadcast. No play-by-play. So that was the job. They were really adamant about not taking it if that was going to be a problem – if you’re going to really miss play-by-play. And there’s no guaranty you’ll ever do play-by-play here. I talked to Bucz a lot about it.”

He also received advice about a possible change in jobs from legendary Blue Jays radio announcer Jerry Howarth.

“I had sent him some stuff over the years and he was just great,” he said of Howarth. “He didn’t sugar coat anything. He was like – ‘Hey, you need to work on this.’ Which was good. You need that. So I asked him what he thought (of possibly taking the Cleveland job). He said, ‘Well, you could stay in Buffalo if you enjoy it.’ Which I did – and my wife is from there. ‘But if you want to work in the major leagues, this is an opportunity.’ He asked, ‘Are you going to get to travel with the team and go to all the road games and all that.’ I said, ‘Yeah, because I’ll be engineering the games and I’ll host the pregame show from the ballparks.’ He said, ‘Then it’s really beneficial because, even if the job doesn’t develop in Cleveland, you’ll become someone that other teams know because you’ll be there and you’ll meet people.’ So I decided I’d like to do it.”

“I think it made the transition easier because I was leaving a really good situation in Buffalo,” Rosenhaus added. “Even now, at some point in the wintertime for either a Bills game or a Sabres game, I’ll see Bucz and other people I worked with – or I’ll see them out on the road, if they’re coming to a baseball game somewhere else, or if they come to Cleveland. Those friendships never have gone away – and we’ve been fortunate that we’ve made great friends in Cleveland too. That’s made it a lot easier. But believe me, it was not an easy decision at the time.”

Once he arrived in Cleveland, there was someone noticeably absent at the ballpark, someone who Rosenhaus had become accustomed to having beside him in the booth – his longtime broadcast partner in Buffalo, Duke McGuire.

“I still stay in touch with Duke,” Rosenhaus said. “He’s a lifelong friend for sure. The first year (with the Bisons), I worked with a bunch of different people by design. Then it settled in over the summer, because Duke worked in a school district, so he was able to take time in the summer and go on road trips. He played in the minor leagues and was in the movie (The Natural). He’s a really well-known baseball person in Buffalo and that really helped me as someone who wasn’t from the area, with his knowledge. We’d go out for beers after the game and just talk baseball. It was a lot of fun. I’ll always be grateful that I was able to work with him for as long as I did. It was funny, when I came up here (to Cleveland) I missed him. You know, you’re always going to miss people that you worked with, but this was different.”

Rosenhaus found new friends and mentors in Cleveland. He was fortunate to work alongside two extraordinary broadcasters who helped him break into the big leagues – Tom Hamilton and Mike Hegan.

“That first summer was challenging at times, but I was learning so much from the guys I worked with,” Rosenhaus remembered. “Tom Hamilton, who I still work with, was super helpful. At the time, he was working with Mike Hegan, who has since passed away. Mike was tremendous too. The two of the them were so helpful. Tom, his path in the minor leagues wasn’t nearly as long as mine, but he worked in the minor leagues – so he got it. He was extremely helpful with the transition. Mike, being a longtime major leaguer, just the stories and stuff like that were tremendous – and he was a really good broadcaster too. I was very fortunate to fall into that.”

Over time, Rosenhaus slowly made his way from hosting the pregame show and engineering the broadcasts to being back in the booth calling games.

“Mike pulled back a little bit and then got sick, so he had to pull back a lot, and then retired,” he explained. “Tom was tremendous because I’m sure they thought about maybe trying to bring in an ex-player again, but Tom was really in my corner in terms of saying – ‘Hey, give this guy a chance. He’s paid his dues in the minor leagues.’ I’d built good relationships with the players coming up through Buffalo who were then in Cleveland. I just kept getting more and more time, and then when Mike fully retired, I was given the opportunity to work with Tom on the main broadcast.”

Rosenhaus with longtime Cleveland manager Terry Francona in 2023. Photo Credit: The Cleveland Guardians Baseball Club

A career highlight came in 2016, when Cleveland advanced to the World Series to take on the Chicago Cubs in a fall classic for the ages. Cleveland was attempting to win its first World Series since 1948, while the Cubs were trying to win their first since 1908.

“It was unbelievable,” Rosenhaus said. “Everything about it was great. When I first got to Cleveland, we went to the American League Championship Series in ’07. That was a lot of fun and I just figured that’s how it was all the time – and then we never got back until ’16. Clinching the pennant in Toronto was just awesome, knowing you were going to the World Series. We clinched the Division Series in Boston at Fenway – which was unbelievable. But that World Series was just incredible.”

“The games at home were awesome because you’re at your home field and all that kind of stuff. Being at Wrigley Field for Games Three, Four, and Five was incredible. They hadn’t had a World Series since 1945 there. So those people were out of their minds. It was just nuts.”

The epic series went to a seventh game. The decisive contest was a back-and-forth nail biter at Cleveland’s Progressive Field. The tension-filled finale was one of the greatest Game Sevens in World Series history. After trailing 5-1 in the fifth inning, Cleveland rallied and eventually tied the game 6-6 in the bottom of the eighth inning on a dramatic two-run home run by Rajai Davis. After a 17-minute rain delay prior to the 10th inning, the Cubs rallied for two runs. Cleveland answered back with one in the bottom of the 10th, but ended up falling 8-7.

“Game Seven was just unbelievable,” Rosenhaus said. “The range of emotions. I was ready to go downstairs and do the postgame celebration of the first title since ’48 for us – and it all just changed so fast. It went from looking like a loss early, for most of the game, and then Davis hit the home run and the place went bananas. I’m telling you, the press box was shaking when he hit the home run. It was really unbelievable. We were thinking alright here it is, it’s going to happen. Then it didn’t and it was a bummer. But it still was one of the great nights at the ballpark and just an awesome night to be a part of.”

In 2011, Rosenhaus was honored for his time with the Bisons, when he was inducted into the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame.

“So many great things happened in my life while I was there,” he said. “I met my wife and we had our first son there. The team was good and it was just a great place to work. For them to think that I should be in their Hall of Fame was really humbling. It was a great day. It was fun to come back and see everybody who had meant a lot to me during my career.”

“It’s a Hall of Fame that has some great baseball people in it, whether they’re on-field or off-field,” he continued. “They’ve had a really good history of broadcasters there. The fact that they haven’t had that many for the amount of years they’ve been around is really a credit to the city and the people you work for. I’m sure they’re happy with what Pat’s (Pat Malacaro) doing now, and Ben (Wagner) before him, and Pete Weber before me. They’ve had a good run, they really have.”

“A couple years later (after his induction), we played the Dodgers. (Dodgers manager and fellow Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer) Dave Roberts sees me and goes ‘Hey, you’re a Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer too!’ Just to hear Dave Roberts say that – because I didn’t expect that – it was really cool.”

It’s been 17 years since Rosenhaus lived in Western New York, but the area will always hold a special place in his heart.

“I met my wife there and I got married there,” he said. “The wedding was classic Buffalo. We got married in mid-March, figuring that would be safe. I had a lot of family from Jersey, her family is from Buffalo – but baseball people were there from other teams I worked for, coming up from the South. The ceremony was at 5:00 and the reception ended at 11:00. It was dry at 4:00 and there was at least six inches to a foot of snow on the ground by the time people were leaving. I was like, ‘that’s perfect.’ That was absolutely perfect.”

“I really, really enjoyed my time there,” he added. “I thought it was kind of a hidden-gem type city. I know people who live there know that, but it’s funny when you talk to people who have never been there – because they have no idea.”


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