Another home opener at Progressive Field has come and gone. Last Friday afternoon, the ballpark at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, as Cleveland Guardians radio play-by-play announcer Tom Hamilton calls it, celebrated the start of its 30th anniversary season with the first game of a three-game series against the very same opponent that opened the ballpark proper in 1994, the Seattle Mariners.
The activities on the field of play began with a ceremonial first pitch. As is customary with a home opener, a celebrity threw out that first ball. This year, the distinction went to Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, a native of nearby Westlake, OH, and his mother, Donna.
Avid NFL fans can recall that the Kelce residence was a house divided back in February. While Travis suited up on Kansas City’s sideline, his brother Jason did battle at center for the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII.
Travis Kelce Whiffs on Ceremonial First Pitch Last Friday
On the local telecast of the Mariners at Guardians game on Bally Sports Great Lakes, Matt Underwood and Rick Manning, the Cleveland commentary team, spent at least 45 seconds hyping up Kelce and his career accomplishments. But then…
…As you can see in the video, Kelce threw what amounted to a wild pitch, hitting the backstop behind home plate. Guardians right-handed pitcher Shane Bieber didn’t even have anything resembling a chance at catching that ball.
Friday’s appearance was the latest stop on a weeks-long victory tour for Travis Kelce. On the night of March 4, he tried his hand at sketch comedy, serving as that weekend’s host on NBC’s Saturday Night Live. Country music artist Kelsea Ballerini served as that night’s musical guest.
In the aftermath of Travis Kelce’s gaffe, his teammate, quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tweeted his response:
Who’s Next to Throw a Ceremonial First Pitch?
A ceremonial first pitch by a Cleveland celebrity isn’t just limited to the home opener at what was once called “The Jake.” There have been other times where a celebrity threw a first pitch during the season, as well.
Case in point: In 2014, just weeks after being drafted by the Cleveland Browns, quarterback Johnny Manziel was slated to do the honors, but the ceremonial first pitch was scrubbed due to a marathon rain delay. Seven years later, comedian Drew Carey, the host of The Price is Right, threw out the first ball ahead of the Sept. 10, 2021 game.
With this in mind, a question: Which celebrity should be called upon next to throw a pitch ahead of the ballgame at Progressive Field?
Tom Hamilton is a Fan-Favorite
Since 1990, there’s been one name that’s been synonymous with Cleveland Indians/ Cleveland Guardians baseball more so than any player to put on a uniform. 2023 marks Tom Hamilton’s 34th consecutive season as the voice of the ball club.
For several generations, the man they call “Hammy” has been the soundtrack to the entire summer. When his voice suddenly jumps up a few octaves, especially on a Guardians home run, you know something major has just happened in the ballgame.
“A SWING AND A DRIVE! TO DEEP RIGHT! A-WAY BACK! GONE!”
Hall of Fame Hammy
Although last year’s season didn’t go according to plan, with the Guards faltering in five games in the American League Divisional Series at the hands of the New York Yankees, Tom Hamilton had a satisfying end to his season. On Oct. 19, he was officially enshrined as a member of the 2022 Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame.
In addition, Hammy was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award during the 2015 Greater Cleveland Sports Awards. If Keith Jackson is the first name you think of when it comes to broadcasting icons in the world of college football, Tom Hamilton should be among the first names you think of when it comes to Major League Baseball.
Hammy’s home run calls are accompanied by the roar of the crowd. Just imagine that crowd’s roar if he steps onto the field to throw a pitch.
Phil Dawson is a Browns Legend
There are some football fans out there who might be quick to say that placekickers aren’t players. Don’t ever say that to former Browns kicker Phil Dawson.
Dawson, an alum of The University of Texas, was signed by the then-Oakland Raiders following the 1998 NFL Draft but did not suit up for the Silver and Black. Upon departing the New England Patriots‘ taxi roster, the kicker finally found a home in Cleveland in 1999. He was the last member of the team’s expansion season roster to leave the Browns after the 2012 campaign
From there, he spent four seasons as a member of the San Francisco 49ers before ending his playing career in Arizona after the 2018 season.
Dawson Retires in 2019
After 20 years, Phil Dawson called it a career, ending his professional football life with the club that gave him his first big break. On Aug. 1, 2019, he signed a one-day contract with the Browns to enable him to retire in Cleveland.
“To have the opportunity to come back home and retire with the organization and the city that I love is incredibly meaningful to me,” Dawson said at the time. “It only seems right to have the opportunity to do this with the fans that have been so good to me and my family.”
He’ll get his bust in Canton soon enough. Phil Dawson should also have a chance at throwing the first pitch in Cleveland.
It’s Arsenio… Hall!
In 1989, after guest-hosting, The Late Show on FOX, comedian Arsenio Hall, born in Cleveland and a graduate of Kent State University, began hosting an eponymous late-night offering, The Arsenio Hall Show. Those who are old enough to remember staying up late to watch it can tell you that it was the hippest late-night talk show ever to grace TV’s airwaves.
The Arsenio Hall Show ran for five years in syndication, ending in May of 1994 with a star-studded finale capped by James Brown singing over the end credits. 19 years later, his second version of the show aired, but the second time around wasn’t as good, with the curtain falling after one season.
Not Having Arsenio Throw a First Pitch Would Make You Go “Hmm…”
A hallmark of Arsenio was its studio audience, with one section in particular. Each night, one group of audience members would have the worst view in the entire crowd, known as the Dog Pound. A humorous caption would follow the opening credits.
Example: A 1990 episode of The Arsenio Hall Show had the Dog Pound identified as “people who found that if you play Ice, Ice, Baby backwards, it contains hidden messages.” The Dog Pound (and its cheer) is still remembered fondly.
If Arsenio Hall is booked to fire a first pitch at Progressive Field, the cheer will be heard again.
Who Would You Like to See Throw a Ceremonial First Pitch?
As we leave you today, we want to know your thoughts on this topic. Let us know who you’d want to see throw a first pitch at The Corner of Carnegie and Ontario in the comments.
Featured Image Credit: Getty Images