Kuip Is The Man
(originally written 7/2/21)
Duane Kuiper, former Giants infielder turned longtime Giants broadcaster, is battling an illness that sounds an awful lot like cancer. The news was made public on Monday, June 7.
Just like that, Giants wins and Giants losses simply don't matter that much.
You see, Duane Kuiper IS Giants baseball.
And has been for a very long time.
I am writing this while unsuccessfully checking my emotions, trying to remind myself that this is not a eulogy. Kuip is still with us and seems confident he will recover. Last year, when the now-deceased longtime Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek went public with his own cancer battle, it was clear in his words that he wasn't expecting a favorable outcome. I didn't get that same feeling from Kuip's announcement.
Kuiper has been a Giants broadcaster since before I started following the team in 1990. And except for a one-season detour to the expansion Colorado Rockies in 1993—the Giants' pending 1992 sale to Tampa Bay investors had left his status uncertain—he's never left.
Friend and former teammate Mike Krukow showed up alongside him in the booth in the mid-1990's. It didn't take long for us Giants fans to be captivated by the unique duo. Today, they're legendary.
Duane Kuiper speaks at the end of the Giants' 2010 World Series parade.
I literally cannot imagine anyone else calling Giants baseball on TV full-time. Can. Not.
And I don't want to.
Every team's broadcaster has his own "style". Some are total homers. Some are straight-laced and unbiased. Some have flair, some try to be comedians, some are like your dad and others are more like your garrulous uncle.
Duane Kuiper's style?
Simply put, he is smooth (hence the nickname). His voice is deep and distinctive, and while he does get VERY excited when the Giants have action, most of the time Kuip is calm and measured as he calls a game.
About that excitement...
There is nothing better than Kuiper calling a pivotal home run for the Giants. Or a pivotal extra-base hit of any kind. Or a clutch defensive play. When Kuip is screaming "CRAWFORD SCORES...POSEY SCORES...THEY ALL SCORE!!!" he can have you on the edge of your seat, feeling like history is unfolding right before your eyes.
And when history IS unfolding, I can't imagine anybody better than Kuip at raising the anticipation level with each play. When he called the insane catches by Aaron Rowand and Gregor Blanco in Jonathan Sanchez's 2009 no-hitter and Matt Cain's 2012 perfect game, respectively, you knew just from Kuiper's voice to never forget what you just witnessed.
There was nobody better suited to call the final out of the Giants' 2010 World Series win, the one that snapped a drought dating back to their New York days. "SWING AND A MISS, AND THAT'S IT! FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 52 YEARS, THE GIANTS ARE WORLD CHAMPIONS!!!"
Then Kuip paid homage to numerous S.F. Giants superstars of the past, an extremely cool gesture that really drove home what the current team had accomplished. I don't know if he had planned that out or if it was spontaneous, but either way it was classic Duane Kuiper.
And when you hear Kuiper utter "Unbelievable" after a play, you know somebody truly f----d up.
I could go on...and on...and on, speaking of all the different attributes that make Kuip so fantastically special. I really could. I mean, did you HEAR his call of Logan Webb's triple in April 2021? Do you REMEMBER "Dag Yabel"? But let's shift gears.
Obviously, as much as we fans wish it were possible, "Kruk and Kuip" cannot broadcast Giants games forever. I know that. Krukow is 69 and has been dealing with physical problems for several years now; we should be (and are) VERY grateful he's still able to call the games that he does. Kuiper is 71, and is now facing a serious health challenge of his own. Forget calling games, this is about his life.
Kuip did not share details of his condition and to my knowledge, hasn't given any public updates. That's his right, of course—his health is really no one else's business. Except that it sort of is. Kuip has legions of fans in these parts, and we're naturally worried. I recently lost an old friend to cancer at age 40, so I'm not exactly dripping with optimism about Kuiper's situation.
I'm not ready to lose Kuiper yet. Not like this.
Duane Kuiper left the booth to deliver an autographed ball to a fan (in a Kuiper jersey) who dropped a foul ball in 2017.
If the worst were to happen, I could not take in any more Giants baseball for a very long time. Selfishly, I'd want the Giants to clean house and replace Krukow, Jon Miller and Dave Flemming as well—it'd be too sad seeing the old familiar quartet reduced to a trio.
Kuiper has been off the air for a month now, and while Miller and Flemming have been beyond excellent in his absence, I can't help but imagine how Kuip would have called Mike Yastrzemski's go-ahead grand slam into McCovey Cove against Arizona June 16, for example.
No disrespect to Miller, whose call isn't soon to be forgotten. But Kuiper would have brought the house down, I assure you.
If by some miracle you're reading this, Duane Kuiper, I want you to understand two truths:
1) You are a legend. An absolute beast at the mike. Better than Vin Scully or anybody else.
2) You are absolutely, through-and-through, 450% irreplaceable.
You have no idea your impact on the Giants experience.
On behalf of all Giants fans everywhere, thank you.
And please, PLEASE show that illness who's boss.
(7/2 Update: if you're missing Kuip's voice and insight as much as I am, he's continuing to do the Giants Talk podcast, and he sounds as robust as healthy as ever. I'm taking those as good signs.)