Before Dewayne Staats became the first official television voice of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1998, he had served a four year spot as MSG-TV’s lead Yankee play-by-play announcer, teaming with the great Tony Kubek in the booth. The Missouri native got that job in 1990, in the middle of the Stump Merrill era and left after the strike-shortened 1994 season, right before the Yankees went on their impressive run of postseason play. He and Kubek were replaced by MSG with Dave Cohen and Jim Kaat.
Staats big league play-by-play career had started in 1977, when he got his first gig with the Houston Astros, his favorite boyhood team. After four years there, he did play-by-play for the Cubs for four more years before landing his Bronx Bomber assignment with MSG. The fact that Staats was behind the microphone during a time when the Yankees were struggling to win, limited his personal Yankee highlights reel. His most famous moment in the role was when he called Jim Abbott’s 1993 no-hit game, though in 2011, he did get to call Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit because it came against Tampa.
Compare a tape of a Kubek/Staats Yankee broadcast with one from today’s crew and you’ll feel like you’re comparing a silent movie with a talk-radio show. The former Yankee shortstop won his Ford C. Frick award for expert analysis and unlike Tim McCarver, Kubek’s goal was to provide it with as few words as possible. Ditto for Staats. In fact. a 1992 New York Times’ article comparing the Yankee and Met booth crews labeled Kubek and Staats the “Dragnet” team because they “gave just the facts” during a game, with a bare minimum of chattiness or cheerleading. Of course as bad as the early Yankee teams they covered were, there was not a whole lot to cheer about.
When Staats left the Yankees he joined ESPN for a couple years before getting hired by the Rays. Dave Cohen replaced Staats in the Yankee booth and Jim Kaat took over for Kubek, who retired at the same time. Staats shares his birthday with this Yankee pitcher, this Yankee pitcher and this Yankee coach.