After 31 years, he got a call to The Show
This is one for grinders who have never stopped chasing their dreams.
Curt Bloom is the Birmingham Barons’ play-by-play announcer. He has organized games for the Barons for 31 years and in the minor leagues for 35 years. A few weeks ago, Bloom got the call that he was going to the Show. On Sunday, Bloom will call his first official game for the Chicago White Sox.
When I heard the news from one of Bloom’s friends, I got goosebumps. What a beautiful story. Instantly I was happy for a guy I had never met in my entire life. The Sox take on the Cleveland Guardians at 1:10 p.m. Birmingham fans can tune in to the game on SiriusXM Channel 183 or by downloading the MLB app.
Bloom got the call on two Mondays, and the White Sox broke the news to her with a surprise Zoom meeting. When he found out, Bloom said he “wasn’t exactly Rick Flair, but it was something like that.”
It means Bloom was so happy he wanted to scream. Flair is the former professional wrestler famous for throwing “Woooooooooo!” whenever he is on camera. Bloom saved his voice. There were Barons games to call, of course.
He just smiled and said, “That’s really cool.”
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The Barons play in Huntsville on Sunday against the Trash Pandas. Bloom, meanwhile, will be in the Chicago guaranteed-rate field stand with White Sox play-by-play announcer Len Kasper. Bloom replaces Sox color analyst Darrin Jackson, which means the combination of Bloom and Kasper makes for an atypical broadcast team. They will understand.
The Sox and Guardians play two Saturdays, so Kasper might be happy to let Bloom take the lead. Many Bloom fans and friends will be listening from Birmingham.
“I don’t really know what my role is,” Bloom said. “To be honest, I don’t care. Do you want me to get some popcorn and a Coke for Len? Great. Do you want me to shine some shoes? I am the guy. It doesn’t really matter.
As a professional sportscaster, Bloom is not limited to baseball in the Birmingham market. It broadcasts a bit of everything. Bloom is calling games for Samford Athletics and for UAB as well. Bloom was the broadcaster for last season’s Bartow Classic when Blazers basketball star Jordan “Jelly” Walker set the UAB single-game scoring record with 42 points.
Sometimes life is about getting lucky, but usually it’s about creating your own luck. It means doing the things necessary to put yourself in the best position when opportunities arise. Bloom stayed ready. He loves calling games in Birmingham, but he still wants to be a permanent broadcaster in Major League Baseball.
He sees this opportunity as a chance to show he’s more than capable of calling big league games, but really Bloom has nothing left to prove. It’s not like Bloom, who is 59, is trying to make a name for himself at this point in his career. He is already a legend, and in multiple Halls of Fame. He also knows everything there is to know about the organization of the White Sox. Most players and coaches were with Bloom at Birmingham at some point in their careers.
In sport, the idea of hard and tireless work is embedded in the culture. Players always tell me they “squeak”. You’ve heard all the clichés. There are no public holidays. We are all going to work yesterday. Never settle. Sure, kid, but try to do this for 35 years in the minors. This is Bloom, who is originally from northern Westchester County, New York. He began calling minor league baseball games while in college at UNC-Greensboro.
After college, Bloom moved to Bakersfield, California and worked for the Class A Bakersfield Dodgers for one season. Then he moved to Northern Virginia where he hosted games for the Class-A Prince William Cannons. Two years later, Bloom made the jump to Double-A when he landed the main broadcaster job with the Stars of Huntsville. He joined the Barons the following season.
What I’m saying is that’s a lot of bus rides.
Something tells me Bloom might be greeted in Chicago with an equal number of hugs and handshakes before his big game. For those who cover baseball for a living, games are an all-day affair. Everyone arrives at the park a few hours before launch. While the players train or play cards in the locker room, broadcasters and writers are also there to gather information and conduct interviews.
During our Friday conversation for this column, Bloom wanted me to understand one thing. He relishes the opportunity to call a White Sox game, but he doesn’t approach it as some kind of pat on the back for a long career with the organization. He considers it an honor, of course, but Bloom says he “doesn’t see it as the end of my career.”
“I look at this like it’s really important and the start of something,” he said. “I hope people will hear my call and hear the credibility.
“My passion, my honing and my journey, I don’t see it as my last and only chance. I’m going up there to play. It took me a whole career to get that one contract.
Anyone who has ever worked towards a goal can relate to this. Bloom’s story is unique, but her spirit is universal. I support Bloom. I hope this is his big break. Broadcasting is one of the most competitive areas in the sports industry. Every sports broadcasting student in college dreams of being on TV like Joe Buck or Rece Davis, but it takes more than talent and hard work to land gigs like this. It’s also a matter of timing.
The Barons are a Birmingham institution and one of the most prestigious minor league clubs in the country. This means that Bloom, despite not being in the Majors, is still a prominent figure in baseball. He is well-liked within the White Sox organization and a Major League talent.
For those who strive to always improve, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow will always be there. Sooner or later, however, every romantic on the way realizes that the journey along the way is the real treasure. Bloom has made his living in the Birmingham area he loves. His wife, Laura, has been with him every step of the way. Laura is a professor at the University of Montevallo. The Blooms have two children, four dogs and two cats.
It’s a good life, but it’s not a quiet life. Flowers adopt animals and sometimes some of the pets stick around. Their four dogs are all Chihuahuas.
The Blooms and their Chihuahuas live in Pelham. Curt started working for the Barons in 1992. That means he’s tied to one of the most famous stories in American sports, the season Michael Jordan played minor league baseball. They are still selling Jordan’s #45 jersey in the Barons’ team store.
Bloom called all of Jordan’s players when he played for the Barons. One of Bloom’s signatures is how he calls home runs. “Gonzo,” he says. When a player knocks him over the fence, Bloom celebrates by shouting “Gonzo”, then follows that with the player’s last name.
“It’s Gonzo Jordan!” Bloom shouted into his mic in 1994 when Jordan hit his first home run for the Barons. ” He did it !
Many famous broadcasters have passed through Chicago. How many called a Jordan homer, though? Just one. He will be on the stand on Sunday and Bloom will have stories to tell.
Joseph Goodman is a columnist for the Alabama Media Group, and author of “We Want Bama: A season of hope and the formation of Nick Saban’s ‘ultimate team'”. You can find him on Twitter @JoeGoodmanJr.