Eric Nadel listened to legendary baseball announcers such as Mel Allen and Red Barber as a youngster growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and knew that he wanted to follow in their footsteps.
He never thought he’d be on their level, though, as one of the all-time great baseball voices. But over the past 35 years, Nadel has become to the Texas Rangers what Allen was to the New York Yankees and Barber was to the Brooklyn Dodgers and later the Yankees.
That’s why Nadel is headed to the broadcasters’ wing of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The longtime Rangers’ voice was named the 2014 Ford C. Frick Award winner for broadcasting excellence Wednesday, and will be honored July 26 during the Hall of Fame’s induction weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y.
The Rangers will honor Nadel during their home series against the Angels, July 10-13. Nadel is the 38th recipient of the award established in 1978 and named in honor of Ford Frick, MLB’s commissioner from 1951-65.
“I’m so excited, I can’t possibly express it,” Nadel said. “I’m being placed in the same category as [Allen and Barber]? It’s really overwhelming. It’s mind-boggling. I’m still having to pinch myself.”
Nadel, a finalist for the fourth time, beat out nine others for the prestigious honor. He began his broadcasting career as a minor league hockey announcer before joining the Rangers in 1979. He has been the lead radio play-by-play man for the past 19 seasons.
Nadel has had several memorable calls in his career from Nolan Ryan’s 5,000th career strikeout in 1989 to the Rangers’ 30-run game in Baltimore in 2007 to Josh Hamilton’s four home run game against Baltimore in 2012.
But nothing tops Neftali Feliz striking out Alex Rodriguez to send the Rangers to their first World Series in 2010.
“By far the most emotional moment of my career, maybe my entire life,” Nadel said. “The way the Ballpark exploded when A-Rod struck out, I was overcome with emotion. I didn’t talk for about 40 seconds, I don’t think I could have talked, I was all choked up with emotion, teary-eyed and all that. So that’s way ahead of everything else.”
Nadel went on to reflect back on his career from the highs and lows, and told the story of how his home run call — “That ball is history!” — came about on May 20, 1979 in Seattle.
The Rangers were facing the Mariners at the Kingdome, and outfielder Johnny Grubb led off the fourth inning by slicing a ball down the left-field line. Nadel expected the ball to either be caught by Seattle left fielder Dan Meyer or land foul.
So Nadel started to say, “That ball is … “ with the thought he’d finish it by saying “foul” or “caught.”
But the ball tucked just inside the foul pole and over the fence, which prompted Nadel to exclaim: “History!”
Nadel received a few compliments on his impromptu home run call, and has stuck with it ever since. Of course, he’s become known for more than just his catchphrase.
Chuck Morgan, the Rangers’ executive vice president of ballpark entertainment, described Nadel as “the soundtrack of a Texas summer.”
President George W. Bush and Nolan Ryan also praised Nadel through statements released by the team.
“Any announcer can call a game, but Eric brings his listeners into the stadium,” Bush said. “He is a wonderful ambassador for our national pastime.”
Said Ryan: “He has always made the games entertaining and informative. He is a Hall of Famer in every sense of the word and is very deserving of the honor.”
Nadel was joined by the rest of the team’s broadcasters Wednesday at a press conference at Rangers Ballpark, and all of them had equal praise.
Longtime TV analyst Tom Grieve, who also grew up in the Northeast listening to Allen and Barber, summed it up best by saying: “Eric is to the kids who grew up over the last 30 years listening to Rangers baseball what Mel Allen was to people like Eric and me. He’s got every bit the same résumé now that he’s [being honored by] the Hall of Fame like they were.”