Eric Nadel may have been told that he didn’t have the right voice to broadcast baseball games for a living, but he proved Saturday that he has the voice for delivering speeches at the Hall of Fame.
The day Nadel never thought would arrive in his career came Saturday, when he was honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame with the Ford C. Frick Award.
That’s the grand prize for a baseball broadcaster, given annually since 1978, and its previous winners include the voices that inspired Nadel as a boy growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y.
As is customary for an acceptance speech, Nadel praised those who helped him reach the pinnacle of his profession, but no one received more thanks than the Texas Rangers fans who have listened to him since 1979.
“Over the years, you’ve invited me into your homes, your cars, your places of work, your computers, your iPhones and other devices I still can’t figure out how to use,” Nadel said.
“You gave me a chance to learn this gig on the job, and you kept listening through those very lean years. As a team we still haven’t won the big one, but we won this award together. The pain and frustration we’ve experienced has brought us closer together, and in the meantime, at least, we have this award to celebrate.”
Nadel was one of three honorees during the awards presentation, along with New Yorker writer Roger Angell for the J.G. Taylor Spink Award and Joe Garagiola for the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award.
Nadel’s speech at Doubleday Field, which he visited in the 1960s, was a crowd-pleaser for sure, much like one of his games as the Rangers’ lead radio voice since 1995.
It was full of information, mindful of the situation, thoughtful, full of his personality and inviting for listeners. He even spoke some in Spanish, which he started to learn in the 1990s at the suggestion of Ruben Sierra.
He also had plenty of family and friends on hand. And not just friends he has made in the game, but friends from as far back as summer camp when he was a boy, as well as friends from high school and his college days at Brown.
Sunday will mark the 50th anniversary of one of his camp trips to Doubleday Field. A half-century later, he was surrounded by Hall of Fame players and managers as he delivered again in front of a microphone.
Before he launched into his speech, he looked over both shoulders.
“Excuse me if I check this out one more time,” said Nadel, who joined the Rangers Hall of Fame in 2012.
He made reference to his now famous story about the first time he learned that people actually were paid to broadcast games.
He was listening to Mel Allen, one of the inaugural winners of the Frick Award along with Red Barber. That pair, along with 1982 winner Vin Scully, were the first to hook Nadel. Lindsey Nelson (1988) and Bob Murphy (1994) followed later as they toiled covering the hapless New York Mets.
Nadel likely has more in common with Nelson and Murphy, having waded through several losing seasons with the Rangers. He made note that there have been more bad times than good, but he has called all six of the Rangers’ playoff appearances.
Add this season to the list of trying times on the field that Nadel has had to navigate. Earlier in the day, he talked about how he has taken advice from 30 years ago as he was still learning to get his listeners through the lean years.
“I’ve had a lot of practice at this. It’s just that it’s been a few years,” Nadel said ahead of accepting the award. “We’ve had this five-year run where everything has been meaningful. But I did go through the ’80s with the Rangers, and there were a lot of years like this.
“I remember asking Herb Score very early in my career when he was doing Indians games and they were awful, ‘How do you get up for every game?’ He said, ‘I look at every game in a vacuum. I don’t look at it as something that is meaningless in a pennant race.
“I look at it as a major league baseball game with some of the greatest players in the world. You might see the very best game. You might see the very best play you’ve seen that day. Just approach it that day.’
“It also helps you to remember those Mets announcers in a season like this, and how they were always able to have a good time and look for the positives within reason.”
Maybe that’s why he told the fans to enjoy this award with him as the Rangers try to avoid finishing this season with the worst record in the majors. He also exited the star-studded stage with a familiar sign-off.
“Thank you all so very, very much for this amazing honor,” Nadel said. “I am so grateful and so blessed, and as always, thanks for listening.”