For baseball broadcasting, you might say that it was a glorious year, one not surpassed since, not by a measure of top to bottom, no matter how you grade each one. It was Mel Allen’s last season with the Yankees.
There might have been some real good ones who’ve come along since (e.g. Jon Miller, Harry Kalas, Bob Costas, Dick Enberg, Marty Brennaman, Denny Matthews, Al Michaels, Dave Niehaus, Eric Nadel, Joe Castiglione, Pat Hughes and Bob Uecker, to name a dozen play-by-players off the top of my head) but 55 years ago from a telescopic and historical lens, a single list of such baseball broadcast heavyweights would be almost impossible to match. At least not for my money.
Here ya’ go:
*Ford Frick Winners
(1) Enshrined in Cooperstown as a player
1964 ROSTER OF MLB ANNOUNCERS INCLUDED THIS STAR-STUDDED LIST
Network Games of the Week
Dizzy Dean (1) Unique,butchered the language colorfully, really the first voice of network TV baseball
Joe Garagiola* Fantastic raconteur and Mr. One-Liner extraordinaire
Bob Wolff* Howlin’ Bob as he was called, longtime voice of the Senators, last year doing baseball
Buck Canel* The irrepressible Hispanic voice, spanned decades serving a growing Latin community, called 37 straight World Series and Yankees home games
Mel Allen* Blended a commanding voice, a command of the language, warmth and spot-on timing. “How ‘Bout that!”
Red Barber* Pioneer was the first to give the game its rhythm on radio in the 1930s
Jerry Coleman* “Oh Doctor’ he would bellow liberally, an exclamation made famous by his colleague in the catbird seat
Phil Rizzuto (1) Holy Cow! Neighborly, friendly and until he became a caricature of himself a solid play-by-player
Curt Gowdy*,’Hi, neighbor, have a ‘Gansett.’ Avuncular, friendly, Manly and beloved in New England
Ned Martin Erudite, dulcet-toned and descriptive. Moved seamlessly from radio to TV
Chuck Thompson* Ain’t the Beer Cold! No sweeter a voice, no gentler a man. Baltimore’s most famous sportscaster ever
Ernie Harwell* A lady in the third row from Saginaw has that foul ball. He was as poetic as he was humble
Bob Elson* The laid back Ol’ Commander was interchangeable with Comiskey’s denizens through their post war years
Milo Hamilton* Best remembered for what he would do ten years later, call Henry Aaron’s record breaking homer
Monte Moore A solid play-by-play voice who survived Caray, Elson and Helfer and notably the impossible Charles Finley
Jimmy Dudley* “The string is out.” ’64, his first with nemesis Bob Neal, Dudley’s string was out in’67 after 20 seasons
Buddy Blattner Worked with Dizzy Dean on Game of Week , called Cards and Royals and mentored Denny Matthews
Herb Carneal* A mainstay and steady Voice of (the short) Summer in the Twin Cities for 45 seasons
Halsey Hall, I said “Holy Cow” before Harry Caray and Phil Rizzuto
Ray Scott There was Silent Cal and Dr. Minimalist, known best for football, did Twins baseball too
John MacLean A favorite of Virginia reared Marty Brennaman, MacLean was original voice of expansion Senators in’61
Lindsey Nelson*, Energetic, blinding sports coats, warm anecdotes and like his colleagues a Mets fixture for 17 years
Bob Murphy* “When he hits ’em, they go” Immortalized by Mets’ fans for 40 years, Painted great pictures
Ralph Kiner (1) Malaprops were the charm. Remained current to the end, regaled fans with stories from the trenches
Russ Hodges* Think Russ, think Mays, Cepeda, Marichal, the Polo Grounds, Candlestick and Bobby Thomson
Lon Simmons* Hollow voiced and a San Francisco Giants original, beloved in Bay Area for decades
Vin Scully* Baseball, if not sports’ best ever play-by-play announcer. Period. Next!
Jerry Doggett Vin told me that it was his smooth relationship with his solid 32 year boothmate that made it work
Jaime Jarrin* (Spanish language) Learned the game from Vin and grew with the popularity of the club
Jack Brickhouse* “Hey, Hey,” called Cubs and White Sox until the late 60s when he did Cubs only.
Jack Quinlan Died tragically when only 38 the in March ’65 at Spring Training. A stellar broadcaster cut short
By Saam* The Texan was the lead voice of the Phillies. Earlier did A’s too before they bolted for Kansas City
Bob Prince* “All we need is a bloop and a blast,” the Gunner was as big as they come in the Steel City
Jim Woods One of the most popular number two announcers in baseball broadcasting history
Waite Hoyt (1) Hall of Famer and member of ’27 Yankees, had an art for telling stories with his thick New York accent
Gene Elston* Not very animated, yet the first voice of Colt 45s who became the Astros in 1965. Gene stayed 25 seasons
Loel Passe This fellow had a little Dizzy Dean to him.
Rene Cardenas A classic, he mentored Jarrin in LA before moving into Houston booth.
Harry Caray* “Holy Cow!” Deified in St. Louis as much then as he would be years later in Chicago
Jack Buck* Appreciated greatly in St. Louis then, his popularity ballooned after Caray was fired in 1969
Merle Harmon Liked almost immediately in Milwaukee after years with the Kansas City A’s and dealing with Charlie Finley
There you have it. Twenty five eventual Frick winners -25 of the 43 Frick Award winners were working in 1964, more than half the total number of winners since the honor was established 41 years ago. The award was established in 1978 when Allen and Barber were recognized together.
You might argue that a year later the talent across the board was equally as good. In 1965, Harry Kalas joined the Astros broadcast team. He would eventually be a Frick winner himself. Allen was shockingly no longer a Yankees announcer but was calling a schedule of games for the Braves. Garagiola was with the Yankees. The Game of the Week package was with ABC and for the first time completely national. The ABC talent included Merle Harmon, Keith Jackson and Chris Schenkel. The ABC package also featured Jackie Robinson who teamed with Jackson. Robinson was the first African-American network baseball announcer.
Wolff was out of baseball, never to return. So the exchange would be Kalas for Wolff. Tough to argue? Also, in’65, due to his tragic death, Quinlan was no longer on this list.