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1964: Baseball’s best broadcasting year, top to bottom; 25 eventual HOF Ford Frick winners were on the air

Allen's last season with the Yankees; First 22 Frick winners were still behind the mic in '64; Coast to coast, it was about as good as it can get

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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

CBS:       

Dizzy Dean (1) Unique,butchered the language colorfully, really the first voice of network TV baseball

NBC:                     

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

Hispanic coverage:

Buck Canel* The irrepressible Hispanic voice, spanned decades serving a growing Latin community, called 37 straight World Series and Yankees home games

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Yankees:              

Mel Allen

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

 

Red Sox:

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

 

Orioles:                

Chuck Thompson* Ain’t the Beer Cold! No sweeter a voice, no gentler a man. Baltimore’s most famous sportscaster ever

 

Tigers:     

Ernie Harwell*  A lady in the third row from Saginaw has that foul ball. He was as poetic as he was humble

 

White Sox: 

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

 

A’s :                     

Monte Moore  A solid play-by-play voice who survived Caray, Elson and Helfer  and notably the impossible Charles Finley

 

Indians:               

Jimmy Dudley* “The string is out.”  ’64, his first with nemesis Bob Neal, Dudley’s string was out in’67 after 20 seasons

 

Angels:                 

Buddy Blattner   Worked with Dizzy Dean on Game of Week , called Cards and Royals and mentored Denny Matthews

 

Twins:                  

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

 

Senators:            

John MacLean   A favorite of Virginia reared Marty Brennaman, MacLean was original voice of expansion Senators in’61

 

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Mets:

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

 

Giants:               

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

 

Dodgers:

Vin Scully

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

 

Cubs:

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

 

Phillies:

By Saam* The Texan was the lead voice of the Phillies.  Earlier did A’s too before they bolted for Kansas City

 

Pirates:

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

 

Reds:

Waite Hoyt (1) Hall of Famer and member of ’27 Yankees, had an art for telling stories with his thick New York accent

 

Astros:

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.

 

Cardinals:

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

 

Braves:

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.

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David J. Halberstam
David J. Halberstam

David is a 40-year industry veteran who served as play-by-play announcer for St. John's University basketball in New York and as radio play-by-play voice of the Miami Heat in South Florida. He is the author of Sports on New York Radio: A Play-by-Play History.

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Michael Green
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I hear Sinatra singing something about a very good year in the background …. There have been years where more Frick winners were broadcasting, but it’s hard to top when you include the non-Frick winners. I think there might have been more: I think Bill King was still the fill-in on Giants broadcasts, and how’s THAT for a fill-in? Felo Ramirez probably worked the World Series? Other Hall of Fame players who were broadcasting included Pee Wee Reese for CBS and Richie Ashburn for the Phillies. Vince Lloyd was doing Cubs and White Sox TV with Jack Brickhouse, too. I… Read more »

Troy Turner
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Troy Turner

So, in 64, with CBS in bed with the Yankees (and possibly Phillies), who did NBC have contracts with?