HOF’s 2022 Frick Award will likely go to an unsung pioneer as radio celebrates its 100th birthday
It’s only fitting.
As radio celebrates it centennial, the National Baseball Hall of Fame will choose its annual Ford Frick winner among candidates who represent the early decades of baseball announcing. In the summer of 1921, Harold Arlin presided over the first-ever Major League Baseball broadcast, doing so over KDKA in Pittsburgh, then an embryo of a radio station, now a monster of an AM powerhouse.
The Hall’s Frick voters are weighing the 2022 ballot, made up exclusively of voices from the Hall’s Broadcasting Beginnings category. Al Michaels won the 2021 Frick, representing network announcers and Ken Harrelson got the nod in 2020, from a list of team nominees. This completes the HOF’s second such cycle; pioneers, network and teams.
The eight finalists for the 2022 Frick Award are: Pat Flanagan, Jack Graney, Waite Hoyt, France Laux, Rosey Rowswell, Hal Totten, Ty Tyson and Bert Wilson. The winner of the 2022 Frick Award will be announced on Dec. 8th at baseball’s Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla., and will be honored during the July 23 Awards Presentation as part of the July 22-25 Hall of Fame Weekend 2022 in Cooperstown. All of the 2022 Frick Award candidates are deceased.
Criteria for selection is as follows: “Commitment to excellence, quality of broadcasting abilities, reverence within the game, popularity with fans, and recognition by peers.”
Cleveland broadcaster Graney, a Canadian by birth, still has vibrant followers, who generations later are still campaigning for his inclusion in the lineup of Frick greats. Chicago’s Wilson was admired by young broadcasters of the day. Of those was longtime Indians and Cavaliers announcer Joe Tait. Rowswell, a Pirate voice who preceded Bob Prince, has a gimmick when calling Pittsburgh home runs. He used sound-effects to replicate the ball smashing through a window pane near Forbes Field and breaking it into smithereens.
Pat Flanagan, Totten and Wilson were all Chicago based where baseball broadcasting began in the 1920s and where several stations carried both the Sox and Cubs, therein three Windy City candidates. Laux was well liked in St. Louis and Tyson in Detroit. For that matter, a 1934 Tigers-Yankee game done by Tyson is available on YouTube and is thought to be the earliest fully recorded baseball broadcast .
As for Waite Hoyt, he was a marvelous raconteur who did Reds games for years. He was so good at storytelling that fans hoped for rain-delays.
To be considered, an active or retired broadcaster must have a minimum of 10 years of continuous major league broadcast service with a ball club, network, or a combination of the two.
The 2022 Frick Award ballot was created by a subcommittee of the voting electorate that included past Frick honorees Marty Brennaman, Denny Matthews and Eric Nadel, and broadcast historians David J. Halberstam and Curt Smith.
Final voting for the 2022 Frick Award will be conducted by an electorate comprised of the 13 living Frick Award recipients and three broadcast historians/columnists, including past Frick honorees Brennaman, Bob Costas, Ken Harrelson, Jaime Jarrín, Tony Kubek, Matthews, Tim McCarver, Al Michaels, Jon Miller, Nadel, Vin Scully, Bob Uecker and Dave Van Horne, and historians/columnists Halberstam (historian), Barry Horn (formerly of the Dallas Morning News), and Smith (historian).
The eight Finalists Named for 2022 Frick Award, Page 2
The eight finalists for the 2022 Frick Award:
- Flanagan was one of the first announcers to recreate road games from a Western Union ticker. Primarily a Cubs voice, Flanagan was behind the microphone for both Chicago squads on WBBM. He covered Major League Baseball’s first All-Star Game from Comiskey Park in 1933.
- Graney called Indians games for 21 seasons from 1932-44 and 1946-53 following a 14-year playing career with the Indians, making him one of the first players to successfully transition to the broadcast booth.
- Hoyt was another early example of a player transitioning to the booth, making a successful switch to the Cincinnati broadcast team after 20 years as a Hall of Fame pitcher.
- Laux was the voice of St. Louis baseball with the Browns and Cardinals simultaneously during the 1920s, 30s and 40s, also calling games for CBS and Mutual.
- Rowswell called games for the Pirates for 19 seasons (1936-54), captivating fans with his down-home language and unrelenting team support.
- Totten called Cubs and White Sox games in Chicago beginning in the 1920s, becoming one of the first regular-season radio announcers on April 23, 1924, during a Cubs vs. Cardinals game on WMAQ.
- Tyson spent 22 seasons in the Tigers’ broadcast booth (1927-42, 1947-52), providing the first account of a Tigers game from Detroit in 1927.
- Wilson began his broadcast career with WMT in Chicago, calling Cubs games from a rooftop behind the center field bleachers and working a total of 12 years with the team.
I don’t envy the voters. I think it was Lindsey Nelson who said that if you try to choose between Red Barber and Mel Allen, either way, you get a “Sir.” I remember reading that Wilson adopted some of Flanagan’s style, but maybe it was partly Rowswell. Graney also was the first ex-player to broadcast a World Series–and maybe the last until Waite Hoyt in 1961.