On Election eve, the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced its nominees for the annual Ford Frick Award. Another election? Yes. But the names on this ballot will only trigger fresh and friendly debate.
The Hall in recent years organized the Frick into a three year cycle of honorees; cataloged by team announcers, network voices and pioneers. Hawk Harrelson was selected last year in the team category. The year before, pioneer Al Helfer won. This year the focus is on network announcers. Next year the cycle begins again with the pioneers.
This year’s ballot is a compelling list, made up of some who’s who of voices.
Al Michaels, known for his football, was a longtime ABC baseball voice in the 70s and 80s. Joe Buck has been around Fox and baseball for a quarter of a century. Dizzy Dean was as big a baseball broadcast name in the 1950s as he was while pitching for the Gashouse Gang Cardinals in the 30s.
Dan Shulman who’s called ten straight World Series on radio did Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN TV for seven years. Ernesto Jerez is the Hispanic voice of ESPN’s baseball coverage. The esteemed list goes on.
The winner will be announced next month and will be honored next July in Cooperstown along with Ken Harrelson the 2020 winner. Covid-19 forced the postponement of all Hall of Fame ceremonies last summer. So if all goes as planned, Cooperstown will be a busy little town next July. Both the 2020 and 2021 festivities will be combined into one long, joyous weekend.
These are the eight voices on the ballot in alphabetical order:
Buddy Blattner was a well rounded broadcaster who played in the Big Leagues during the war. In addition to calling games for the St. Louis Browns and California Angels, Blattner was the original Voice of the Kansas City Royals in 1969. Nationally, he partnered many years with Dizzy Dean. Buddy worked for networks in the 1950s and 1960s including the Liberty Game of the Day, Mutual Game of the Day, ABC Game of the Week, CBS Game of the Week and NBC.
Joe Buck is only 51 and he’s already accomplished more as a baseball announcer than most voices have in a lifetime. Buck broadcast Cardinals games locally for 11 seasons, yet made his mark nationally for Fox Sports where he’s dominated network baseball coverage for the last 25 seasons. Joe has been the lead voice of the World Series for 23 years. (When including 11 on radio, only Vin Scully has done more, 24). Buck was 27 when he did his first World Series. Joe’s the son of 1987 Frick winner, Jack Buck. Recently, Buck was named the winner of the Pete Rozelle Radio and TV award, chosen by the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Dave Campbell His nickname appropriately is Soup. After seven years as a utility infielder, Campbell launched a long and successful broadcast career. Locally, he worked for the Padres, Giants and Rockies. Yet he was best known as an analyst for ESPN Radio’s Sunday Night Baseball from 1990-2008. While with the sports network, Campbell would also lend his voice to televised games as well as contributing to studio programming.
Dizzy Dean was elected to the Hall of Fame as a pitcher in 1953. In the 1950s, he became a television personality covering baseball for the growing TV networks. He was known for badly butchering the language, “He slud into third,” Dean would exclaim. Fans though seemed to love Dean’s verbal mangling. When Dizzy was asked by a school teacher not to use the word ain’t on television, he said on air, “A lot of folks who ain’t sayin’ ‘ain’t,’ ain’t eatin’.” Dean was the star of CBS’ Game of the Week from 1955-65, following several seasons broadcasting Cardinals and Browns games.
Don Drysdale was a Hall of Fame Dodgers’ pitcher who called national games for ABC for 10 years starting in 1977. His work included the network’s Monday Night Baseball package. Drysdale was also visible locally, with the Expos, Rangers, Angels, White Sox and Dodgers. He died at a young 56 in 1993, while traveling with the Dodgers in Montreal. Drysdale was more than just an analyst. He worked at his craft and developed into a solid play-by-play announcer.
Ernesto Jerez is a Dominican sportscaster and commentator for ESPN Deportes. He has presided over Sunday Night Baseball games for the the network’s Hispanic broadcasts since 1995. He has also broadcast the All-Star Game, World Series and the World Baseball Classic. The Frick Award has been given to three Hispanic language broadcasters, Buck Canel, Jaime Jarrin and Felo Ramirez.
Al Michaels was first known as a baseball announcer on network television. He was all of 27 when as the Voice of the Reds, he joined Curt Gowdy on NBC’s telecast of the 1972 Reds-A’s World Series. He then presided over ABC’s baseball broadcasts from 1976 to ’89 and later on the short lived Baseball Network in 1994 and ’95. Michaels worked seven World Series, six All-Star Games and eight LCS. His longtime partner was Hall of Famer Jim Palmer.
Dan Shulman is the only Canadian born nominee. Dan is best known for manning the play-by-play mic for ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball package from 2011-17. Prior to doing so, he called weekly baseball games for ESPN Radio. Shulman still voices ESPN Radio’s coverage of the World Series, something he’s done since 2011. Earlier, Dan called Toronto Blue Jays games for seven seasons beginning in 1995. He rejoined the Jays to do select games beginning in 2018 after he reduced his workload at ESPN.
Final voting for the 2021 Frick Award will be conducted by an electorate comprised of the 12 living Frick Award recipients and three broadcast historians/columnists, including past Frick honorees Marty Brennaman, Bob Costas, Ken Harrelson, Jaime Jarrín, Tony Kubek, Denny Matthews, Tim McCarver, Jon Miller, Eric Nadel, Vin Scully, Bob Uecker and Dave Van Horne, and historians/columnists David J. Halberstam (historian), Barry Horn (formerly of the Dallas Morning News) and Curt Smith (historian).
Full transparency: This author is one of the voters of the Frick.