Tom Manning

Tom Manning had a voice so loud that he hardly needed a microphone to call baseball games. In fact, he overloaded a transmitter during his big league broadcast debut in 1929.

Manning’s resonant falsetto first gained notice when he won a 1918 yelling contest held by the Cleveland Press. Later that year, the public address announcer for a boxing match went missing. A spectator, recognizing Manning, yelled out, “There’s the kid who won the yelling contest, he can announce!”

It was the break Manning needed, as four years later he could be found standing behind home plate at Cleveland’s League Park, relaying the umpire’s balls and strikes calls to the crowd through a four-foot megaphone. When local station WTAM decided to start broadcasting Indians games in 1929, the city’s baseball crier was the natural choice – once he learned to use his slightly less thunderous inside voice.

“What had been newsprint,” said late Indians broadcaster and Frick Award Winner Jimmy Dudley, “Tom brought alive.”

Manning would last just three years on the WTAM airwaves before departing for the national scene in a move that Dudley deemed as “Cleveland’s loss and NBC’s gain.” Suddenly, Manning was alongside Graham McNamee for the flagship’s World Series broadcast, a post he would hold for 10 consecutive autumns. When Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game debuted in 1933, NBC once again tabbed Manning. In all, Manning called the first eight Midsummer Classics for NBC (1933-34; 1936-40) and Mutual (1935).

“His hearers, many novice fans, thoroughly understood his broadcasts.”

Unidentified Newspaper Writer

Manning’s voice travelled beyond baseball, from golf courses and hockey rinks to tugboats and soap box derbies – where he once suffered two cracked ribs from a collision into his booth. Though he was known to be bombastic, Manning remained adept at translating the happenings of the field to his viewers.

“His hearers, many novice fans,” reported one newspaper writer, “thoroughly understood his broadcasts.”

Manning remained with NBC through 1938, when the Sporting News named him as its Announcer of the Year and praised his “uncanny ability to shoot from the hip.” In 1940, he shifted gears and became sports director for a Cleveland television news station. He returned for a final swan song with the Indians, pairing with Dudley for the 1956 season.

Upon his death in 1969, the Cleveland City Council named him as one of the “ten most important men” in the city’s history. He brought Indians baseball to the living room, and did it his way.

“I like to win big or lose big,” Manning once said. “But what’s the sense of losing small?”

2016 Ford C Frick Award Ballot

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