Jon Miller’s baseball journey began 48 years ago on an April night in San Francisco.
It has taken him Cooperstown, much to the surprise of the former 10-year-old Giants fan who worshiped the players – and the men who described their on-the-field heroics.
Miller, who has spent parts of four decades as the voice of five Major League Baseball teams and has been the voice of ESPN’s national Sunday Night Baseball telecasts for 20 years, has been selected as the 2010 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually for major contributions to baseball broadcasting. Miller will be honored during Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies on Sunday, July 25, 2010 in Cooperstown, N.Y.
“The first time I went to Candlestick Park was when my dad took me to a Giants/Dodgers game in 1962,” said Miller, a San Francisco native, of the April 16 Monday night game at Candlestick. “Well, from where we sat we could see down into the Giants broadcast booth. And my dad had a transistor radio with a little wire and earpiece, and throughout the game I’m listing to Lon Simmons and Russ Hodges.
“My dad said: ‘Why aren’t you watching the game?’ But to me, Russ and Lon were larger than life, as big as the biggest movie stars.”
Miller joined Simmons (2004) and Hodges (1980) as Frick Award winners. The Ford C. Frick Award is voted upon annually and is named in memory of the sportswriter, radio broadcaster, National League president and Baseball commissioner. 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. More than 200 broadcasters were eligible for consideration for this year’s award.
“When (Hall of Fame President) Jeff Idelson called me and told me I had won the award, the first people I thought of were Lon Simmons and Russ Hodges – and Willie Mays,” Miller said. “If it wasn’t for Russ and Lon telling me about the great Willie Mays – and Willie McCovey, Felipe Alou, Juan Marichal and the rest of those wonderful Giants – I wonder if I would be where I am now.
“It’s all kind of astounding to me.”
Miller was born Oct. 11, 1951, in San Francisco, and began his broadcasting career in the Bay Area. In 1974, Miller landed a job as the play-by-play man for the Oakland A’s. During the 1970s, Miller held various broadcasting jobs in the Bay Area – ranging from hockey to soccer to basketball – before returning to Major League Baseball with the Texas Rangers’ radio crew in 1978. Miller moved to Boston in 1980 to take the Red Sox’s radio job, then went to Baltimore in 1983 to handle the Orioles’ radio duties. In Baltimore, he called the last out of the 1983 World Series as the Orioles captured their third Fall Classic title.
During his time with the Orioles, Miller worked on NBC-TV’s Game of the Week with Frick Award winners Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek from 1986-89, then became ESPN’s voice of Sunday Night Baseball in 1990. In 1997, Miller returned home to become the “Voice of the Giants” – a position which he holds today.
Miller has broadcast 13 World Series, including the last 12 on ESPN Radio.
“Going to Baltimore in 1983 not only ended up being one of the best things I ever did, but it was the best possible scenario for a new broadcaster from out of town because the team was outstanding,” Miller said. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me, and I thought I was going to be there for a long, long time.
“That didn’t work out, but I got the chance to come home to San Francisco. That’s like coming full circle.”
While in Baltimore, Miller was teamed with Joe Morgan on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball package in 1990. In 2010, the pair will begin their 21st season on the weekly national game.
“When I got the call that I won the Frick Award, I was standing among Spanish Inquisition torture devices at a museum in Cartegena, Colombia,” said Miller, describing a vacation trip. “I had been thinking that standing in against Roger Clemens or Bob Gibson wouldn’t be so bad compared to this, and then I got the call I’ll never forget.
“Baltimore, San Francisco, ESPN – whatever version you’re taking about – I’m the luckiest man in Cartegena, Colombia, or any where else for that matter.”
2010 Ford C. Frick Award Winner Jon Miller - BL-9-2011-17 (Andy Kuno/National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)