It didn't take long for Dave Van Horne to figure out that baseball was where he belonged.
Almost half a century later, Van Horne now belongs in Cooperstown.
Van Horne is the winner of the 2011 Ford C. Frick Award, given annually by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum for excellence in broadcasting. He has spent 42 seasons in baseball calling play-by-play action for the Montreal Expos and Florida Marlins.
After broadcasting football and basketball in his early professional years, an opportunity in baseball opened up with the Richmond Braves of the International League. And Van Horne jumped on it.
"About 60 days into that first season I knew that baseball broadcasting was what I wanted to do if possible to make a living and carve out a career," said Van Horne, who becomes the 35th winner of the Frick Award. "And I was fortunate enough that it came about and I got the opportunity. And this coming season will be my 43rd in the game, but it all started in Richmond."
A native of Easton, Pa., Van Horne broadcast in Richmond from 1966-68 where he was twice named Virginal Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association. With partner Frank Soden, Braves home games were broadcast live, but away games were done by wire recreation.
"I had a great teacher in Frank Soden in Richmond to learn to broadcast games that I was not attending and not looking at," said Van Horne.
While in Richmond, Van Horne was introduced to the president of the Atlanta Braves, John McHale, who gave him the opportunity to go to Montreal. As the broadcaster for their inaugural season, Van Horne explained the games to Expos fans, as well as a national audience for The Baseball Network on ABC and NBC.
"I think one of the things that paid off for me when I got into that first year, 1969, broadcasting the Expos games, was the fact that once the game started this was the same game that I'd watched for three years in the International League."
Known for his signature 'Up, Up and Away' home run calls, Van Horne was the voice behind exciting moments in the game on radio and television including Willie Mays' 3000th hit, Nolan Ryan's passing Walter Johnson on top of the career strikeout list and Steve Carlton striking out his 4,000th batter.
After 32 years in Montreal, Van Horne joined the Marlins in 2001 as the team's lead radio voice. Van Horne broadcast the Marlins 2003 World Championship season to add to a resume that includes 10 no-hitters, including two perfect games, and three other World Series and National League Championship Series for a Canadian network.
"The ultimate for the players, for the team, for the fans, for the organization, and for the broadcaster, of course, is the World Series. So 2003 would stand alone in that regard, absolutely a thrill."
He also called the final game in Expos history in 2004 as a member of the Florida Marlins visiting broadcast team. Van Horne has partnered in the booth with Don Drysdale, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Ken Singleton, Buck Martinez and Tom Cheek, winning over fans with his enthusiasm and honesty.
"The trust is an intangible between the listener and the broadcaster that what the broadcaster is telling the radio listener is the truth in every regard, whether it's a pitch, a play, a groundball, a fly ball, a homerun, or a mistake that a player's made," said Van Horne. "And the listener comes to accept that trust and that comes from your high degree of objectivity."
Van Horne will be honored during Hall of Fame Weekend 2011, July 22-25 in Cooperstown along with 2011 J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Bill Conlin.
"This obviously is the highest award a baseball broadcaster can receive so I am absolutely thrilled. I am humbled and very excited," said Van Horne after the announcement of his election. "It's been a great day and obviously the professional highlight of my career."
2011 Ford C. Frick Award Winner Dave Van Horne (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)