Some five decades since his first trip to Cooperstown on a childhood excursion, Eric Nadel will be returning this summer as an honored guest.
Nadel, the longtime radio voice of the Texas Rangers, who just completed his 35th season announcing the franchise’s games, was selected as the 2014 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually for excellence in broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
“I’m so excited, happy, tremendously flattered,” said Nadel on a media conference call only an hour after the Wednesday morning announcement. “It’s an amazing thrill for a kid from Brooklyn who grew up as a radio junkie.
“When I think about the fact that six of the former winners are announcers who I grew up listening to and idolizing, several others I consider to be friends and some of them are mentors, it’s just mindboggling to me that I am now being placed in the same category as them,” he added. “To come from being a minor league hockey announcer when I got this job and to arrive at this level of recognition … To be perfectly honest, I’m very, very proud. And I’m grateful beyond words for having the chance to do this for a living and for being honored in this way.”
The Frick Award was presented to Nadel in Cooperstown at the Awards Presentation on Saturday, July 26, as part of Hall of Fame Weekend 2014.
According to Nadel, that coming July would be the fifth time he has had the opportunity to visit the spiritual home of baseball.
“The first time I went I was in summer camp, I think it was in 1963 or 1964, and they took us for the Hall of Fame Game on a field trip. I was 12 years old. And we went the following year, too,” Nadel recalled. “And then I’ve also been back a couple times with the Rangers when they played in the Hall of Fame Game.
“I always wanted more time to go through it and I’m hoping this time I’ll be able to take a couple of games off and get there a little early and really spend some time there and soak it in.”
A Frick Award finalist the previous three years, Nadel attempted but failed in his efforts not to think too much on the possible Frick honor this time.
“I tried to not put much thought into it but I wasn’t too successful at that. I started thinking seriously about it, I guess, when I got named a finalist again,” Nadel said. “When I saw that I got a call form Oneonta, New York (located 20 minutes from Cooperstown), it was going to be good news. And then when (Hall of Fame President) Jeff Idelson introduced himself to me I knew it was. They don’t call you when you lose, as I found out the previous three years.
“They had told me that if I won I’d get a call between 8:15 and 8:30, so I set my alarm for 8 o’clock just in case, which as it turns out, I didn’t need to do because I really didn’t sleep very much.”
With the Idelson call came the knowledge that he will be joining an elite fraternity whose members are considered the National Pastime’s greatest broadcasters. In fact, many of these giants of the industry were inspirations for Nadel while growing up in Brooklyn.
“First, I loved listening to Mel Allen and Red Barber doing Yankee games. And then when the Mets started in 1962, Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy. And interesting enough, Bob Wolff was one of my heroes because he was doing the Knicks on TV when I was growing up. Jerry Coleman was added to the Yankee crew in the early 1960s, and I loved him,” Nadel said. “And I imagine Vin Scully got in through osmosis my first couple of years before the Dodgers moved, although I don’t remember listening to him because they moved when I was seven.
“I wanted to do what those guys did. I wanted to give people the feeling that they were my friends. I really felt those guys were my friend and I looked forward to joining them every night,” he added. “I asked my dad if they got paid for a living, and he told me they did, and I said, ‘Well, I want to do that.’ That came about the age of seven or eight. And ever since then I’ve really tried to focus on doing this.”
2014 Ford C. Frick Award winner Eric Nadel. (Texas Rangers)