Tuesday, November 22, 2005

DIAMONDS & HORSEHIDE: Golden Voices

I'm deeply fascinated with the Baseball Hall of Fame. The process whereby the greatest figures in the game are selected is endlessly fascinating to me. Truth be told, the whole process of anointing greatness intrigues me. I just get a little more involved with the baseball version than I do with, say, the Agricultural Hall of Fame. (Although I'll bet that's pretty interesting, too.)

As a proud member of the Newman Smith High School Debate Hall of Fame, I think I have a certain appreciation for how significant these honors can be.

November is a busy month for Cooperstown. The offical 2006 ballot will be announced in the next couple weeks (although they've already confirmed that Pete Rose won't be on it, so adjust your selections accordingly), and yesterday they came out with a ballot of candidates from the Negro Leagues who will be chosen by a special committee. I'll get to those lists in coming weeks, but for now, my attention is on the only category where everybody -- you and I, included -- get a say.

Along with the plaques to actual inductees, the Hall of Fame gives awards for lifetime achievement in baseball writing and baseball broadcasting. They're sometimes referred to as being in separate wings of the Hall, but really, they just get a scroll and membership in the Veterans' Committee. Writers receive something called the J. G. Taylor Spink Award, while broadcasters get the Ford C. Frick Award. And that's where we come in.

The people who decide on the Frick Award have a list of ten names to choose from. Some special committee picks seven names, but the last three are chosen by a public vote. And the public has a lot to choose from, as you will see here:

Vote for the Ford C. Frick Award

That's a lot of flippin' names. To be honest, I think anyone who has ever sat behind a microphone at a baseball game is on that list. I mean, Norm Hitzges? Hall of Famer? Seriously?

I kind of feel like anyone who already is an actual member of the Hall of Fame should not be eligible to win the broadcasting award. Isn't Dizzy Dean happy with the honor he has? Especially considering he's dead? Ooo, okay, bad example. Substitute Ralph Kiner. Doesn't Ralph have enough? And frankly, most of the former players are not exactly representative of the pinnacle of the sports broadcasting profession. A few have won, like Joe Garagiola and Bob Uecker. But this is an award primarily for broadcasters. So that's how I vote.

You get to vote once a day through the month of November, and each time I vote, I always check off the names of Mark Holtz and Skip Caray.

Holtz was the play-by-play man for the Texas Rangers the entire time I lived in Carrollton, and was a consummate professional. He had a deep voice, with the tiniest hint of a twang to convince you that he was a Texas announcer and not just some hack they imported from out of state. He played off well with his color man, Eric Nadel (who I'm haven't voted for). It's a sentimental choice, compounded by the fact that he died a few years ago. He's the reason I don't have a rule against giving the award posthumously. He has never made the final 10.

Skip Caray is better known here in Chicago as Harry Caray's son, or sometimes as Chip Caray's dad which is a shame. (Chip Caray is on the list, too. The hell?) I know him as the long-time voice of the Atlanta Braves, and like most of the country, I got introduced to his work when WTBS went national. I know many baseball purists complain about him, which I don't get. Part of his appeal is that he doesn't sound like anybody else. His voice is sort of like a poorly-tuned horn. It stays at an unusually high-pitch, which makes him sound perpetually surprised. That's why his great call of the 1991 NLCS ("Slide, Sid!") is so remarkable, because you don't think he can get more excited, and then he does. This is another sentimental choice. He has also never made the final 10.

I don't have a regular choice for my third slot. For a while, I voted for announcers with long, respected careers, like Ken Coleman or Dave Niehaus. But they always make the final 10, so they don't really need my help. So lately, I've been voting for Jon Miller, who is quite active and certainly doesn't need a lifetime achievement award. But he's so good at his job, it seems like it would be the right encouragement to the TV networks to show them what a good announcer should sound like. You dig, Fox? Miller good. Buck-McCarver-Piniella bad.

Ugh. Piniella. Holy cow.

1 comments:

Paul Winston said...

You're on the Newman Smith Debate Hall of Fame? Did you make your opponents cry? Did they cower in the corner at the mere thought of opposing you?

Fascinating