Frattare headlines Frick hopefuls
Veteran announcer joined Pirates broadcast team in 1976
PITTSBURGH -- In Pittsburgh, players have come and gone with relative frequency. Management teams have been transient as well. In other words, finding any fixtures within the Pirates franchise would be a challenge.
Noted Pirates broadcaster Lanny Frattare, however, certainly bucks that trend. And because of that, many would consider him the face of this franchise due to his long tenure behind the microphone. If nothing else, Frattare has certainly been "the Voice of the Pirates."
His voice has brought up the last two generations of Pirates fans, and now in his 33rd year of calling Bucs games, Frattare trails only two other baseball broadcasters in terms of number of years behind the microphone.
Now, Frattare is among four current Pirates broadcasters who are eligible for the prestigious Ford C. Frick Award, an honor that is presented annually to a broadcaster for "major contributions to baseball."
Joining Frattare as a 2009 nominee are Steve Blass, Greg Brown and Bob Walk. Former Pirates broadcasters Al Helfer, Jim Rooker, Rosey Roswell, John Sanders and Jim Woods are also among those on the ballot this year.
Active or retired broadcasters with at least 10 years of continuous Major League service with a club, network, or combination of the two are eligible for the yearly award.
Balloting for the 2009 Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence begins Sept. 1 with the top three vote getters by the fans automatically qualifying for the 10-member ballot that will be formulated by a 20-member committee and announced Oct. 6. The winner will be announced Dec. 9 at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas and will receive the award during the induction ceremony July 26, 2009, at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Fans may vote for up to three of their favorites among 210 broadcasters eligible in balloting conducted exclusively on the Hall's Web site, baseballhalloffame.org , which will carry biographical sketches of each candidate. Fans can vote up to once a day throughout September. Results will be announced when voting concludes Sept. 30. There will be no updates provided during the voting period.Dave Niehaus, the long-time voice of the Seattle Mariners, was the recipient at the 2008 induction in July, which marked the 30th anniversary of the award that was first presented to legendary figures Mel Allen and Red Barber. The award was named for the late broadcaster, National League President, Commissioner and Hall of Famer. Frick was a driving force behind the creation of the Hall of Fame and helped foster the relationship between radio and the game of baseball. The three broadcasters named to the ballot last year through online voting were the Cincinnati Reds' Joe Nuxhall, the Oakland Athletics' Bill King and Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan of "Sunday Night Baseball." The other nominees selected by the 20-member committee were former "Game of the Week" broadcasters Dizzy Dean and Tony Kubek; play-by-play voices Tom Cheek (Toronto Blue Jays), Ken Coleman (Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox), Dave Van Horne (Montreal Expos, Florida Marlins) and broadcasting legend Graham McNamee (NBC), who called 12 World Series, beginning in 1923.
The Pirates franchise has never had anyone spend more years behind the microphone calling games than Frattare. Joining the organization in 1976, he earned that distinction when he passed Bob Prince in 2004, following his 29th year calling Bucs games. Prince, known affectionately by fans as "The Gunner," was named the recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award in 1986.
Only Cardinals radio broadcaster Mike Shannon has been broadcasting games for his current team for more years than Frattare has called games in Pittsburgh.
After having spent 10 seasons as a pitcher for the Pirates, Blass joined the organization's broadcast team in 1983. He became a fixture on Pirates radio three years later. Combining both his playing and broadcasting tenures in Pittsburgh, Blass has now been associated with the Pirates organization for 45 years. Blass, the recipient of the Pride of the Pirates Award for a lifetime of service to the franchise in 2002, is arguably best known for leading the Pirates to their fourth world championship with complete-game wins in Games No. 3 and 7 of the 1971 World Series.
Play-by-play announcer Brown is finishing his 15th season calling games for the Pirates. Brown joined the organization following stints as a broadcaster for the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League, and after spending five years doing play-by-play for the Buffalo Bisons of the American Association. He is one of just six Pirates broadcasters to have spent at least 14 years calling Pirates games on the radio.
Walk joins Brown as one of those six. Like Brown, the 2008 season is Walk's 15th year behind the microphone. Prior to joining the Pittsburgh broadcast team, Walk put together a 14-year Major League playing career as a right-handed pitcher. Ten of those seasons came in a Pirates uniform, where Walk compiled a cumulative 82-61 record.
Helfer, who passed away in May 1975, spent the first two of his 23 years calling Major League games with Pittsburgh. As a play-by-play announcer, Helfer sat behind the microphone during the 1933 and 1934 seasons. The man nicknamed "Mr. Radio Baseball" called 14 no-hitters in his career and is said to have formed the first radio play-by-play team, when he and Red Barber worked alongside each other.
Rooker spent 13 seasons calling games for the Pirates, beginning in 1981, the year following his retirement as a player. While his performance on the mound in Game 5 of the 1979 World Series is widely remembered around Pittsburgh, so is a promise Rooker made -- and fulfilled -- in 1989.
After the Pirates took a 10-0 lead over the Phillies in a game played at the old Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, Rooker made the ill-advised promise that "if we lose this game, I'll walk home." The Pirates did end up losing, but Rooker turned his promise into a charity opportunity, creating "Rook's Unintentional Walk" later that year. The "Walk" spanned the 315 miles from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and raised $40,000 for charity.
Rosewell spent the entirety of his 19-year broadcasting career with the Pirates, from 1936-54. His notoriety began when he was named the Pirates' "most faithful fan" after the team claimed the 1925 World Series championship. He channeled that passion into a career behind the microphone, where he used colorful phrases, such as calling a strikeout pitch a "dipsy-dodle" and yelling "raise the window, Aunt Minnie, here she comes" when a home run was hit.
A fixture behind the microphone for 25 seasons, Sanders spent the first nine of those (1982-90) in Pittsburgh. Sanders served as the play-by-play announcer on KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh during that time before joining the Cleveland Indians broadcast team in 1991.
For Woods, the Pirates were the third stop in a career that would take him behind the microphone for six different Major League teams. Pittsburgh also proved to be his longest stop. Spending 12 seasons (1958-69) with the Pirates, "the Possum" spent a total of 31 years calling Major League games.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.