Nadel elated as Hall recognizes his stellar career
Rangers' play-by-play voice 2014 recipient of Ford C. Frick Award
ARLINGTON -- Rangers play-by-play voice Eric Nadel admitted there's competition for the greatest moment of his life after being selected Wednesday as the 2014 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in baseball broadcasting.
The always understated Nadel was teary-eyed and elated at the same time Wednesday as he spoke about being honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame. The most emotional moment of Nadel's career -- and maybe his life -- was his pennant-winning strikeout call of Alex Rodriguez when the Rangers beat the New York Yankees in Game 6 of the 2010 American League Championship Series.
But the news Nadel received Wednesday morning that he's headed to Cooperstown alongside his boyhood idols Mel Allen and Red Barber -- the first two winners of the Frick Award -- might trump everything. Nadel will be recognized on Saturday, July 26, as part of the Hall of Fame Weekend 2014. The Rangers will have a ceremony for Nadel during their series with the Angels from July 10-13.
"I'm on a cloud nine right now," Nadel said with former and current partners Steve Busby, Tom Grieve and Matt Hicks in the room to share the moment with him.
Nadel has seen it all in 35 years broadcasting Rangers baseball, "The Soundtrack of a Texas Summer," as emcee and Rangers Ballpark announcer Chuck Morgan said Wednesday.
Nadel survived the futile seasons of the 1980s and the following decade before the Rangers finally won their first division title in 1996. There were two more postseasons in '98 and '99, when the club was swept twice in the AL Division Series by the Yankees.
There was another decade of suffering before the Rangers won the AL West in 2010, when they recorded their first playoff series win in the ALDS against the Rays. That was followed up by the ALCS and the Yankees, which the Rangers won in six games when closer Neftali Feliz fanned A-Rod to end the game.
Nadel's play-by-play call still resonates for Rangers fans: "Strike three called, the Rangers are going to the World Series."
And him, too.
"The way the ballpark exploded when A-Rod struck out, I was overcome with emotion. I couldn't talk for 40 seconds," Nadel said. "I don't think I could have talked. I was all choked up and teary-eyed. That's way ahead of everything else."
There have been other moments. Like calling Hall of Famer and Texas legend Nolan Ryan's 5,000th strikeout on Aug. 22, 1989. It was a touch of luck, as Nadel was only doing play-by-play in the middle innings with then partner Mark Holtz. Ryan's strikeout of Rickey Henderson just happened to fall during his innings.
Nadel's call was used with the video highlights since the game was not televised locally, so Nadel's mother was able to hear it on the "Today" show the next morning.
Nadel's patented home run call -- "That ball is history" -- also has endeared him to Rangers fans. Nadel described Wednesday how it was an accident that every home run since that first season in 1979 has been delivered with that home run call.
Johnny Grubb hit what looked to Nadel like a pop fly down the left-field line that continued to carry at Seattle's Kingdome. As it neared the left-field wall and the foul pole, Nadel was left wondering if it was going to be foul or caught.
"I was going to say, 'That ball is foul or caught,'" Nadel said. "It went over and I said, "That ball is history.' When I got back home, my boss at the time, Roy Park, said he liked the home run call, so I stuck with it."
Nadel is respected by his peers for his preparation and his dedication. His managers' shows, whether they are with Ron Washington or were with Buck Showalter or Johnny Oates, have been must listens, because Nadel always asks the tough questions, the strategy ones fans want to know about after games.
"My responsibility is to get information for the listeners, to ask the questions they want to ask," Nadel said.
Nadel also did "A Page From Baseball's Past" during the pregame show for three decades, something he described as an offseason job because of all the research.
"It's a logical award for someone that deserves it," Grieve said. "He has put so much into his job. I've often said to myself, 'No matter how hard I try to do my job, there's no way I could put as much into it as he does.'"
Nadel is respected by former players such as Grieve and Busby because of his knowledge of the game. No one knows Major League Baseball's rulebook as well as Nadel, a Brown University graduate. And he's as good as it gets describing a game, Busby said.
"He's understated," said Busby, the Rangers' current television voice. "He's a great broadcaster. He has the ability that every great broadcaster has, and that's to make people feel like they are a part of the scene that he is describing."
The son of a dentist, Nadel grew up in Brooklyn at 27th and Flatbush as a radio junkie listening to Barber (Dodgers) and Allen (Yankees). Nadel counts Jerry Coleman, Lindsey Nelson, Bob Murphy and Bob Wolff as influences. All of them have won the Frick Award.
"Those were the guys I was listening to when I asked my dad if they were getting paid," Nadel said.
If only his father and Holtz had been with him on Wednesday. The toughest game Nadel has called was when Holtz died after a long battle with leukemia on Sept. 7, 1997. The Rangers were in Toronto and Nadel's partner at the time, legendary Dallas Cowboys voice Brad Sham, was doing a Sunday night NFL game.
Nadel was alone on the radio, one of the few times he's done a game by himself.
"I got a call about 5 a.m. from Mark's son-in-law, Jeff Kuster, that Mark had died and I had to get ready to do a game at 1 o'clock that afternoon," Nadel said. "Fortunately, Roger Clemens shut the Rangers out in about two hours that day. It turned out to be an easy game to do but under terrible circumstances. I don't think I had a smile in my voice that day."
Nadel had a big smile in his voice -- and on his face -- on Wednesday.
Todd Wills is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.