Frick nominee Nadel loves life on radio
Longtime Rangers broadcaster among 10 finalists for award
ARLINGTON -- After 32 years as a broadcaster for the Rangers, there is one thing that means for Eric Nadel."It means I somehow managed to not get fired, despite having worked for a long string of team owners and executives, not to mention radio station managers," Nadel said last week. Really? "Seriously, it means I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to connect to our fans and develop a long lasting relationship that hopefully has made them very comfortable with me," Nadel said. That does appear to be the case. After more than three decades behind the microphone for the Rangers, Nadel has long established himself as an institution, a voice familiar to baseball fans in North Texas and beyond. He has been the one saving constant in a franchise where the only constant is continuous change. Like all great baseball broadcasters, his voice is synonymous with Rangers baseball from the moment fans hear "Hello everybody, this is Eric Nadel," to his signature home run call, "That ball is history!" But his talent and ability has spread far beyond the Rangers' market and he is recognized all across baseball as one of the premier broadcasters of the national pastime. His list of honors is substantial, and now he is up for his profession's highest honor. Nadel is one of 10 nominees for the coveted 2011 Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting. "It's an incredible honor, just to be mentioned in the company of my broadcast idols who have won this award, and the other 2010 nominees," Nadel said. "It's a wonderful validation of the quality of my work and I am very flattered and grateful. The award represents being judged to be excellent by the very best in the business, and those who know the most about what makes a good baseball broadcaster."
The other nominees are Rene Cardenas, Tom Cheek, Dizzy Dean, Jacques Doucet, Bill King, Ned Martin, Tim McCarver, Graham McNamee and Dave Van Horne. Nadel and Van Horne, who has spent 42 years with the Expos and the Marlins, are the only two nominees still broadcasting with a club.The winner of the 2011 Frick Award will be announced on Dec. 7 at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla., and honored during Hall of Fame Weekend, July 22-25, 2011, in Cooperstown, N.Y. Nadel just finished his 32nd season with the Rangers while getting to broadcast his first World Series. Like everybody else associated with the Rangers, he had a season to remember. "This season was an absolute joy," Nadel said. "Getting to call the most successful season in franchise history, and believing all along that the people who were getting the job done on and off the field are genuinely likeable individuals of high character and integrity. "Before every postseason home game, I spent some time in the stands with my family and friends, and it was evident how hungry our fans were to reach the World Series, and it was tremendously gratifying to see them get that satisfaction." He has had many great moments along the way. He is a five-time winner of the Texas Sportscaster of the Year and a two-time winner of The Associated Press' best play-by-play broadcaster in Texas. "Calling Nolan Ryan's 5,000th strikeout was the first really big call I ever got to make, and it turned into a national event, and one that has remained an important part of baseball history," Nadel said. "The Rangers' clinching their first division title in 1996 was very memorable, even though it came as a result of a Seattle loss, rather than a Rangers win. But now, nothing compares to the thrill of calling the final out of the Ranger's Game 6 clinching win over the Yankees in the ALCS this year to win the AL pennant." Nadel is a graduate of Brown University who began his career broadcasting Minor League hockey in Muskegon (Mich.), Oklahoma City and Dallas. He also broadcast for the Dallas Diamonds of the Women's Professional Basketball League before joining the Rangers in 1979. "I am proud that I got this job without having ever broadcast a baseball game -- although I was an avid fan, player and listener my whole life -- and managed to learn on the job to perform at a level that is now being recognized as outstanding," Nadel said. "I also take pride in having learned Spanish along the way so that I can communicate better with Latino players and understand more about their cultures." Nadel though certainly was well-versed in the baseball culture before being hired by the Rangers. He grew up as a baseball fan in Brooklyn and spent his time listening to some of the great broadcasters of the game. "I grew up in New York listening first to Yankee announcers Mel Allen, Red Barber, Phil Rizzuto and Jerry Coleman, who really made me feel that they were my friends," Nadel said. "The Mets' announcers, Lindsay Nelson, Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner, made me realize that baseball announcers could still have fun and be the voices of hope, even though their team stunk." One of Nadel's first partners with the Rangers was Jon Miller, who did two years in Texas at the beginning of a long and distinguished broadcasting career that ultimately led him to winning the 2010 Ford C. Frick Award. "I was very lucky to have Jon Miller as one of my first broadcast partners with the Rangers, as he graciously taught me many of the intricacies of day by day baseball broadcasting, including how to use your personality on the air," Nadel said. Nadel spent his first three years in Texas doing both radio and television. Then in 1982, he was teamed with Mark Holtz on the radio and that's really where it all began. Holtz and Nadel teamed together for 13 years and formed the almost perfect partnership that led them to being together for 13 years. Holtz, who passed away in 1997, was the lead broadcaster, but it is the longest continuous pairing of two broadcasters together -- radio or television -- in Rangers history. "Mark, with his infectious joy in the job, turned out to be the perfect partner for me, as I was still developing my craft," Nadel said. "We had a special chemistry that was there from the start. I would never have gotten this far without the chance to work with him. He was a great professional, but more than willing to share the mike and have the kind of two-man broadcast team that allowed me to thrive." Holtz moved to television in 1995, allowing Nadel to take over as the lead on the radio broadcasts. He remains on the radio, having shown no inclination to move to television. The Rangers are looking for a lead television broadcaster but Nadel, after all these years, remains content on the radio. "On radio, my job every night is to paint the word pictures for fans who can't watch the game," Nadel said. "To me, that type of description is the most satisfying part of the job. I have near total freedom to talk about whatever I want, when I want to, without being tied to what is on the TV monitor, or what the director or producer need me to talk about. And I don't have to wear a jacket and tie ... or makeup." Nadel's goal each night when he leaves his wife Jeannie and their dog Nemo is simple. "It's to give the listeners the best experience of that night's game that they could possibly have without being at the game," Nadel said. "All the detail necessary for them to 'see' in their mind what they would see if they were sitting in my seat or in the stands. "And at the same time, I want them to be informed about the players, and about the game strategy through my analysis. And through all of this, I want them to be totally entertained. I doubt I hit all those targets every night, but I do my best every night." Being nominated for the Ford C. Frick Award suggests after 32 years that Nadel succeeds at that every night.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.