Pitchers and catchers for the Texas Rangers start spring training tomorrow in Surprise, Ariz. The man who's been their radio voice for 35 years, Eric Nadel, will join them soon.
But before he goes, Nadel stopped by KERA to talk about about how he got into the game, his favorite Rangers moment and the Ford Frick Award he'll collect in July for being baseball's best announcer. (And don't miss his dream musical date in this extended version of the radio interview.)
Interview highlights: Eric Nadel on...
…"That ball is history," his signature home run call: “It’s something I kind of concocted in the six-month period before I did my first game for the Rangers. ... People then were saying 'I’m history' when they were leaving a party or something like that. I thought it might work for a home run, and it turns out it worked pretty well.”
…The power of description: “To me, that’s the most important part of the job. Now that’s the beauty of radio, is painting the word picture. You have a better picture that you’re in the ballpark with me, and that’s what I’m shooting for.”
…Receiving the Ford Frick Award: “It’s completely mind-blowing for me. [Announcers] Mel Allen and Red Barber were the initial reason I got into this. I grew up in New York. We used to listen to Yankee games in the car. We were stopped at a light one day. I asked my dad whether those guys were getting paid. And he said, ‘Yeah, that’s their job.’ My dad was a dentist. I said, 'OK, you pull teeth, you fill cavities; they go to Yankee Stadium. Are you kidding me?' I said, 'Well, I like their deal better than yours.’”
…What brought him to Texas: “I went to Brown University, and six years later I was in Dallas as the voice of the Dallas Blackhawks of the Central Hockey League. The Rangers called me up and they were looking to hire a young announcer who they could kind of groom. They liked the way I did hockey and asked if I’d ever done baseball. So, of course, I did what anybody would, I lied and told them that I had.”
…How long he thought he’d last: “I didn’t imagine that I would last more than a year or two, because I stunk, and it took a long time before I settled down enough and relaxed enough that it was even listenable.”
…His favorite moment as a broadcaster: “The moment the Rangers won their first American League pennant. Neftali Feliz struck out A-Rod of all people, the stadium exploded in euphoria, cannons of confetti, and it was just an absolutely breathtaking moment. I still think that that’s the most emotional moment, not just in my baseball career, of my life.”
…His role as a Rangers employee who also represents the fan: “It is my job to put the best reasonable positive spin on things, because if I can’t have hope, how can the average fan?”
…The musician he’d most like to meet: “Bruuuuuuce [Springsteen]. The boss is my guy. I’ve probably seen him in concert 20 times. I just respect everything he does."