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Hall of Fame Season, Part 2
Finalists for the Ford C. Frick Award
Last week, when I reviewed the ballot for the Hall of Fame’s Eras Committee, I noted that they also announced the finalists for the Ford C. Frick Award, given annually to a distinguished radio or television announcer. Today, I’ll go over the finalists and give my choice for who I think should win.
Before getting there, I’d like to note that some writers have called for the Hall of Fame to change the name of this award. The reasons usually note that Ford Frick was more of a writer than an announcer before he went into the administration side of baseball as president of the National League and then commissioner. They feel a career announcer, like Vin Scully, should be honored by having the award named for him. All of that is true, and I agree with every word.
In addition to those perfectly fine reasons, I’d like to note that the research for my book (coming to you next year from McFarland Books) has given me a very clear sense of the role Frick played in the segregation of baseball and the resistance of the leadership of baseball to admitting Black players into the major leagues. Without spoiling anything from the book, let’s just say Frick didn’t cover himself in glory during those days, and that the few steps he took in support of integration had much more to do with public relations and the finances of team owners than it did with social justice. In case the Hall of Fame needed any additional reasons to rename this award, there are plenty.
On to the ten finalists, and how they are described in the Hall of Fame’s announcement:
Joe Buck - Called games for Fox Sports for 26 seasons as the network’s lead baseball announcer while calling games for the Cardinals for 17 seasons, broadcasting 24 World Series along the way.
Joe Castiglione - Has spent 44 years calling big league games, the last 41 as the Red Sox’s lead radio voice.
Gary Cohen - Has spent the last 35 years with the Mets, and currently serves as the team’s TV play-by-play voice on SNY.
Jacques Doucet - Spent 33 years broadcasting for the Expos as the play-by-play radio voice on their French network (1969-2004), and he returned to the booth in 2012 as the Blue Jays’ French-speaking TV voice.
Tom Hamilton - Has called Guardians games on radio for 34 seasons, including the team’s three World Series appearances in that span.
Ernie Johnson Sr. - called Braves games for 35 seasons from 1962-91 and from 1995-99 following nine seasons as a big league pitcher that included a World Series ring with the 1957 Braves.
Ken Korach - Has been heard on Athletics’ radio for the last 28 years following a four-year stint with the White Sox, serving as Oakland’s lead radio voice for the last 18 seasons.
Mike Krukow - Has called games on television for the Giants for the last 33 seasons, including the last 28 on the radio following a 14-year pitching career with the Cubs, Phillies and Giants.
Duane Kuiper - Has called games for 38 seasons, including 37 with the Giants on both radio and TV following 12 seasons with Cleveland and San Francisco as a second baseman.
Dan Shulman - Called games for Toronto Blue Jays from 1995-2001 before returning in 2016 to call games for Sportsnet. He joined ESPN in 1995 as a play-by-play commentator for baseball and college basketball and was the voice of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball package from 2011-17.
I’m not going to say anything to denigrate any of these guys, in part because I don’t know enough about most of them to comment. They’ve been nominated, and I presume they are all worthy nominees.
That said, I think we can narrow down the list a bit by applying a pretty simple litmus test: Have they been announcing at least as long as Vin Scully had been at the time he won the Frick Award in 1982? At that time, Scully had been announcing for 32 years. He is pretty much unanimously considered the greatest baseball announcer in history. Since, by that definition, none of these guys are better than Scully, then there’s no way any of them could possibly deserve the award in less time than it took Scully to receive it.
That seems like a fair rule, and it immediately eliminates Buck, Korach and Schulman. For me, it also eliminates Hamilton, Cohen and Johnson, because at 34 or 35 years, I simply don’t see them having anywhere near the résumé of Scully and therefore shouldn’t have anywhere near the same timeframe for receiving the highest honor a baseball announcer can receive.
Which leaves us with four guys left in the running for the award. Two of them, Krukow and Kuiper, are inextricably intertwined, in my view, because they are broadcasting partners for the Giants. Who’s to say if Kuiper is a good as he is without Krukow, and vice versa? Would they even be considered separately? We really don’t have any way of knowing, and since there’s only one award to give, I don’t see how we can honor one of them and not the other.
So it’s Castiglione and Doucet. Either of them winning would be fine. In fact, given the number of perfectly worthy candidates across all of baseball, I don’t see any reason why multiple winners shouldn’t be honored each year. It would allow for broader representation in the Hall of the beloved voices of so many franchises, and would allow for great broadcasting teams, like Kuiper and Krukow, to both be honored.
Alas, that’s not how it works, so I’m going to go with Castiglione.
I’m biased, as a Red Sox fan, and freely admit that. But truthfully I’ve rarely listened to Castiglione call any games. His work for the team started after I moved away from the Boston area, and by the time I was able to tune in to Sox games from a distance it was by watching them through the MLB Extra Innings package on television, not by listening to Castiglione on their radio broadcast.
No, my main reason for picking Castiglione is twofold:
First, aside from his initial couple of years broadcasting, he’s been with just one team, while Doucet split time between two. Granted, that wasn’t Doucet’s fault, as the Expos left him behind for Washington, but having just the one fan base you’re speaking to all the time, making connections between that team and its fans for a couple of generations, means more in my opinion. Plus, Boston is a tough media market to stick in, and doing so for over 40 years means Castiglione had to make a real connection with those fans.
Second, Castiglione was there for so many critical moments not only in Red Sox history but in baseball history, too. The 1986 World Series with the ball going between Buckner’s legs. The 2004 World Series where Boston broke their 86-year drought. The game after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. Four total world championships called. All of the marathon games against the Yankees. It’s an impressive list.
In a perfect world, both Castiglione and Doucet could be honored, and next year Krukow and Kuiper could receive it together. But we don’t live in that world, so my Pick for the Frick in 2024 is Joe Castiglione.
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