* Before he was hired by the Texas Rangers, Eric Nadel, this year's Ford C. Frick award winner, was the broadcaster and P.R. director of the Dallas Black Hawks, a Maple Leaf farm team ... and was one interviewed by Leafs owner Harold Ballard. ....
By Bob Elliott
Eric Nadel has a lengthy resume.
He attended Midwood High in Brooklyn, graduated from Brown University, was the voice of the Texas Rangers for 35 years and on Saturday he steps to the microphone as the 2014 winner of the Ford C. Frick award for broadcasting excellence.
Elegant writer Roger Angell of the New Yorker magazine spruces up the list of J.G. Taylor Spink award winners, as he too is honoured Saturday afternoon at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown.
Plenty of hits, wins and World Series rings, yet no one can match Nadel for one line on his resume:
“Purchased a video camera for coach Roger Neilson.”
Neilson was ahead of his time coaching the Dallas Black Hawks in the Central Hockey League in 1976–1977, a shared farm team of the Maple Leafs and the Black Hawks, while Nadel was the radio voice and P.R. director. It was the team’s first year in Dallas after operating the season before as the Oklahoma City Blazers, where Nadel also worked.
“Roger slept only a few hours each night,” said Nadel when the Rangers were at Rogers Centre on the weekend. “He’d stay up all night and by the time the team came in next morning he’d broken down all the giveaways, face-offs, scoring chances and hits. At the time these were brand new stats.”
Nadel began his announcing career with the 1972-73 Muskegon Mohawks. Broadcasting the Leafs farm names like Mike Palmateer, Jack Valiquette, John Anderson, Bruce Boudreau, Blaine Stoughton, Tiger Williams, Claire Alexander and current Leafs coach Randy Carlyle rolled off his tongue.
The Leafs’ Jim Gregory was impressed with Nadel long before Texas ball fans along the Rangers network in Muskogee, Shreveport, Abilene, Lubbock and Fort Worth.
The Leafs needed someone to run the P.R. department in 1976 after Howard Starkman fled to the Blue Jays. So, Nadel flew into Toronto on July 4 for a meeting with Leafs owner Harold Ballard at Maple Leaf Gardens.
He waited inside as Johnny Bower and Gerry McNamara passed through before he was called in to be interviewed by Ballard.
“It was more like an apartment than an office, he had a big white bear rug on the floor,” Nadel said. “We had a chit chat, he said ‘Jim Gregory tells me I need someone and says you are the right guy for the job.’
“Then he said, ‘Let me tell you, I don’t need a P.R. guy. When the New York Yankees come to town, I’ll do something to make sure we’re the lead story in the newspapers and not the Blue Jays. I can knock the Blue Jays off the front page any time I want.’”
Ballard had a counter offer for Nadel which would allow him to continue broadcasting: he could be the voice of the Toronto Marlies junior games -- if he put together a network and sold time to the sponsors.
Gord Stellick was hired, later becoming GM, a job Nadel might have had in Ballard’s world.
Nadel earned the highest point total voting conducted by the Frick award committee, who voted Tom Cheek as the 2013 winner. He was hired by the Rangers in 1979 and is still there.
The respect Nadel has amongst Rangers people is evidenced by former Rangers president Nolan Ryan making his first Cooperstown appearance this weekend since 1999 -- the year Ryan was inducted, along with Orlando Cepeda, Robin Yount and George Brett.
He was at the mike to call the Ryan’s 5,000th career strikeout on Aug. 22, 1989, the Hall of Fame right-hander’s other mound exploits, the Rangers’ six playoff berths and two American League pennants since 1996, including 2011 when David Freese hit a 1-2 pitch from Neftali Feliz for a game-tying triple with the Rangers a strike away from winning their first World Series.
Nadel joined the Rangers in 1979, first teaming with Mark Holtz on Rangers radio from 1982-94 and took over as the team’s lead radio voice in 1995. Like all Frick winners he has The Voice and he can tell a story.
My favorite Nadel story goes back to the 1970s when he was in the press box -- not a broadcast booth -- doing a Dallas Hawks game at the Fair Park Coliseum an old rodeo building -- alongside Tulsa Oilers broadcaster Hal O’Halloran.
“Like a lot of announcers Hal was very partial to the home team,” said Nadel. “He implied some of the Dallas players were delivering cheap shots.”
Defenceman Dave Logan, a Hawks farmhand, wasn’t playing and was listening in the press box.
“Logan took exception to Hal’s comments and grabbed Hal by his olive green banlon shirt, Hal breathlessley told his listeners ‘I’m ... being ... a-TACK-ed!’
“The press box was only 16 feet high at the end of the rink, so fans were watching.”
Security was called and broadcast order was restored.
About 50 pals from grade school and high school will be there, including Marty Gros “a friend from the time you could have a best friend,” from the Flatbush area of Brooklyn will be there.
His signature home run call “That ball is history!” is a well known in San Angelo, Amarillo and Tyler as “there she goes,” or “up, up and away” are in Canada.