Murcer tops Yankees' Frick nominees
Cancer survivor joins other broadcasters up for annual honor
NEW YORK -- There were louder cheers at Yankee Stadium this season, perhaps, but none more heart-felt.
Each time a video of Bobby Murcer -- the on-field hero of a generation, a longtime Yankees broadcaster and, now, a cancer survivor -- popped up on the video board in right-center field, fans turned toward the press level behind home plate and applauded.
Murcer is a candidate for this year's Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually to a broadcaster by the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
After being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor on Christmas Eve 2006, Murcer underwent six weeks of chemotherapy treatments at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, vowing that he would return to the broadcast booth.
"That's what I love to do, and nothing's going to stop me from doing that," Murcer said.
Indeed, Murcer made it back for Opening Day, calling one inning of the Yankees' game against the Devil Rays and drawing a standing ovation from the crowd of 55,301. The warm reception was just one in a sequence that filled Murcer's mailbox with greetings and messages of hope, eventually spurring him to rejoin the YES Network broadcast team.
"I wish I had words to describe it," Murcer said. "During these times, that really sustains you. It really gives you an uplift; you feel good. You know people are behind you and they're praying for you all over the world. How much better can it be than that?"
The Ford C. Frick Award is presented annually to a broadcaster for "major contributions to baseball." The award -- named after the late broadcaster, National League president, Commissioner and Hall of Famer -- has been presented annually since 1978. Frick was a driving force behind the creation of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and he helped foster the relationship between radio and the game of baseball.
The Ford C. Frick Award is presented annually during the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Each award recipient is presented with calligraphy of the award during the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and is recognized in the "Scribes & Mikemen" exhibit in the Library of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The 2007 recipient was longtime Royals broadcaster Denny Matthews.
Several other current or former Yankees broadcasters are nominated to be finalists for the 2008 Frick Award, including play-by-play men Michael Kay and John Sterling.
Jim Kaat and Ken Singleton are also among the broadcasters eligible to be the 10 finalists for the award. The former three-man team of Phil Rizzuto, Bill White and Frank Messer are also nominated, as is Tony Kubek.
Sterling, whose "Theeee Yankees win" call has become a staple of Yankees radio broadcasts for more than a decade, has been broadcasting baseball for 25 years, the last 19 with the Bronx Bombers. Sterling, who also hosts the YES Network's "Yankeeography" series, has not missed a Yankees game since he started with the club in 1989.
Kay just completed his sixth season as the TV play-by-play voice of the Yankees, having spent the previous 10 seasons as Sterling's partner on the radio. Kay also hosts "CenterStage," an interview series on the YES Network.
Kaat was considered one of the finest baseball analysts in the country, broadcasting for the Twins, Braves and Yankees over the past 20 years. Kaat, who had an illustrious playing career, served as an analyst for the Yankees from 1995-2006, watching New York win four World Series titles in the process.
Singleton has been broadcasting for 23 years, the last 11 in New York as an analyst on Yankees telecasts. In 1996 and '97, Singleton was FOX Sports' lead analyst for Saturday afternoon baseball broadcasts, and he served as an analyst for MLB International in 1997 and '98. Singleton played in the Majors for 15 seasons with Montreal and Baltimore, winning a World Series ring with the 1983 Orioles.
Kubek won the 1957 American League Rookie of the Year Award and was a three-time All-Star who played all nine of his seasons with the Yankees. He appeared in six World Series with New York, winning in 1958, '61 and '62.
After retiring in 1965, he joined NBC Sports for that year's postseason. Kubek remained with NBC for 24 years as a color commentator, teaming with Joe Garagiola on the "Game of the Week" broadcast.
Kubek also served as a broadcaster for the Toronto Blue Jays from 1977-89, then with the Yankees from 1990-94 before retiring.
Rizzuto, a Hall of Famer for his career as a Yankees shortstop, played 13 seasons with New York (1941-42, 1946-56), winning the AL's Most Valuable Player Award in 1950 and helping the club win seven World Series. Upon retiring as a player, he spent 40 years as a popular Yankees announcer, working with Messer and White in the booth for 15 of those years. In 1991, Rizzuto was elected to the American Sportscasters' Hall of Fame. He passed away on Aug. 13, and the Yankees honored him by wearing his uniform No. 10 on their sleeves for the rest of the season.
White spent 18 years as a Yankees broadcaster, eventually serving as the president of the National League from 1989-94. A former six-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove first baseman with the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies, White joined the Yankees broadcast team in 1971. White has also covered baseball nationally for ABC and CBS.
Messer spent 24 years broadcasting baseball, including 18 with the Bronx Bombers from 1968-85 on both radio and television. After a three-year stint with the Orioles, Messer replaced Garagiola in the Yankees' booth in 1968. After leaving the Yankees in 1985, Messer called White Sox games for two seasons. Messer passed away in 2001.
Fans can determine three of the 10 candidates on the final ballot by voting at MLB.com and baseballhall.org, beginning Thursday and throughout November. Active or retired broadcasters with a minimum of 10 years' continuous broadcast service with a Major League club or a network or a combination of the two are eligible.
Fans may cast votes for as many as three broadcasters once daily, basing their decisions on four criteria: longevity; continuity with a club; honors, including awards and national assignments, such as the World Series and All Star-Games; and popularity.
The final ballot of 10 candidates, to be announced in early December, will include the three fan selections and seven other candidates determined by a Hall of Fame staff research team. The Frick electorate includes all past winners and six historians appointed by the Hall of Fame.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.