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July 28, 2018

Sheldon Ocker

Bob Costas

Cooperstown, New York

GREG AMSINGER: Hello everyone. Good afternoon. Welcome to Doubleday Field for the annual National Baseball Hall of Fame Awards presentation. We are delighted to have you in Cooperstown, New York, the home of baseball. My name is Greg Amsinger of the MLB Network. I was on last night until 1 a.m. Eastern doing MLB Tonight. I love this place. Couldn't wait to get in the car and make the drive here. It's my favorite place on earth.

It's an honor to be here with you today for this celebration. We have a very special program in store for you. So without further ado, let's meet the Hall of Famers. Do you want to meet the Hall of Famers? Let's do that.

(Cheers and applause.)

We begin with the Class of 1980, Al Kaline. Class of 1982, Henry Aaron. Class of '83, Juan Marichal. Class of 1987, Billy Williams. Class of '89, Johnny Bench. Class of 1990, Joe Morgan and Jim Palmer. Class of '91, Rod Carew, Fergy Jenkins, and Gaylord Perry. Class of 1992, Rollie Fingers. Class of '95, Mike Schmidt. Class of '97, Phil Niekro. Class of '98, Don Sutton. Class of '99, George Brett and Robin Yount. Class of 2000, Carlton Fisk and Tony Perez. Class of 2001, Dave Winfield. Class of 2002, Ozzie Smith. Class of '03, Eddie Murray. Class of 2004, Dennis Eckersley and Paul Molitor. Class of '05, Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg. Class of 2007, Cal Ripken, Jr. Class of 2008, Goose Gossage.

Class of '09, Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice. Class of 2010, Andre Dawson. Class of 2011, Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven, and Gillick. Class of 2012, Barry Larkin. Class of 2014 -- what a class -- Bobby Cox, Tom Glavine, Tony La Russa, Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, and Joe Torre. Class of 2015, Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz.

Class of 2016, Ken Griffey, Jr. Class of 2017, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez, John Schuerholz, and Bud Selig.

And the Class of 2018, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Jack Morris, Jim Thome, and Alan Trammell.


Now please welcome the president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Jeff Idelson, and the Hall of Fame's chairman of the board, Jane Forbes Clark. Also welcome the vice president of the Baseball Writers Association of America, Rob Biertempfel. The 2018 J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner, Sheldon Ocker. And a guy that was really nice to me 20 years ago when I was 19 years old, a board operator at KOMX radio in St. Louis, he came in once a month, even though he was a huge star, to do an evening special, and I was thrilled beyond belief to produce for our 2018 Ford C. Frick Award winner, Bob Costas. Please give them all a big round of applause.


It's now my pleasure to introduce you to a very, very special person. She's been involved with the Hall of Fame for her entire life, cares deeply for the museum, our Hall of Famers and the Village of Cooperstown.

Continuing a wonderful family legacy that began when her grandfather founded the Hall of Fame 79 years ago in 1939. She's a tremendous visionary, a dynamic leader and she adores our great game. Please welcome the baseball Hall of Fame's chairman of the board Jane Forbes Clark.


JANE FORBES CLARK: Thank you, Greg. And welcome to our eighth annual National Baseball Hall of Fame Awards Presentation ceremony. This afternoon, we're paying tribute to the cultural side of baseball honoring those who have contributed to our love of the game. We will honor the career of Sheldon Ocker, who covered the Cleveland Indians for 33 seasons for the Akron Beacon Journal and is a two-time recipient of the Ohio Sportswriter of the Year Award.


We will also honor Bob Costas, a 28-time Emmy award winner, who has called games and narrated the baseball experience for four decades with poignancy and unsurpassed passion.


This afternoon we'll also hear from a few of our Hall of Fame members about the 1968 season, the Year of the Pitcher. Joe Torre will moderate, and we'll learn the impact that it had.

So as we begin, I would like to call your attention to the video monitor for a short presentation about the 2018 J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner, Sheldon Ocker.

(Video playing.)


I would like to invite Rob Biertempfel, vice president of the Baseball Writers Association of America who covers the Pittsburgh Pirates for The Athletic to tell us about Sheldon Ocker and his illustrious career.


ROB BIERTEMPFEL: For Sheldon Ocker, the job description was simple: Come to work every day. Get the story, do it again tomorrow.

For 33 years on the Cleveland Indians beat, Ocker never wavered. Born and raised in Akron, Ohio, and graduated from The Ohio State University, he landed a job at the Sandusky Register, and there he chronicled northern Ohio high school sports. After a year there, he returned home to the Akron Beacon Journal, and before long took over the beat for the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers.

Covering an expansion team that improved steadily before having several losing seasons, Ocker acquired the skills that would serve him for the next four decades: dogged reporting and relentless writing.

In 1981, the Beacon Journal assigned Ocker to the Indian's beat where he began a run that took him through every kind of season imaginable.

Over his first 13 years covering the Indians, Cleveland posted just one winning record and logged three 100-loss campaigns. Along the way, Ocker became a disciplined and well-respected reporter of the game.

He found ways to keep the readers' attention even in the midst of those lost summers.

Then in the 1990s, the Indians assembled a young corps of players who produced eight straight winning seasons and two American League pennants. Ocker's coverage, backed by his stable of trusted sources, kept readers entertained and informed while following a team that captured the hearts of northeast Ohio.

A throwback to an era where beat writers authored the narrative of America's national pastime, Ocker's unceasing dedication mirrored the stability and consistency of this game which is cherished by fans and players alike.

Congratulations, Sheldon. Would you like to come up to the podium, please.


SHELDON OCKER: I thought I'd destroyed all those pictures of 1985 pictures of me with the afro. But there's still one out there. Not even the Hubbell Telescope -- that's named for Carl Hubbell, right? -- could have detected any unconscious thoughts I might have had about the Baseball Hall of Fame, when I was driving from Columbus to Sandusky, Ohio, for my first newspaper job in a two-man sports department: That was me and sports editor, Butch Wagner.

I remember a few months earlier, I was still taking classes in journalism, after I dropped out of law school -- which, that's another story -- I was waiting to be interviewed for the Sandusky job by the managing editor.

When he walked in, the first thing he said was "Did you ever have swordfish for lunch?" Whatever I answered, and I don't remember what it was, apparently it was the right answer because I got the job. But I started thinking, working in a newspaper must be kind of bizarre.

One thing I figured out for sure, for 90 bucks a week I would never have to worry about a Hall of Fame, unless they had one for guys who lived on TV dinners and frozen pizzas.

Even before I arrived in Sandusky, I had a mini-crisis. Ten miles from my destination, I got a speeding ticket, in Norwalk, Ohio. The ticket would cost at least as much as my first week's salary, yet another reason I didn't think about Hall of Fames.

Survival was the objective at the time. One of my jobs at the newspaper was covering Saint Mary's High School, which was a football powerhouse in Ohio's smallest division.

Saint Mary's had a baseball team, too, and the coach was so competitive that he was prone to getting ejected. And that meant interviews focused on the umpires in that the coach put a lot of words that I couldn't put in the newspaper, which was a little different than what I would become accustomed to when I actually covered baseball in the Big League level, at least most of the time.

I played baseball as a kid. I had no bat speed, no foot speed, but I liked the choreography of the game. I liked the sound of the ball hitting the bat. The sound the bat made against the ball. And I liked the strategy, the statistics of the Big Leaguers, the trading cards, the logos of all the teams, all the kind of stuff that writers have romanticized about the game for many years.

Although, at the time I was too young to understand any of that. There were no writers in the Hall of Fame at that time, and only a few by the time I got my job at Sandusky.

So I never heard about the Baseball Writers Association of America. Let me put it this way: When I began covering the Cleveland Indians in 1981, even though I had covered some games 11 years earlier, my knowledge of baseball and how to cover baseball, in particular, was on a par with what I knew about quantum electrodynamics.


So maybe there's a message in there. If you don't know squat about something, it doesn't mean you can't learn if you have a good reason. Mine was to at least keep up with the reporters and columnists who were on the A list.

I can't name all of them here, but some of were Tracy Ringolsby and Peter Gammons, Claire Smith, Terry Pluto, Tom Gage and Alison Gordon, Dan Shaughnessy, and Bill Madden.

What I needed were teachers, baseball teachers. I had plenty of examples to follow among the writers. What I needed to know what, I had to learn the game of baseball. Not as a fan, but as somebody who covers it with baseball professionals like general managers and managers.

The right way -- the only thing I knew about any nuance I knew about baseball was the right way to wrap bubble gum around a plug of tobacco, and that wasn't enough.

My greatest resource were managers. In baseball, you can actually ask a manager why and how, because he'll give you the time to answer.

I remember one time I asked Pat Corrales how to run a double steal with runners on first and third, and he told me in great detail.

I've long maintained that writers who cover baseball are the only sports writers who get to know their games, because I can't imagine asking Nick Saban or Bill Belichick the specifics of beating a zone blitz in a cover two with a tight end in motion and the quarterback is taking a three-step drop. It ain't going to happen. He's not going to give you the time to do it. Especially these days when access is more limited to writers than ever.

Most players were also amenable to explaining how they did their jobs. They liked the fact that you were interested enough to ask.

The first time I visited the Hall of Fame was during the strike of 1981. I did it to keep baseball in the sports pages, while the owners and the players union waited to see who would blink first.

I had my children with me. They enjoyed the museum, but not as much as me. I was a kid in a candy store. I never dreamed that the tiny corner of that candy store would some time be reserved for me.

So, this is why I thank people. For starters, I can't thank them enough. I especially want to thank my wife, Stephanie -- and I better (laughter) -- who is a die-hard baseball fan.


She's had tickets to the Indians for 26 years, which means she's been loyal to the Indians one more year, at least one more year than we've been married.


Not only has she given me love and support during my career covering baseball, she's been willing to set me straight on many things, like when I had the wrong take on free agents or trades or player evaluations, any kind of strategy. In addition to that, how long it should take me to get home after the game (laughter).

I want to thank my son, Jonathan, and my daughter, Stephanie, who traveled here from Minneapolis and Los Angeles.


And not just to make sure I was telling the truth about winning this award (laughter).

I also want to thank a special friend, Chris Friedman, who came to Atlanta and all the other friends who came from Ohio.


Frankly, I was astonished that so many people wanted to attend this ceremony. When you're as old as I am, you can't expect your parents to still be around. I wish they were, of course. I know they'd be proud. Especially my father, who attended a 1948 World Series game between the Indians and the Boston Braves and brought home a program that was totally in tatters after I leafed through it dozens of times as a six-year-old. Joe Gordon, by the way, played second for the Indians, in case you're interested.

Of course I want to thank the BBWAA and the members who voted for me, Pat Reusse and Jim Reeves, who are also on the ballot and are equally deserving of this honor.

Special thanks goes to Paul Hoynes, the hardest working man in sports. And that's for real.


He covers the Indians for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and he shepherded my nomination through this process.

Sometime in the near future I'm hoping that he's standing up here to get this award, too.


I also want to thank all the people at the Hall of Fame for making this weekend such a memorable event.

One last thing. I think I should say something about baseball. Many years ago, George Carlin, whose comedy wasn't always warm and fuzzy, performed a bit comparing baseball to football.

These days, it might stand as a metaphor for baseball and life in America.

Here's how he summed it up: "In football, the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use the shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy's defensive line. In baseball, the object is to go home."

(Laughter and applause.)

"And to be safe. I hope I'm safe at home."

Thank you very much.


JANE FORBES CLARK: Please turn your attention back to the video monitor for a short presentation about the 2018 Ford C. Frick Award winner, Bob Costas.

(Video playing.)


I'd like to ask the vice chairman of the board of directors of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Joe Morgan, a member of the Hall of Fame class of 1990, to tell us more about Bob Costas.

JOE MORGAN: Thank you.


Thank you, Jane. As a player, I played on Cincinnati's famed Big Red Machine. So I had the opportunity to play with some of the greatest players who ever played this game. As a broadcaster, I had an opportunity to broadcast with some of the greatest broadcasters who have ever broadcast this game.

Today, I get to introduce one of those broadcasters, but more than that, I get to introduce a friend. Bob Costas and I have been friends for a long time, and that continues today. So I'm introducing a friend today, and he will receive the Ford C. Frick Award for 2018, Mr. Bob Costas.


Bob appeared in our living rooms in the final years of network dominance of the television airwaves when a single baseball broadcast each week thrilled friends and created legends.

Four decades later, Bob Costas' career has spanned the creation of regional cable outlets and the move to digital age. Along the way, Costas maintained his presence as one of the games great voices and erudite observers, never failing to announce his love of baseball.

Following his boyhood dream of becoming a broadcaster, Costas learned his trade at Syracuse University before taking over as the voice of American Baseball Association's Spirit of St. Louis on KMOX AM. His dedicated craftsmanship quickly drew notice at CBS Sports where he was hired in the late 1970s to call regional NBA and NFL games.

In 1980, Bob moved to NBC, earning a spot on the backup crew for the network's Game of the Week baseball package.

By 1983, Costas was paired with Tony Kubek, and the chemistry was instant. Costas's knowledge and wit played perfectly alongside Kubek's analysis. Over the next seven seasons, Costas called four American League Championship Series and became a fixture on All-Star Game and World Series pregame and postgame sets.

Positioned in the Red Sox clubhouse during the final innings of the Game 6 of the 1986 World Series and in the Dodger dugout ahead of Curt Simmons' Game 1 home run in the 1988 Fall Classic.

Costas recounted some of the game's greatest moments to a worldwide audience. He remained with NBC Sports when baseball moved to CBS in 1990, winning numerous awards and engaging with millions of fans during his coverage of the NBA.

The Olympics games and the Kentucky Derby were also on Bob's venue. Returning to his first love when NBC helped form the Baseball Network in 1994, Costas became the voice of the game's marquee events throughout the 1990s.

Costas was again reunited with baseball in 2009, when he signed on to call games and host programming for the new MLB Network. With an every-man persona and relentless work ethic, Costas has served as one of the game's great ambassadors, leaving an indelible mark on the national pastime while inspiring a generation of media who saw in him the possibility of achieving a career in sports broadcasting.

And that is our 2018 Ford C. Frick Award winner, Bob Costas.


BOB COSTAS: After Sheldon Ocker and Joe Morgan, one of the greatest players under six feet in the history of baseball, it is such a pleasure to approach a microphone and not have to lower it.

(Laughter and applause.)

It is also a genuine pleasure to be introduced by Joe Morgan, an all-time great player, as he said, a long-time friend and a guy I spent countless good times with in the broadcast booth.

My thanks to Commissioner Rob Manfred, to Jane Forbes Clark, to Jeff Idelson and the entire staff of the National Baseball Hall of Fame for their extraordinary kindness and hospitality, not only this weekend, but in the months leading up to it.

Congratulations and respect as well to Sheldon Ocker, a pleasure to be a part of this day with you, and, in a sense, to share this weekend with Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, Trevor Hoffman, Vlad Guerrero, Jim Thome, and Chipper Jones.


Take a look around, Sheldon. We're in darned good company.

My thanks as well to Joe Buck for narrating the opening to the clip reel you just saw. It's only a matter of time until Joe joins his dad as the first father and son in baseball's broadcasting Hall of Fame.


My first trip to the Hall of Fame came on the summer day in 1974 when Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford entered the Hall. Since then, I've happily returned many times, but this one feels a bit different.

I stand here as thrilled and excited as a kid attending his first Big League game. But now I bring with me a lifetime of baseball memories. Those memories, those moments, and the people connected to them, are very much in my thoughts today, especially my family and close friends who are here with me.

My love and appreciation for all of you runs too deep for mere mentions to do them justice. We know what those feelings are and what those bonds mean.

In a sense, my journey to Cooperstown began behind the wheel of a 1962 Ford Galaxie. I was 12. And, therefore, without a driver's license (laughter).

But that didn't matter, because my purpose wasn't to cruise around the block. No, in those nearly prehistoric times, before cable TV, smartphones, and the Internet, a fan's primary connection to baseball was through radio.

And at that night, at least, reception was better in the driveway than in the house (laughter).

So, while I could listen to Mel Allen and Red Barber on the Yankees and Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy on the newly minted Mets, there was even more baseball waiting for me out in the car.

So, I'd grab my dad's keys, slip behind the wheel and turn the ignition key to the right. Not far enough to rev the engine, but just enough to light up the dashboard and the radio.

And then in front of a suburban house on Long Island, I'd travel from city to city, ballpark to ballpark, calibrating that dial like a safecracker until, through the crackle and static, I picked up the irrepressible Bob Prince on KDKA in Pittsburgh, the warm and welcoming baritone of Chuck Thompson on WBAL in Baltimore, and the pleasing pace and phrasings of Ernie Harwell on WJR in Detroit --

(Cheers and applause.)

-- who somehow always seemed to know that when a foul ball drifted into the stands, the souvenir would be taken home by a lad from Lansing or a kid from Kalamazoo.


Waite Hoyt called games on WLW, describing the exploits of Frank Robinson and Vada Pinson and the quirky dimensions of Crossly Field, all the while spinning yarns about his days as Babe Ruth's teammate with the Murderers' Row Yankees.

Sometimes I'd find Earl Gillespie calling a homer by Hank Aaron or Eddie Matthews from Milwaukee, which was all Warren Spahn was gonna need, because, as Earl told me, Spahny really had that screw ball working tonight.

And, by the way, I'm pretty sure Joe Torre was the catcher the night in 1963 when a 42-year-old Warren Spahn went 16 shutout innings against a 23-year-old Juan Marichal until Willie Mays homered in the bottom of the 16th to win the game 1-0.

And Ron told me once -- that was baseball in 1963, when I was 11. I remember Ron telling me that he told Alvin Dark, the manager, after about the 13th, "I can't go any longer." Maybe Alvin Dark said, "Listen, you see that man over there? He's 42 years old. You're going back out there." (Laughter.) And he did.

And on those evenings when the atmospheric conditions were just right, KMOX would magically appear out of St. Louis, bringing with it the dynamic pairing of Harry Caray and Jack Buck, each distinctively great: Harry, booming and bombastic, a showman; Jack, more sophisticated and more restrained, possessed of a dry wit and a wide broadcasting range that included the ability to capture and amplify a game's most exciting and important moments.

Full disclosure here now, some of those trips to the driveway were actually my earliest reporting assignments. You see, my dad was a big-time gambler. And there were times when the mortgage was riding on whether or not Camilo Pascual could get Al Kaline out or whether Roberto Clemente could come through with the bases loaded. And it was my job to get the details and then report the news, good or bad, to my dad.

In a sense, then, our father-and-son connection was more Damon Runyon than Norman Rockwell.


But that connection was real. And when it came to baseball and its soundtrack, that connection was enduring.

To me, the games were inseparable from the voices who brought them to me. I was fascinated by how the best of them had a rhythm that was in sync with the rhythms of the game itself and how it wasn't just what they said but how they said it, that gave the game a melody.

By then, I had already wisely concluded that if I was ever going to get into a Major League game without purchasing a ticket, it wouldn't be to succeed Willie Mays in center field but instead to sit in a catbird seat, as Red Barber called it, behind a microphone looking out over the action.

If on radio, trying to paint a picture; if on television, trying to put the right caption beneath the picture.

12 years old, and all I wanted to be was a sportscaster. Especially a baseball broadcaster. Maybe, I thought, if I worked at it, I could one day become good enough to do it for a living and to be part of baseball.

It was beyond my wildest hopes and fanciful thoughts that one day this sort of recognition would come my way. So, I hope you can understand my genuine appreciation for what this award represents and how meaningful and humbling it is for me to have my name linked with those who have preceded me in the broadcaster's wing of the Hall of Fame.

That talented roster includes a number of guys I've been lucky enough to work with. Back in the early '80s, Tim McCarver and I actually did a handful of games together on NBC. The first, Red Sox at Angels, was so long ago that Yaz hit a homer and Rod Carew stole a base.

Like Tim, Tony Kubek and Bob Uecker have also received the Ford C. Frick Award. Although Uecker remains ticked off that he was somehow overlooked as a player (laughter).

And with a lifetime batting average of exactly .200 and 14 career home runs spread over seven seasons with six different clubs, you can appreciate the injustice of it all.

(Laughter and applause.)

So, yeah, that's right, he's here.

So picture this scene at the 1995 World Series. Game 6 in Atlanta on NBC. On my right, Joe Morgan, first ballot Hall of Famer, two-time MVP. One of the greatest second basemen in baseball history. And to my left, Mr. Baseball, Bob Uecker.

For the sake of context and contrast, just to cite one of Ueck's many amazing records, he once led the National League in passed balls with 27 (laughter) while playing in only 76 games (laughter). I mean, that's making the most of your opportunities (laughter).

You know how on the back of a baseball card there will be some sort of superlative about the player? Clayton Kershaw. Clayton has won three Cy Young Awards. Jose Altuve. Jose has led the league in hits four straight years.

I just happen to have Bob Uecker's baseball card right here, and on the back of the card it says: "Bob once got out of a rundown against the Phillies."


So, anyway, here we are up in the booth, and Joe starts talking about his own World Series experiences, stories about Johnny Bench and Sparky Anderson and Pete Rose and Tony Perez.

And then, partly to amuse myself, I turn to Uecker and said, "Did you ever play in the World Series?" "Well, I was with the Cardinals in '64, but when we played the Yankees in the World Series I was on the disabled list."

I said, "What was wrong with you?" He said, "I had hepatitis." I said, "How did you get that?" He said, "The trainer injected me with it."

(Laughter and applause.)

Which may in large part explain why the Cardinals won that World Series over the Yankees (laughter).

So Uecker, McCarver, and Kubek are all in the broadcaster's wing, and my past and present partners, Joe Morgan and John Smoltz, are of course enshrined as players.

Over the last several years of the MLB Network, I've also worked a lot of games with Jim Kaat. Although, "work" probably misstates it because it's always so comfortable and such a pleasure.

And, by the way, here's a respectful memo to the Veterans Committee, just so I can run the table on Hall of Fame partners. With more than 280 career wins, 16 Gold Gloves and six decades as an exemplary citizen of the game, you can make a pretty good case that Kitty deserves to sign autographs with "HOF "beside his name as well.


Jim Kaat, Bob Uecker, Tim McCarver, Joe Morgan, John Smoltz, they're all here today. And I'm very glad they are.

Only one of my longtime partners is missing, and it's the one to whom I am most indebted. Tony Kubek is doing fine. He's still as sharp as ever. He still looks 20 years younger than his birth certificate indicates, but some physical limitations that trace to his playing days have made it difficult for him to travel. He really wanted to be here and he asked me to send his best to all those here who he played with or against and whose games he called.

Back in 1983, NBC had a chance to hire Vin Scully. When you have that chance, you take it. It made sense to pair Vin with Joe Garagiola -- talk about a Hall of Fame booth -- but that meant that Tony would go to the B game with me. This was Tony Kubek. He had played on seven Yankee pennant winners. He worked the Game of the Week, the All-Star Game, and the World Series with Curt Gowdy and Joe Garagiola. In baseball circles he was universally respected and admired.

I was completely unproven and pretty much unknown outside my adopted hometown of St. Louis. Another guy might have treated me like a pebble in a shoe, a reminder of what some could have wrongly perceived as his diminished standing.

But not Tony. From day one, he treated me as an equal. And we clicked right away, both personally and professionally. We were well received. One observer said: We were reverent and irreverent at the same time. I like that.

But most important of all, Tony vouched for me -- at the batting cages, in the clubhouses, in the dugouts. He'd introduce me to everyone I needed to know -- managers, coaches, players, scouts. And the message was clear: If this kid is okay with me, he should be okay with you as well.

He paved the way for me. I've never forgotten that and I'll always be grateful to him.


I will also always be grateful to the great fans of St. Louis. The argument about what the best baseball town is is pointless. There are several who can make a case. They all have their individual charms and history and appeal. But St. Louis has to be somewhere on that list.

The combination of passion and knowledge and civility and history and tradition. And in the 1980s when I was making whatever mark I made nationally in baseball, St. Louis was a great place to be around the game. Not just the games you broadcast, but the games you attended with your children and your friends, just to be around baseball and to soak up the atmosphere.

And first Whitey Herzog and then Joe Torre and then Tony La Russa, and Hall of Fame players like Ozzie Smith and Bob Gibson and Lou Brock and Bruce Sutter and Red Schoendienst, whom we just lost, and of course Stan Musial, they couldn't have been kinder to me. And those Herzog teams of the '80s played an exciting and nuanced style of baseball that really rewarded those who loved and paid attention to the game.

And even though I never broadcast Cardinal games specifically, I was a baseball guy, St. Louis was my home, and people there treated me like one of their own, and they still do. And I'll always be grateful for that.


Broadcasting a ballgame -- especially on television -- is a collaborative effort. And at NBC and now MLBN, I've been blessed with terrific collaborators. Not just those I've sat alongside in the booth, but those I've worked for and with -- producers, directors, researchers, camera people.

No single one of us made those broadcasts everything they were. We did it together. And more often than not, we elevated each other. My appreciation and fondness for those colleagues, past and present, is real and enduring. I wish I could mention each and every one of them.

But if there's anything that TV people understand, it's time constraints. And so this one story, connected to one of baseball's most unforgettable moments, will have to serve as an example, writ large, of the sort of masterful work so many of those people did and from which we as broadcasters and you as the audience benefited.

It's October of 1988, the Dodgers and A's in Game 1 of the World Series at Dodger Stadium. Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola in the booth, Mike Weisman and John Filippelli overseeing the production from the truck. Producers who were sharp and spontaneous, they valued talented people who fought for themselves and they let you be yourself.

The late Harry Coyle directed that game. He virtually invented the way a baseball game should be directed, going all the way back to the first World Series telecast in the 1940s, and he did it with an intuitive feel for the pace and flow of the game, a kind of genius that couldn't so much be explained as felt.

The A's were overwhelming favorites, even more so because the Dodgers were both outmanned and shorthanded. The storyline was obvious. But how that story was told, that was the key.

As the pregame host, I came on first. And in a gathering twilight at Dodgers Stadium, I stated what we thought was true: Kirk Gibson will not play tonight. He will not even suit up. He is not available for so much as pinch-hitting duty.

As the game unfolded, Vin Scully, with his unparalleled sense of how to develop a narrative, asked Harry Coyle from time to time to pan the dugout. And he mentioned, as the Dodgers fell behind in the game, that not only were they behind, but they were without the guy who would become that year's National League MVP.

Now, it's late in the game. The A's are leading 4-3. I'm in the corner of the Dodger dugout, waiting to jump out on the field and conduct some kind of interview with somebody no matter how the game turns out.

Meanwhile, back in the Dodger clubhouse, Gibson is on the trainer's table in his skivvies, and he hears Vin Scully say, "Well, Kirk Gibson won't play tonight." And Gibson, by his own testimony, pounded the table and said, "My ass." (Laughter.)

He picked himself up, he pulled on his uniform and he walked down to the batting cage between the dugout and the clubhouse. And from my perch in the corner of the dugout, I could hear the sound of a bat meeting a ball, and so I walked down to investigate.

And there was Kirk Gibson. And with every swing it was thwack, uuhh. And a ball boy would place another ball on the tee. Thwack, uuhh. This went on for a while. I contacted Mike Weisman in the truck and I said, "Gibson's taking swings. He might be able to pinch-hit."

He passed that information on to Vin and Joe. And Harry Coyle panned the dugout, and Vin knew there was the possibility, who knew how it would pay off, but there was that possibility.

Tommy Lasorda never led on. He had David Anderson on deck, and Mike stood at the plate with two out and nobody on, and Dennis Eckersley, Hall of Famer, virtually untouchable, the game's best relief pitcher, needed one more out to retire the side and end the game.

On a 3-2 pitch, he missed and Davis walked. And only then did Kirk Gibson emerge from the dugout. And then he said, "And look who's coming up." And then there ensued, so that the drama and anticipation could build, luckily for all of us, a long at-bat. Gibson didn't hit the first pitch. The count went to 3-2. There were foul balls, one of which was a little dribble up the first baseline, and you could see Gibson limping. You felt, well, if he hit the ball off the right field wall, they'd probably throw him out at first base.

The tension built and built, and then you know what happened. Somehow, someway, just with his arms, hardly striding, he hit the ball out of the ballpark.

Vinnie's call was, of course, perfect, with the perfect punctuation. In a year that's been so improbable, the impossible has happened. And people rightly focus on that. But what you might overlook is this: The way Harry Coyle directed that sequence, this wasn't a movie. This was live. He had one shot at it.

The next time you see that play, look at the way it's cut. The ball leaves Gibson's bat. The arc of the ball is followed toward the stands in right field. But then they get back to Gibson as he rounds first and they catch him pumping his arm between first and second.

They get Dennis Eckersley turning his head, staring in near disbelief. They get Tony La Russa walking down the tunnel shaking his head, leaving the dugout. They get Tommy Lasorda jumping up, at least as high as he could jump (laughter), off the top step of the dugout.

But they get back to Gibson in time to see him slap hands with Joe Amalfitano, the third base coach, and then they get the meeting at home plate with all of his teammates there to greet him. They get it from Gibson's perspective as he approaches them and then from behind them as they wait to embrace Kirk Gibson.

Kirk Gibson had one turn at bat. So did Harry Coyle. So did John Filippelli and Mike Weisman in the booth. Every live shot, every replay, every single one picture perfect.

If you went back 30 years now and wanted to change any of it, you'd look at it and you'd say: We can't improve on it.

I jumped out on the field. I interviewed Kirk Gibson. It was more about the emotion than any particulars.

Then, as we walked a way from the ballpark, still in the after glow of one of the truly remarkable moments any of us had ever been part of, I mentioned to our pregame producer, David Neal, that Gibson's homer seemed so cinematic that it reminded me of Robert Redford's last at-bat as Roy Hobbs in The Natural, which had only come out a few years before.

David took it from there. Using scenes from The Natural, so beautifully directed by Barry Levinson with Robert Redford as the star and Randy Newman's score, he intercut Kirk Gibson's at-bat with Roy Hobbs' at-bat.

And it was eerie how so many of those scenes mirrored each other. Now, Gibson didn't have a bullet wound that was bleeding through his jersey. But he was limping around just as Redford was.

And when contact was made, their swings, especially when we showed Kirk's in slow motion, seemed similar. The way their actions mirrored each other as they rounded the bases, and even Wilford Brimley, as the manager of the New York Knights, jumping up in the air looked pretty much like Tommy Lasorda, and they each got just enough altitude that maybe you could slip the lineup card beneath their spikes.

The way that reality melded with mythology was striking. Kirk Gibson did it. He created that moment. He was the epicenter of it. And yet even Kirk himself will tell you that he now recalls it largely through the prism of how it was described by Vin Scully, visually captured by Harry Coyle, and then romanticized by David Neal.

That Kirk Gibson, moment as theatrical as any baseball has produced, and it featured simultaneously two of the greatest calls in the game's history, Vin Scully on television and Jack Buck on radio. I don't believe what I just saw.

The talent and sense of the moment displayed by those two first team Hall of Fame broadcasters reminds us that why the game is the thing and the players are the stars, how those games are perceived and remembered is often shaped by those who chronicle them.

Think of Bobby Thompson's homer in 1951. The shot heard round the world. Most of us don't really recall it firsthand. It just seems as if we do. Because Russ Hodges' ecstatic exclamation, "The Giants win the pennant, the Giants win the pennant," echoes down the corridors of time.

For those of you who saw him pitch, the excellence and elegance of Sandy Koufax spoke for themselves, but then listen to Vin Scully's call of the full ninth inning of Sandy's perfect game. More than a half century later it still raises goosebumps, the building drama and anticipation, the meticulous attention to detail, the keen eye of the reporter blended with the graceful prose of a poet. A perfect performance on the mound, matched and enhanced by a perfect performance in the booth.

These days when we think about Al Michaels, we tend to think of football or even hockey where he provided the simple yet perfect punctuation for the Miracle on Ice. But Al was also a Hall of Fame-caliber baseball announcer. The calls of Johnny Bench's home run that propelled the Reds to the World Series in '72 or the epic fifth game of the '86 ALCS between the Angels and Red Sox are proof of that.

Big moments made to even feel bigger when the right guy is at the mic. I hope that one day Al gets to stand here and receive this award because he, too, deserves it.


When we think of those broadcasters and others who could both rise to the big occasion and also just be a genial companion helping you enjoy a ballgame, it's a reminder of how, while the players are always at the heart of it, the writers, the broadcasters, the filmmakers and documentarians who have best captured the essence of the game are also part of the rich history and texture of our national past time.

Over the last few months, the congratulatory phone calls, letters and texts from Hall of Fame players, managers and executives have meant a lot to me. But perhaps most meaningful of all is that some of the very best baseball broadcasters ever, people I truly admire, decided, collectively, that in one way or another, I had contributed enough to the game to join their ranks.

Because, after all, it's only the past winners of the Ford C. Frick Award, along with a small group of broadcasting historians, who each year make that decision.

This past December, on the day my selection was announced, among the first to call me was Vin Scully. Even on a winter morning, that voice shines like a sunbeam. He was his typically gracious and engaging self, and he concluded by saying, "Bob, I couldn't be happier for you. Welcome to the club." Let's see, a club where there's no initiation fee, no annual dues, and Vin Scully as a prominent member, yeah, I'm good with that.

That same morning, just a short time later, Dick Enberg was on the line. Dick was a brilliantly accomplished broadcaster on a wide range of sports.


But baseball was always his favorite. And his call that day now seems especially poignant. He said he was hoping that Trevor Hoffman would make it in the player voting the following month.


"That way," he said, "That way I will be in Cooperstown for Trevor and for you."

That was the last thing I ever heard him say. Less than a week later, he was gone. We all wish Dick could be here this weekend. His presence always enhanced any occasion.


But in a sense, he is here. And always will be. That's part of the beauty of the Hall of Fame.

Like Dick Enberg in his category, the six we will celebrate tomorrow become certified baseball immortals. They are eternal citizens of Cooperstown, an eternal part of the history of the game. Membership here isn't for a lifetime, it's for all time. And it's part of baseball's unique appeal that in some cases those enshrined here are forever linked with men they never knew: Cal Ripken with Lou Gehrig. Nolan Ryan with Walter Johnson. Hank Aaron with Babe Ruth.

The richness of its fabric, the depth and significant unanimous of its history, the generational connections, they all set baseball apart.

Good broadcasters know how to tell a story. No game has more good stories to tell than baseball.

I've had a very fortunate career filled with vivid experiences -- the Olympics, the NBA, HBO, you name it. I've enjoyed and appreciated them all. But for me, baseball has always come first. And so...this day, and this honor, will always come first, too. Thank you all very much.


JANE FORBES CLARK: In 1968, pitching dominated baseball. Bob Gibson was virtually unhitable, posting a 1.12 ERA, a record that stands today.

Don Drysdale pitched six consecutive shutouts. Denny McLain won 31 games. And Carl Yastrzemski won the American League batting title with a .301 batting average. What followed changed the game.

I would like to call your attention back to the video monitor for a presentation about the Year of the Pitcher.

(Video playing.)

To take a closer look back at the year of the pitcher, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Hall of Famer Joe Torre to the podium to have a conversation with Hall of Famers Ferguson Jenkins, Juan Marichal, Phil Niekro, Gaylord Perry, and Don Sutton.

JOE TORRE: Thank you, Jane. Trying to follow Costas is like trying to follow you in the batting order, Hank, for those eight years I was with you. Not an easy task; I want to tell you that.

50 years ago and 1.12 earned run average, and Gibson lost nine games. So he really didn't do anything worth a damn. And then I was looking around 50 years ago, these guys have to be old, and they brought everybody down in the first row. They all qualified. Don Sutton, you want to give us your thoughts, because you were young in the game at that time. You were like 24 years old.

DON SUTTON: First of all, I thank you for allowing us to do this sitting down. I had three stand-ups in my system today, and I've used them (laughter).

1968, when you grow up where I did in south Alabama, northwest Florida, sometimes you pitched out of holes. I don't think I really realized we were 15 inches above ground. But then I did realize it the next year, because all of a sudden I found it easier to give up 38 of the 475 homers I gave up in my career. So there was a change. There was definitely a change.

But I'd like to thank baseball for not forgetting us pitchers, because in the 50 years since, they have really helped pitchers out by adding that little plastic thing on the back of the mound where we can clean our spikes.

And that's the only thing that pitchers have gotten.

JOE TORRE: Thanks. Gaylord Perry, who has been with one or two clubs, right, and won a couple of Cy Youngs, give me your thoughts for going from '68 to '69, lowering in the mound.

GAYLORD PERRY: Well, it was an exciting time for me. I finally got a chance to get some people out. It was not too easy to do that. But anyway, you know, I'm just trying to lower the pitch that I delivered to the catcher. I swore he wouldn't get it up where a hitter could get under it and hit it out. I gave up a few home runs. So I got experience.

But it was an exciting time. Baseball was running fast. Hitters was hitting more home runs, and pitchers were hitting more shutouts.

I think pitching, they did a good job.

JOE TORRE: Thank you, Gaylord. I don't know, knuckleballers, Phil Niekro, did it affect you at all, going from 10 -- I mean 15 to 10 inches high?

PHIL NIEKRO: You're asking me about something 50 years ago.

JOE TORRE: That's the best I could.

PHIL NIEKRO: I can't remember what I had for lunch today. I can't remember what I had for lunch today, let alone 50 years ago.

JOE TORRE: I know, where are the car keys.

PHIL NIEKRO: I don't know if it had an effect on me or not. That garbage I threw, I could throw if the mound was five feet or five inches. So I don't think it had an effect on me. But talking to a couple of other pitchers, they thought had a big impact on them.

All I know is when I got to the ballgame, there was always four people at the game. Four people: Me, the catcher, the batter, and the umpire. So five feet or two feet or whatever didn't make a damn bit of difference to me.

JOE TORRE: Love it. Hall of Famer, Phil Niekro. Fergy, what do you think?

FERGUSON JENKINS: I'm in pretty good company. We all won 20 games that next year.

JOE TORRE: I want to tell you, every single one of you had better years the following year. So I don't know what that says. But --

FERGUSON JENKINS: In '69 I think I got used to having the mound lower because I threw a lot of batting practice. So I think it turned into muscle memory, knowing that I didn't have to worry about the height of the mound. But batting practice helped me in changing speeds, and changing speeds was something I loved to do.

And I was very fortunate enough to have good teammates. And won a lot of ballgames.

JOE TORRE: You never threw any batting practice during the game.

FERGUSON JENKINS: No, I tried not to.

JOE TORRE: Thanks, Fergy.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Joe, he also had that jungle they called an infield at Wrigley Field. They lost Freddy (indiscernible) in it one day (laughter).

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Makes your infielders faster, too.

JOE TORRE: Well, the Dominican Dandy. I know Bob Gibson was 22-9, and you won 26 games that year in 1968. Let's hear it.

JUAN MARICHAL: I don't remember that. And I complete 30 games that year.

JOE TORRE: There's a lot of complete games in this group, I want to tell you that.

JUAN MARICHAL: But I think I prepared for the 1969, the mound was going to be low, five inches, and I said to myself, "Well, you hardly kick on the (indiscernible) five inches lower." So I have to prepare for that. So I guess this way the impact wasn't that bad for the 1969 season because I also went another 20 games that year.

JOE TORRE: Just another 20 games, and his earned run average went from 2.4 to 2.05 or something like that. So he increased -- he had a better ERA the next year.

Again, let's give the five Hall of Famers a hand. That's why they're Hall of Famers.


And it's nice to have somebody in my age group. So thank you very much, Jane, for allowing me to do this.


JANE FORBES CLARK: That was terrific. Thank you, all.

And now I'd like to ask Sheldon and Bob to come join me again so we can congratulate them one more time.


Ladies and gentlemen, our 2018 National Baseball Hall of Fame Frick and Spink Award winners.

(Cheers and applause.)

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