Gary Cohen deserves to win the Ford Frick Award

Gary CohenA few weeks ago my good friend Ted who lives in Maryland paid my wife and me a visit. Ted and I finally did something we had been talking about doing for years and that is visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. While it was my fourth visit to the Mecca of the sport, for Ted it was his first.

We both enjoyed the place immensely and while the second and third floors with all of their exhibits are fascinating it was the actual Hall with all of the plaques that really blew away Ted. As an Orioles fan he spent extra time checking out the plaques of Cal Ripken, Jim Palmer, Earl Weaver, Eddie Murray, and Brooks Robinson.

The Hall honors former players, managers, executives, and pioneers of the game. While broadcasters are not – at least not up to this point – honored with enshrinement like that the Hall does give out the Ford Frick Award annually.

To quote from their website

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.

The eight finalists for the 2017 Frick Award are: Gary Cohen, Jacques Doucet, Ken Harrelson, Pat Hughes, Bill King, Mike Krukow, Ned Martin and Dewayne Staats. The winner of the 2017 Frick Award will be announced on Dec. 7 at the Baseball Winter Meetings in National Harbor, Md.

I would like to make the case for the Mets’ own Gary Cohen to receive this prestigious honor.

My baseball viewing and listening days date back to the mid-1950’s and I can vaguely remember the voice of the Giants, Russ Hodges. Over the years there have been three men who I have heard that have been the best at painting the word picture of a game. They are Jon Miller, Vin Scully, and Gary Cohen.

The first time I heard Gary do a Mets game was during the spring of 1989. The local newspaper had an article saying how the Mets had hired a new radio voice. As it turned out Gary, a lifetime Mets fan, was doing radio for the Pawtucket Red Sox during 1988. He had worked his way up during the mid 1980s from Spartanburg up to Durham and then to AAA Pawtucket.

Just like a hot prospect does on the field it was necessary for Gary to hone his craft in the minors and by the time he reached “The Show” he was clearly prepared. I remember the first time I heard him do a spring training game on radio. My comment to the other Mets’ fans in my family was, “this new guy is really good!”

Clearly and accurately discussing the nuances of the game of baseball is not an easy task. Ask my friend Ted about how often Gary Thorne butchers a play. Years ago the Mets had Fran Healy doing color work on TV. Bad times. Even dedicated Yankee fans slap their respective foreheads occasionally while trying to make sense of what Ma and Pa Pinstripe, Suzyn Waldman and John Sterling, are saying.

More than a few times I’ve had the chance to watch Mets games with out of towners who have never heard Gary, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling do a game together. It is clear to these fans that the Mets have one of the best, if not the very best, broadcasting teams in the game today. And it’s Gary Cohen who is the glue and steady voice that brings out the best in his knowledgeable partners.

The fact that Gary Cohen can allude back to his teenage days of watching numerous games while seated in Shea Stadium’s upper deck just makes it extra special to have him working the Mets games. To be sure he would be Frick Award worthy even he worked for some other team. But Gary and the Mets are the perfect match.

So when the Ford Frick Award is announced in December here’s hoping that the worthy recipient is Gary Cohen. And should he not win then, just like with the New York Mets themselves, there’s always next year.

10 comments for “Gary Cohen deserves to win the Ford Frick Award

  1. November 12, 2016 at 8:32 am

    The card comes courtesy of our friend Warren Zvon over at http://metsfantasycards.blogspot.com/

  2. Eraff
    November 12, 2016 at 8:38 am

    The Met Broadcast is very, very good!…and Gary is the Ring Master. Gary’s best contribution would be to talk 25% or so Less. There is not a silent second in the entire Broadcast.

    How/What is the measurement of Outstanding Contributions to Baseball? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_C._Frick_Award

    Last Year’s winner was Graham McNamee, a Play by PLay Guy from the 20’s and 30’s.

    • November 12, 2016 at 9:14 am

      What would help me enjoy Gary even more is if he learned to correctly apply the advanced stats he so loves to mock. It’s debatable if advanced stats have a place in a broadcast. Since he clearly frowns upon them, it would be best for all concerned if he simply never mentioned them.

  3. Michael
    November 12, 2016 at 9:27 am

    The Mets trio are by far the best team announcers in the game. That said, Gary would be a lot easier to listen to if he would not incessantly throw out these irrelevant facts like “That’s only the third time since 1923 that there was a back to back, back to back that included a pitcher hitting” Gary has a great voice, a lifelong Mets fan with much passion, but he has to lay off that garbage.
    He was also very wrong in calling Murph a “net negative”. Stick to calling the game.

  4. TexasGusCC
    November 12, 2016 at 10:01 am

    My impression of Cohen is that his best attribute is to still be a fan of the team, while not thinking he is part of the team. Many announcers speak like they are an extension of the team and hence cannot be objective. Cohen can still get very excited over a good play, but be critical over a bad play. Probably calling Murphy a “net negative” was one of those moments, and he will never live it down, but that little extra frustration/elation may be why we as watchers of the game can connect with him along with his not excusing player’s mistakes.

    Off topic, interesting read from Fangraphs on Conforto:
    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/michael-confortos-barreled-balls-werent-ideal/

    • Eraff
      November 12, 2016 at 11:15 am

      There seems to be a problem with using Averages of any causative stat…and of production stays as well. The fact is that Conforto was unusually good and productive at some times, and he was really horrible at others

      That’s a decidedly Eytest view

      What might be more useful in all of this is to compare the barreling stats and some other indicator/causative stats to the production stats along a time line

      I will do some research on this…. I am of the mind that Conforto’s production would show more correlation to underlying stats versus swings in his Luck Rate

  5. NormE
    November 12, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    I’ve always felt that Gary’s greatest contribution was his ability to make his co-announcers better. During his radio days it was clear to me that the late Bob Murphy had upped his game when Gary became part of the announcing team.
    On TV Gary brought out the best in Ralph Kiner. He has helped Keith Hernandez relax and let us appreciate his knowledge and humor. Ron Darling became more interesting and less prone to get stuck on minutiae.
    Just listen to broadcasts from other baseball venues and you get to appreciate Gary Cohen more and more.

    • Larry Smith
      November 12, 2016 at 4:00 pm

      Good points. I totally agree.

  6. Ted Pope
    November 12, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    I am Ted, the friend Larry referenced in today’s piece. You Mets fans don’t know how good you have it. I indeed have to suffer thru broadcasts with Gary Thorne. His worst blunder this yr was doing play by play for an O’s-yankee’s game in which he went the entire game calling every put out to center as being made by Gardner and to left as Ellsbury. However, Ellsbury was in center the entire game and Gardner in left. I am not making this up. This pushed me to write a complaint abt Thorne to the network broadcasting Orioles games, something I had contemplated doing for yrs. (Some fault has to also go to the producers for missing this and to Jim Palmer for not slipping him a note.) Cohen can’t be worse than Thorne in throwing out meaningless stats. Cohen knows baseball whereas Thorne does not. As I stated in my complaint letter, real baseball men don’t over rely on stats to cover up their lack of knowledge. The only thing Thorne has going for him are his voice and enthusiasm.

  7. Name
    November 12, 2016 at 6:47 pm

    While i like Gary and our both, i have to say that this year he was quite bad (I guess announcers can have “down” years too) on the analytical side

    He seemed too quick to praise this year and not enough criticizing of the players or managers.
    For example, someone like Conforto would be in a big rut, lets say 0-12, and he goes 1-3 the next day and Gary would proclaim he’s on his way to breaking out of his slump.

    And then as Brian has noted, is his lack of understanding of advanced metrics, which he bashes routinely in his broadcast but which his arguments make no sense.

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