A 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.