I know exactly where I was when Eric Nadel called his first Texas Rangers game.
I was by a radio.
I was 10 years old, but this isn’t recollection by convenience. It’s not 333,439 claiming they were among the 33,439 in attendance at Nolan’s seventh no-hitter. I’ve got proof.
I kept a scorebook that Saturday afternoon.
Because, yes, even at age 10, I knew how to party.
In comparing the actual box score from April 7, 1979 to my own book, it looks like I didn’t yet grasp that walks and hit-by-pitches and sacrifice flies and bunts didn’t count as at-bats, and that I gave the great Johnny Grubb a triple rather than an E-8 on his fifth-inning shot to center before giving Grubb my own Player of the Game nod (and questionable portrait), and that I wasn’t yet the pitching-first baseball fan that I am today, because there’s really no way Grubb should have been singled out ahead of Fergie Jenkins.
But what I do know about that Opening Day contest — which according to the schedule was delayed two days, presumably by weather, resulting in a one-game series in Detroit before Texas would open at home against Cleveland three days later — is that the game was brought to me in part by the new guy Nadel, either with the radio on and the TV muted, or possibly (in those days) by radio alone.
For nearly 35 years, Eric Nadel has (along with Chuck Morgan) been for me the voice of baseball, and one of my most valued teachers. The “Hello, everybody” and “So long, everybody” salutes that punctuate every broadcast, the can’t-miss pre game manager’s shows, the daily description (in exquisite detail) of the opponents’ uniform piping, the vocabulary that changes a little each year based on whose old-school tapes he listened to for hours over the previous winter, the huge moments during which you could hear Eric coming out of his chair, the obvious preparation and professionalism and absolute precision, the perfect balance of baseball wisdom and comfortable, energetic conversation that makes every baseball game a seminar and a sanctuary . . . all of it is Rangers baseball to so many of us.
Eric Nadel and Brad Sham, more than anyone, have consistently elevated the sports that they describe, and have made me the sports fan (and the mute-the-TV guy) that I am.
Eric’s a friend. To all of us. He’s made baseball better, every day, for basically my entire life.
The Ford C. Frick Award that Eric won last week is presented, annually, to one broadcaster for making “major contributions to baseball.”
Every day, man.
I think Eric used to call innings 4, 5, and 6 back in the early days, and if so it was his description on April 7, 1979 that took a 2-1 Texas lead to a 5-2 margin in my scorebook, a three-run edge that Jenkins would easily preserve, giving Texas its first of what would be six straight wins to start that season.
I don’t remember whether Eric told us that (the future Tiger) Grubb’s first-inning blast off (future Ranger) Dave Rozema was “history,” but I know that it’s pretty cool that in his first big league baseball game at the microphone, he got to narrate, for a local fan base that included at least one 10-year-old with a scorebook in hand, a complete-game victory fired by a future Hall of Famer.
There have been thousands more Texas Rangers games that Eric has called since that day, thousands of ballcap lids and sleeve lengths to illustrate verbally, countless instances of the words “whistled” and “replete” and “vomitory” and “American League Champions,” and, as of a week ago this morning, one more Hall of Famer who worked that April 7, 1979 game.
Congratulations, Eric. There’s a smile in my voice as I type this, and I just might be coming out of my own chair.