For Eric Nadel, it’s been an exciting journey from Mohawks’ mic to baseball’s Hall of Fame

By John Jarvi
Local Sports Journal

The old Muskegon Mohawks hockey franchise will soon have a member of a major sports hall of fame.

Not in hockey, but in baseball. Major league baseball as a matter of fact.

harwell nadel

Texas Rangers’ radio broadcaster Eric Nadel, left, poses alongside Detroit Tiger legendary broadcaster Ernie Harwell at Tiger Stadium.

Eric Nadel, the first Muskegon broadcaster to do at least portions of all home and away games for the Mohawks in the fall of 1972, will receive the Ford C. Frick Award for Broadcasting Excellence July 26 in Cooperstown, N.Y., for his radio work for the Texas Rangers’ baseball franchise.

Nadel, 63, spent three seasons in Muskegon, and moved up the hockey ladder as an announcer. He made the jump to baseball in 1979 after his Dallas Black Hawks franchise was moving to Canada following the end of the previous season. The move meant he probably would have little chance of keeping his broadcasting job following the move.

He gambled on a part-time television broadcaster spot for the Rangers, who had an opening. They also needed someone to help sell advertising. Living in the Dallas area may have helped since the team would not pay for moving expenses.

Nadel, a Brown University graduate, came to Muskegon and learned to do ad sales while working for the Mohawks. Eric arrived for the start of the 1972-73 season and promptly watched the team go 1-15-2 under coach and general manger Moose Lallo.

Former owner, the late Jerry P. Delise, helped arrange for the return of former Mohawk star, the late Gary Ford, from Nova Scotia to Muskegon. According to Nadel, and that helped save the season for Lallo and the Mohawks.

In the process, Nadel learned a lot about running a sports franchise and served as a reference for Lallo on announcements by the franchise. Nadel stayed in Muskegon through the 1974-75 season.

“I’ve got great memories of Muskegon,” said Nadel. “It was my first opportunity to do professional play-by-play, and the fans were great.

“I made friends there, and I’m still in touch with them. I’m also still in touch with Moose. It was what we each needed.”

By having to be so involved with every operation of the club, Nadel said he learned a lot.

Nadel said his parents, who were from Brooklyn, N.Y., probably would have wanted him to go to law school or become a banker, but he added, “they were just glad I got a job other than cleaning toilets. My college job was working as a janitor when I was at Brown.

“They would rather have had me going to law school or a bank, but they knew broadcasting was my passion, and it (Muskegon) was my foot in the door.”

Now, decades later, Nadel is being recognized for his work for the Texas franchise. He has written a history book on the Rangers although it came out in 1997, long before the World Series runs of 2010 and 2011 by Texas.

The Rangers advanced to both World Series, only to lose. In 2011, they were within a strike of winning the title in the bottom of the ninth inning. They didn’t get it, and St. Louis went on to win the World Series in 11 innings in Game 7.

The price? Eric went from being the subject of the last page column in a following week’s national sports magazine to nothing.

Even now, nearly three years later, Nadel said it still hurts. Texas went into St. Louis during the 2013 season and won three games, but Nadel said it still didn’t feel right.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten over it,” he said. “Even though we all won all three games in inter-league play there last year, it still creeped me out to be there.”

As for announcing in Texas, Eric started on the television side in 1979, split time between television and radio starting in 1980 and eventually concentrated on radio starting in 1985. He became the lead Texas radio announcer in 1995 following the death of his partner, Mark Holtz.

Along the way, Nadel taught himself Spanish in the 1980s and did an inning or so on the Texas Spanish radio broadcast for a brief stint. He also has called games in Spanish in Latin American countries during the major league baseball off-season.

Nadel advanced to the ballot for the Frick Award four years in a row. He received enough votes to capture the award from the 20 voting members of the committee in December, 2013. He had been one of 10 candidates for the 2014 award.

Now, he has plans to be in Cooperstown, N.Y., for the July 26 induction ceremonies which will be the 75th in the Baseball Hall of Fame’s history. Among the people being inducted this year are former players Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and Joe Torre, along with managers Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Nadel. “I’ve got my speech written. I’ve got to edit it a little bit and start practicing.”

 

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