Lon Simmons, the former San Francisco Giants broadcaster honored this season by the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., is the first such honoree to have been nominated over the Internet.
The Hall recently instituted a rule change allowing fans to take part in selecting the finalists for the Ford C. Frick Award, given to one announcer each year since 1978 for “major contributions to baseball.” The Frick winners make up what is commonly called the broadcasters’ wing of the Hall of Fame.
“Broadcasters have really been one of the strongest links bringing fans to the game, and we wanted to give them input,” said Jeff Idelson, the Hall’s VP of communications and education. “We had more than 105,000 fans cast votes, which shows you how much they care about their broadcasters.” That number is expected to rise in coming years as word spreads about the new procedure, he said.
While each year’s Frick winner is still chosen by a 20-member committee consisting of a combination of previous winners and baseball historians, three of the 10 finalists presented to that committee are now selected by fans, who vote over the Web. That modification opens doors for announcers who have built strong relationships with their local listeners without ever reaching a broader audience.
This year’s choice, Mr. Simmons, who split a career spanning some 45 years in the San Francisco Bay area between the Giants and Oakland Athletics, said the rule change had a definite impact on his selection.
“I never felt qualified to go into the Hall of Fame,” said Mr. Simmons, now retired and living in Hawaii. “I certainly don’t put myself in the class of [Vin] Scully or [Russ] Hodges or Ernie Harwell. I had felt you had to be a figure of national prominence, but that changed when they changed the rules. I just can’t convince myself in my mind that I was a Hall of Fame announcer.”
Getting enshrined by the Hall can be a humbling experience. Jaime Jarrin, the Spanish-language voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers who got his ticket to Cooperstown punched in 1998, said he “never, never, never, never, never dreamed” of attaining such an honor. When he did, it changed his life.
“I began getting a different type of mail, asking for my autograph, cards and pictures and everything,” Mr. Jarrin said. “Also, I noticed that in other cities, the owners and general managers of ballclubs would come to see me and shake my hand and see if everything was OK. Before that I was never approached by anybody.”
But the Dodgers’ Vin Scully, probably the most acclaimed baseball broadcaster in history, had a different take on winning the Frick Award in 1982. “You know, I tell you honestly, my No. 1 feeling is complete thanksgiving about having the job, having it this long,” said Mr. Scully, now in his 55th year with the Dodgers. “Whatever rewards come along are very nice, but I take them in stride. I don’t mean to demean them, I don’t mean to push them aside. I just thank God. I don’t dwell on it at all. So it hasn’t changed my life one whit.
“I still take the garbage out,” Mr. Scully said.