Oklahoma City kept Eric Nadel in the radio business.
The longtime radio voice of the Texas Rangers began his career as a hockey announcer, starting in Muskegon, Mich., where he grew frustrated with the business to the point he was looking at other options before moving to Oklahoma City and then Dallas.
The Texas Rangers discovered him in 1979 and he has been with the organization ever since, where he was a partner with Jon Miller, Mark Holtz and Brad Sham among others.
Nadel, who for the past three years was a finalist for the Ford C. Frick Award, will be in Oklahoma City on Monday for the Rangers Caravan at the Academy Sports and Outdoors located on 7700 South Walker Ave., along with first base coach Dave Anderson and pitching prospects Justin Grimm, Michael Kirkman and Tanner Scheppers.
Nadel recently talked with The Oklahoman about his career and about his time in Oklahoma City.
My parents were both avid Brooklyn Dodgers fans and the year that I turned 6 they took me to four games at Ebbets Field. Those were some of the most memorable experiences I can ever remember.
Then at the end of that 1957 season, the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles and I was left without a baseball team to root for having already fallen completely in love with the game. So I continued rooting for the Dodgers via long distance, which was pretty difficult, because I had already been taught to hate the Yankees, and that's all we had left.
My dad was a dentist who regularly worked 12-hour days, including on Saturday. My mom was an accountant who became a stay-at-home mom after my older sister was born. But we were very achievement oriented and I was taught that whatever you do to work hard at it and do your best and do with passion.
I remember riding with my dad in the car, and I was probably about 7, and we were listening to a Yankees game and I asked him if Mel Allen was getting paid to broadcast the games and he laughed and said, “Yeah that's his job.” I said, “You mean like you get paid to fill teeth and he gets paid to go to Yankee Stadium?” He said, “Yeah,” and I said, “Well, I like his job better than yours.”
Then I started to listening to all of the sports and in New York that came to mean Marv Albert doing basketball and hockey. I would get my homework done as soon as I got home from school so I wouldn't miss a word when the Knicks and the Rangers, whoever was playing that night, came on the radio.
I got a job when I was 17 years old. I got a summer job in Hope, Ark., as a disc jockey. That provided me with “professional experience” before I even went to college.
I went to Brown University in Rhode Island and when I got there and went up to the college radio station, I already had professional experience and I told them I wanted to do sports and that pretty much gave me carte blanche to do whichever sports I wanted to do, which there did not include baseball.
When I got done there, hockey, I thought, was the land of opportunity. The sport was growing and expanding, that was the sport I had done the most in college, and that was the sport I did the best and so that's where I concentrated my efforts.
I got one job offer in Muskegon, Mich., with the Muskegon Mohawks of the International Hockey League, which was the lowest level of minor league hockey at the time.
I learned that I loved broadcasting the games, that it was as much fun as I thought it would be. I also learned how tough the life could be. That was a bus league, all the travel was by bus, the town was very friendly but it was really, bitterly cold during the winter with tons of snow. I learned the grim realities of the business that sometimes you have to live somewhere you don't particularly want to live.
And after three years there I was ready to give up. If I hadn't gotten a better job, I
was going to law school. I figured if I couldn't improve my standing in the broadcast world in four years, that was enough. I actually had gotten an application to law school, I took the LSAT and my broadcast career was winding to an end.
Then I was sitting at my desk one day in March of 1975 and I read that John Brooks was giving up the Oklahoma City Blazers job to become the voice of the Sooners and I picked up the phone and I called information and I got the Oklahoma City Blazers' phone number and I talked to Ray Miron, who was the general manager and coach at the time, and he said, “Yeah the job is open, send me your stuff.” Then a few months later in June he hired me to be John Brooks' replacement and that's how I wound up staying in broadcasting instead of going to law school.
For me going to Oklahoma City was like going to Hollywood because the town that I was coming from had one movie theater and was a town of under 50,000. Here I was going to at least a major metropolitan area with concerts and multiple entertainment choices and an unbelievable facility in the Myriad, where I got to see The Who and Elvis Presley and all sorts of major stars.
Ray Miron and I were trying to convince Toronto (Maple Leafs) and Chicago (Blackhawks) to locate the franchise in Oklahoma City (when the two NHL teams combined their minor league operation). But Chicago insisted on keeping the franchise in Dallas, so Toronto pulled out of Oklahoma City and moved into Dallas with Chicago as their partner. Fortunately for me the broadcaster in Dallas was about to retire so there was a job open there for me. But I really regretted having to leave Oklahoma City at the time.
It turned out to be another incredibly lucky move for me. By being in Dallas my broadcasts were heard by, well as it turned out my broadcasts were heard by the people who run the Texas Rangers.
I always felt I was just lucky to be there and I had great broadcast partners who helped me learn how to do baseball.
(Mark Holtz) was the best partner you could ever have. We had so much fun together. It didn't really matter that the team wasn't that good.
I'm not going to lie to you, it's a lot easier to do games that are meaningful than games that are not. But for years and years I never had the experience of doing meaningful games in September, so when that finally started happening in the 90s, that was a great awakening.
He was a great friend in addition to being a broadcast partner. He just had the same sort of attitude about the game throughout the broadcast that I did. We both knew the game well and we were both going to do a serious baseball broadcast when it was called for, but it wasn't brain surgery, and we were going to have as much fun as we could and be as entertaining as we could.
Probably the hardest game I ever had to do was when he passed away in 1997. We were in Toronto and he died early that morning, and Brad Sham was my partner then and he was gone doing a football game, and I had to do the game that day by myself. Fortunately, Roger Clemens was on his game that day for Toronto and shut the Rangers out in about 2 hours and 5 minutes.
Once we got to the World Series, I told people it was like broadcasting in heaven.
In 2010 it didn't even matter whether the Rangers won the World Series, we were there. In 2011 it mattered and it was just crushing when Game 6 came down the way it did.
I haven't watched a moment of it since then. The only times I've heard my calls have been in my sleep where I hear my call on the ball that (Nelson) Cruz didn't catch. I'm not sure that any of us will ever be fully recovered from that loss, until at least the Rangers finally win it all.
It was almost surreal to go from being the best team in baseball almost the entire season to a team that just couldn't win a game the last two weeks of the season (in 2012). While it's happening, you don't even realize what's happening; you're pretty much just going game to game and then you look back on it when it's over and say how in the world did that happen.
Truly anything can happen. It was beyond the realm of probability and I'm still not sure exactly how it happened; there's all kind of theories. But it was very disappointing and still for me was much easier to shake off than the disappointment of the 2011 World Series.
I think each of the three years I've been on the (Ford C. Frick) ballot, the right person won and the deserving person won. In my mind there are a lot of broadcasters who haven't won this award who deserve to win it. Maybe my time will come eventually and maybe it will come soon, but just being on that list of 10 nominees is an unbelievable honor.
I never really aspired to do a network position and once I had this job my main priority was keeping it from year to year, you know not giving it up. So when they offered long-term security, it wasn't a real hard decision.