Monday, February 1, 2010

Herb Score passed over for Ford C. Frick Award

The Ford C. Frick Award is an award bestowed annually by the National Baseball Hall of Fame in the United States to a broadcaster for "major contributions to baseball." Perhaps it's that last phrase that kept Herb Score from winning the award this year, over a year after his passing. I'm not saying it's a correct assessment mind you, but perhaps an assessment carried by the idiots that vote on this thing.

I'm likely not being all that fair here. Score was selected by the same idiots(baseball historians, former winners and fans) to be a finalist. Jon Miller won the award, and regardless of what people say about him, his is a fantastic announcer. But it does seem that for Score to win the award, he has to overcome an insurmountable mountain.

He was the announcer for the Cleveland Indians for 34 years.

How do you climb that barrier? For 31 years of his tenure, the Indians were a laughingstock. Sure, Haray Caray won the award as announcer for the Cubs, but the Cubs were lovable losers, and Caray benefited from national exposure from WGN's superstation that was broadcast all across the country. The Indians were just losers, and sometimes weren't broadcast in Cleveland.

I love baseball because of Herb Score. Let's be honest here, there wasn't much to love about the Indians in the 1970's. My formative years of baseball were sitting in my living room listening to Herb Score on 1100, WWWE. The teams were terrible, and even though we all had our favorite players, they weren't very good. Score made them sound like heros. No, he didn't live in the land of hyperbole, like Jon Miller did. Instead, Score was like your grandpa, speaking of baseball players as though he had watched them play since they were knee-high to a grasshopper.

I didn't know how good I had it, to be honest, listening to Herb Score and Joe Tait paint a picture every night. We all know about Score's mistakes on the air, but that just endeared him more to the fans that were listening. Mistakes were part of Indians lore, of course, and it just made Score seem like one of us...a mistake-prone group of fans that were destined to back a team that made more mistakes than most. The fact that Herb didn't make mistakes every night, or for that matter, fall asleep was a miracle in itself.

Herb Score was ours, there's nothing more simple than that. Sunny California had Vin Scully, the Yankees had Mel Allen, and the Tigers had Ernie Harwell. The Indians...we had Herb Score.

Score could have been a miserable sort. In 1955, he burst upon the baseball scene as Fernando Valenzuela and Dwight Gooden would over 25 years later. He would be the rookie of the year in 1955. He would win 20 games in 1956. He would get beaned by the Yankees Gil McDougald in 1957. Many say it was over that day, and they may be right, but Herb never believed it. Instead, he looks back to a game in 1958 in which he tore a tendon. His mechanics changed, and his career was essentially over.

Not for Herb though.

Many of us Indians fans would whine and complain about losing the next great pitcher, but Score never complained. Instead, he got another job, as an announcer, for the same team he played for, and never left until that team went to the World Series not once, but twice in his last three years.

No excuses.

Yeah, Herb Score was ours, and for that reason, he likely won't ever be theirs. I loved listening to Scully and his southern draw, but he wasn't as good as Herb. I loved listening to Allen on This Week in Baseball, but he wasn't as good as Herb. Perhaps that's the way it should be. The Indians, essentially a quagmire of a team, with an announcer much to good for what was performing in front of him.

He never announced for baseball's game of the week, as did Scully and Miller in their heydeys. He never announced for ESPN, as Miller would. He never gained a national audience, since the Indians were about as national as Near Bear. Instead, he announced for little old Cleveland...the hateable losers...the mistakes on the lake...and he was pretty darn good...and were they.

You know Herb, Ford Frick award or not...

"It's a beautiful day for baseball!"

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