ARLINGTON, Texas – After hours spent celebrating with family and friends following the Texas Rangers’ Game 6 victory in the 2010 American League Championship Series to advance to their first World Series, longtime broadcaster Eric Nadel took his AL championship T-shirt and put it on the chair by his bed.
“That way when I woke up in the morning I would see it and know that it wasn’t a dream,” Nadel said.
It’s that kind of passion and loyalty to the Rangers that Nadel has managed to translate to baseball fans in North Texas for 34 years now. And because of what he’s done for the game within the Rangers community, Nadel will be inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame before Saturday’s game with the Detroit Tigers. Nadel goes in a “non-playing capacity,” joining Johnny Oates (2003), Tom Vandergriff (2004), Mark Holtz (2005) and Tom Grieve (2010), who were also honored for contributions off the field.
Nadel has had many memorable events, but his biggest is Neftali Feliz's strikeout of Alex Rodriguez to end Game 6 of the ALCS against the New York Yankees and send the franchise to its first Fall Classic
“It was the first pennant and all of the emotion that was felt and released by Rangers fans, myself included, when it happened was amazing,” Nadel said. “I’ve never experienced that sort of emotion at an athletic event the way the stadium just erupted. I was almost overcome by emotion. After I said, ‘The Rangers are going to World Series,’ I don’t think I spoke for 30 or 40 seconds. All you could hear were the fans cheering.”
It’s a rarity that Nadel doesn’t have something to say. And he isn’t afraid to say it. Several former players in attendance for Friday’s Hall of Fame luncheon noted that Nadel describes the action as it unfolds and then puts it into context without, as Rafael Palmeiro said, “being a big homer.”
“I think it’s very meaningful to an organization to have an announcer that stays with an organization like he has for 34 years and have that consistency and for the fan base to relate to him and to experience a lot of things that happened with our organization over the years through him,” said Rangers CEO and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, whose 5,000th strikeout was called by Nadel in 1989. “The thing about a radio announcer is they come into people’s homes and they’re actually a part of those people and their following of the ballclub, and they develop a relationship with Eric as much as they do the ballclub. I think those are the things that are really important and the consistency.”
Nadel’s arrival in the Rangers' broadcast booth came about thanks to the ice. Once he graduated from Brown in 1972, Nadel got a job with the Muskegon Mohawks, a minor league hockey team in Michigan. Three years later, he was hired by the Oklahoma City Blazers of the Central Hockey League. When that team merged with the Dallas Blackhawks, he landed in North Texas for good in the summer in 1976. In the spring of 1978, Nadel was contacted by the Rangers about doing 30 games in 1979 on television and radio. It was a trial run and a chance to see not only if he could do the job, but if he wanted to do it.
“I wouldn’t want to hear any of those tapes now,” Nadel said. “They’d probably be pretty embarrassing. I wasn’t really good as a baseball announcer, but I guess I was adequate. I learned a lot. I practiced a lot in the games I wasn’t doing. I talked a lot to Jon Miller and Bill Merrill, who were my partners back then.”
Nadel became a full-time radio announcer in 1982, when the club brought in Holtz and went with a two-man booth. They were together for 13 seasons before Holtz moved to television, leaving Nadel as the lead radio voice.
“He was a sensational announcer,” Nadel said of Holtz, who died in 1997. “We bonded immediately as friends. We had tremendous chemistry together, both on and off the air. He had many, many years of experience doing minor league baseball, so I learned a lot from him about being a baseball announcer. He had a great, positive enthusiasm that came across on the air. He was very friendly and an outgoing personality and fans could see that. He was a lot of fun to be with, a lot of fun to listen to. The combination of the two of us just clicked.”
Nadel, 61, is enjoying the fact that he’s broadcasting a team that has become an annual contender, something that wasn’t the case when he was just starting. He did get a chance to call clinching games for AL West titles in 1996, 1998 and 1999. But all of those ended in disappointment for the Rangers, who won just one playoff game in that span and lost all three series to the Yankees.
Of course, Nadel has called some heartbreaking losses despite two straight trips to the World Series. Game 6 of the 2011 World Series heads that list.
“It was brutal,” Nadel said. “I couldn’t believe my eyes because when the ball came off David Freese’s bat, I thought, like the Rangers fans, that we had won the World Series. Then the ball carried farther than everyone thought it would carry and it didn’t get caught. Then, to go ahead again only to have the Cardinals tie it again and have our hearts broken twice … I didn’t sleep much that night.”
Nadel hopes for a better ending this season – or in future seasons. And at 61 years old, he has no plans on vacating the booth any time soon.
“I love it,” Nadel said. “It’s fun to do. I’m not ready to retire. I have no feel on when I might be ready to retire.”