The Ford C. Frick award honors baseball broadcasters, and it's sponsored by the Hall of Fame. The winners will get to make a speech at the Hall of Fame upon their induction, and they will have a display honoring them at the Hall of Fame. But it's important that you shalt not refer to them as "Hall of Fame broadcaster" or describe them as being "in the Hall of Fame", or else Rob Neyer will stab you with a sharpened pencil. I've learned a lot over the last two seasons.
The Hall of Fame has announced the list of 41 semi-finalists for the 2013 Ford C. Frick award, and the idea now is that fans are supposed to go to the Hall of Fame's Facebook page to vote for the broadcasters to make the cut for the 10 final spots. The 10 finalists are then voted on by historians and past winners.
The list of semi-finalists:
Joe Angel, Richie Ashburn, Alan Ashby, Bert Blyleven, Lou Boudreau, Thom Brennaman, Rodger Brulotte, Joe Buck, Steve Busby, Skip Caray, Joe Castiglione, Tom Cheek, Don Chevrier, Gary Cohen, Jerry Doggett, Jacques Doucet, Dick Enberg, Ed Farmer, Ray Fosse, Hank Greenwald, Tom Grieve, Tom Hamilton, Ken Harrelson, Mark Holtz, Pat Hughes, Jim Hunter, Todd Kalas, Bill King, Mike Krukow, Duane Kuiper, Eric Nadel, Joe Nuxhall, Phil Rizzuto, Ron Santo, Mike Shannon, Charlie Slowes, Dewayne Staats, Steve Stone, Pete Van Wieren, Mike Wilner and Bert Wilson.
There are some familiar names and legendary names. There are a couple of people who are in the Hall of Fame as players, there are several broadcasters who are still active, and there are several who have passed away. There are …
Joe Buck and Hawk Harrelson.
It's hard to get baseball fans to agree on anything. Vin Scully is the best, Brandon McCarthy is good at Twitter, and Buck O'Neill should have been inducted into the Hall of Fame while he was still alive. That about covers it. After that, there are bloody, violent debates about everything else. Except when it comes to Joe Buck and Hawk Harrelson. That's also a kind of uniter among baseball fans around the country.
Hawk Harrelson is the embodiment of the homer, the irrational partisan announcer who isn't having fun unless his team is winning. Witness his call of a Red Sox walk-off homer this year:
Usually when an announcer lets the crowd noise tell the story, it's a nice touch -- the announcer, in a moment of humility, decides he or she can't paint a picture with words that's better than 40,000 people screaming. Show of hands: Who thinks that is what Hawk was going for? Right. He was disgusted, and he didn't want to give the opposing team the satisfaction of a call. Or he was too irate to make a call. Either way, kind of gross.
If you're not a White Sox fan, you can't appreciate the "STRETCH STRETCH STRETCH", nor can you appreciate the "YOU CAN PUT IT ON THE BOOOOOOOOOAAARRRRD YES YES YES YES" call he appropriated from Meg Ryan. Even if you are a White Sox fan, you might be not be a Hawk fan. Most White Sox fans I know have grown accustomed to him, like a beloved crazy uncle, but there are still more than a few who can't get into him.
Joe Buck doesn't even get that. He doesn't have a home team, so he's automatically looked at with suspicion by the fans of all 30 teams. Is he biased? He's probably biased. He certainly hates your team. And you should complain about it.
But if the complaints aren't about him being totally biased against your team -- he is, you know -- they're about him being soulless and overly slick. He never gets overly excited, even in the most historic moments. I've never heard or read a passionate argument for Buck, which is about the best way to describe the apathy/antipathy spectrum on which he resides.
Disclaimer: I don't mind Buck. I understand the complaints, but I also understand how hard it must be to be all things to all fans, to straddle that line between seeming impartial and conveying excitement. Buck has never gotten in the way of me enjoying a baseball game, though. Maybe for a few seconds every so often, but nothing lasting.
Another disclaimer: The game of baseball would be more boring without Hawk. He's a character who adds some color to the mural of baseball, even if it's not the most pleasing color. Maybe it's easier to be forgiving when you don't have to listen to him for 162 games every year, but he's a broadcasting legend. Mostly for the wrong reasons, but still a legend.
But forget about all that. We're on the Internet, and we like to argue. So this post is all about starting a conversation with a single question. Which is ...
Would you rather see Joe Buck or Hawk Harrelson win the Ford C. Frick award?
Your initial answer is probably "No." But this is a hypothetical scenario. You have to choose one and exclude the other. There's a poll. This is serious business.
Spoiler: They'll both get the award eventually. Last year's winner was Tim McCarver, who probably inspires as much disdain as any announcer in recent memory, but he's been around for decades, and he's been a part of so many great games and series in baseball history. Buck will get in through the same path. Harrelson will get bonus points for being wholly identified with a single team.
But right now, pretend you had to choose between them. It's a Sophie's choice, with the caveat that Sophie really, really didn't like her children and just wanted to sleep in.