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02/01/10 9:16 PM EST
Simmons, peers thrilled for Miller
New Frick winner adds to legacy of Giants broadcast greats
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- There's Russ. And Lon. And now, Jon. The legacy of great Giants broadcasting voices officially grew Monday when Jon Miller received the Ford C. Frick Award, immortalizing him in the broadcasters' wing of baseball's Hall of Fame. Miller was vacationing in Colombia with his wife, Janine, when Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson gave him the happy news. "Without question I'm the luckiest man in Cartagena, Colombia -- or anywhere else, for that matter," Miller said. Upon receiving the fateful phone call, Miller's mind was immediately flooded with thoughts of two of his illustrious predecessors, Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons, previous Frick Award winners whose play-by-play nurtured the love of the game for first-generation San Francisco Giants fans. Miller, who grew up in the Bay Area, was among those acolytes. "It really is kind of astounding to me," Miller said during a conference call. "Russ and Lon were larger than life to me. They were as big as the biggest movie stars to me." Miller was drawn to announcing from the very beginning. Recalling the first Giants game he attended with his father -- a 19-8 rout over the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 16, 1962, at Candlestick Park, which Miller vividly remembered. He said that his upper-deck seat on the first-base side afforded him a clear view of the broadcast booth. So he kept peering at Hodges and Simmons, yet somehow managed to follow the game. It was fitting that Miller, who also called games with Texas (1978-79), Boston (1980-82) and Baltimore (1983-96) before joining San Francisco's crew, received some of his highest praise from Simmons. "You'd have to rate him with Russ and Scully as among the top announcers in the business," said Simmons, the 2004 Frick Award winner, referencing the Dodgers' Vin Scully, himself the 1982 Frick recipient. The lead announcer on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts for 20 years, Miller earned the Frick distinction in his first time as a finalist. "I knew Jon was going to make it eventually. I didn't know whether he was going to make it this time or not," Simmons said. But, Simmons added, "he has done so much nationally and locally that he's a natural to get in there." Simmons flashed his familiar self-deprecating humor when he related his congratulatory phone call to Miller. "I told him that they don't want too many people from the same area, so they're taking me out and putting you in," Simmons said. Miller's current broadcast partners, never shy about expressing their feelings, freely shared their joy. "It's great that he got in in the middle of the prime of his career," Duane Kuiper said. "He's got a lot of life left in those lungs." "We were so stoked," Mike Krukow said. "I talked to Kuip; we are definitely going to toast Jon Miller tonight. I got huge goose pimples. I'm just so proud that he's with us and he's made all of us better." Professionalism and enthusiasm help set Miller apart. For instance, Kuiper marveled at Miller's tendency to correct himself when he'd identify a pitch incorrectly. "Who would know? It's radio," Kuiper said. "I think that's a great way or expressing how he felt he had to get the game right and he was not going to cheat the listeners by giving them misinformation." Most press-box denizens root for short games and curse doubleheaders and rain delays. Not Miller. As Krukow said, "Jon's line is always, 'Well, where else would you rather be?' We've all adopted that same philosophy." Said broadcaster Dave Flemming, "I honestly believe there is nobody in the game -- player, broadcaster, coach, manager, executive -- who loves baseball the way Jon does. I think Jon has made his career, in a lot of ways, based on that. He has an unbelievable natural talent, a talent for storytelling, a talent for the big moment. and he has the great voice. But the reason Jon is now a Hall of Famer is nobody loves being at the ballpark and being around the game more than he does." This doesn't stop Miller from being cynical -- as all reporters are -- when he feels compelled in that direction. "He has a way of putting inquiry into his tone, where he is questioning something with the inflection of his voice," Simmons said. It all adds up to why Miller, who grew up idolizing Scully as well as Hodges and Simmons, is like no other announcer. Which is the way every announcer should be. "For every young broadcaster, finding out who he is and becoming that person on the air is a real key," Miller said. "Ultimately I found out who I was and just did that."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.