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Monday, October 25, 2010

Texas Rangers radio voice Nadel says post season games require different call than regular season

10/24, Star-Telegram: "The radio voice of Eric Nadel has been something in life to count on.

Since 1979, he has painted word pictures of Texas Rangers games: a brim of the cap adjusted; a tap of the plate with the bat; a majestic home run launched --

  • "That ball is history!"; the phase of the moon on hot summer evenings.

In all those years, his artistry and passion have never really wavered, whether the home team was 30 games out in late September or battling the hated Yankees in the American League Championship Series.

Given that consistency, that professionalism, one might have assumed some indifference on Nadel's part about whether the Rangers would ultimately advance to their first World Series.

  • Nothing could have been less true.

In the radio booth in Rangers Ballpark, killing time before Friday's Game 6, Nadel described himself as the team's "biggest fan."

  • He remembered the late Mark Holtz, his longtime broadcast partner in the 1980s and '90s.

"Now, so deep into the playoffs, I'm thinking about him more, how much he would have loved this," Nadel said. "He'd be just like the rest of us. He'd be euphoric that we were in this position. ... And like the rest of us, his stomach would be tied up in knots, waiting to get it done. Waiting is the hardest part, and the anticipation."

  • Nadel's stomach was in knots?

"Totally," he said. "The fact that we've never won makes the stakes so much higher. I talk to my friends who do the Yankees and the Phillies -- those guys have won. It isn't as big a deal to them as it is to me and as it is to Ranger fans. It really isn't. And you know, if there is justice in the universe, the Rangers will win and get their chance. But there is no justice for Cubs fans, so ... "

  • In a few hours, Game 6 would begin. Nadel and the Texas faithful had good reason to believe that this year would be the one. In those anxious hours before the game, the question surfaced: If the Rangers finally did win, how would Nadel describe the moment? Just what would he say?

Nadel was born in Brooklyn 59 years ago and remembers autumn afternoons when the radio play-by-play of the Yankees' World Series games filled the streets. That's part of what inspired him to become a sportscaster. He graduated from Brown University and called minor league hockey and women's professional basketball before landing with the Rangers seven years after the franchise moved to Texas.

  • The baseball teams that Nadel followed over the next three decades were sometimes dreadful and mostly mediocre, with three short-lived playoff appearances against the Yankees.

Early in Nadel's career, Cleveland Indians announcer Herb Score, who had called his share of bad baseball in that city, offered some valuable advice.

"Just treat each game as an independent entity. Almost do it in a vacuum," Nadel said he was told. "This is a Major League Baseball game, involving the best players in the world. Even if it's not two teams in contention, you might see the best play you've ever seen or see the best game you've ever seen. So just treat it as that game."

  • Nadel did. Broadcasting accolades began to pile up, but a huge gap on his résumé remained.

No broadcaster had gone longer with one team without calling a playoff series victory.

  • "Sure I despaired that I never had a chance to call a Game 1 of the ALCS and, as of today, I still despair that I've never had a chance to call a World Series game," Nadel said Friday.

He knew the 2010 Rangers were different, a team with uncommon chemistry, good pitching and an ability to manufacture runs in ways that previous clubs couldn't. But as manager Ron Washington says, in baseball, the best team doesn't always win. Nadel himself wasn't convinced that the long drought was over until Ian Kinsler homered in the ninth inning of Game 5 at Tropicana Field in Florida, giving the Rangers a nice cushion in the American League Division Series against Tampa Bay.

To describe the final out of that series, Nadel paid homage to his friend Holtz, borrowing his former partner's signature line.

  • "Hello win column!"

So the Rangers moved deep into uncharted playoff territory, and as they did, the nature of Nadel's artistry subtly changed.

  • During the season, he would banter more freely with partner Dave Barnett, fill air with obscure stats or interesting stories, try to add humor where he could.

"So much of that stuff which is used to maintain audience interest during the regular season is not needed in the playoffs," Nadel said.

  • "People want to know what's happening on every pitch.

Much more often I'll tell you where the defense is positioned so that you have a better view as a listener.

  • I'll tell you what the pitcher is doing between pitches or what anybody else on the field is doing between pitches. ... Describe. Describe. Describe."

He described a heartbreaking loss in Game 1 against the Yankees, then a gritty Rangers comeback in Game 2.

He described taking two of three at Yankee Stadium. On Friday night, he described a masterful pitching performance by Colby Lewis, a clutch hit by Vladimir Guerrero and a fifth-inning bomb by Nelson Cruz. Two quick outs in the ninth.

  • He finished the game above a roaring crowd.

"One ball, two strikes, two outs, 6 to 1 Rangers lead in the top of the ninth," Nadel called. "Feliz the high set. Here comes the pitch. Breaking ball. Strike three called!

  • The Rangers are going to the World Series!"

For the next 36 seconds, the veteran broadcaster let the delirium in Rangers Ballpark tell the story. His instincts told him when it was time to speak again, summoning poetry when he did.

  • "In the 50th year of the franchise, in their 39th year in Texas, under a full moon in Arlington, the Texas Rangers have won the American League pennant."

Nadel and Rangers fans despaired no more. There was justice in the universe after all."

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