For thousands of Baltimoreans who revered the great Orioles teams of the 1960s and 1970s, the names of Chuck Thompson and Bill O'Donnell are as indelibly etched in memory as Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Boog Powell or Davey Johnson.
O'Donnell and Thompson were the radio and television voices of the team in those halcyon days, and, as most good announcers are, were trusted in many homes like a member of the family.
Thompson was presented the Ford C. Frick Award by the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993 and is leading a charge to get his partner of 16 years the same designation by championing his cause among the other seven members of the broadcasting committee.
"The more times they see that name, the more they'll remember the man, and if they remember the man, they'll remember that he was a solid professional and one of the really good people in this business," Thompson said.
Though only one announcer a year is selected for the Frick award, which does not constitute enshrinement in the Hall, but is a recognition of an announcer's body of work, the election process is much more informal than it is for a player, as the highest vote-getter from a group of nominees is selected. Active announcers can be considered, and the majority of the current recipients are still working.
O'Donnell, who died 15 years ago this month of cancer, was a gifted announcer who did basketball and baseball for the networks and had a national reputation. He was so fondly thought of that he was once asked to give a pre-game pep talk to the Syracuse football team by former coach Ben Schwartzwalder, a rather unusual occurrence.
But it was here in Baltimore where O'Donnell was best known. Thompson called his former partner "cautious" and the most prepared announcer he ever worked with, and likened his style to that of Ernie Harwell, the first voice of the Orioles before he left for Detroit in the early '60s, where he earned the Frick award.
"One of the great things about Ernie Harwell is that I don't care how difficult the situation is in a particular game, he never, never loses control. He's calm, cool and collected at all times. And, in a sense, that's the way I describe Bill O'Donnell," Thompson said.
Thompson also is hoping to get a groundswell to have former Orioles announcer Jon Miller presented the Frick award. Miller, 45, immediately followed O'Donnell in 1983, and is widely acknowledged as one of baseball's best voices.
"I just can't understand why there's any reason in the world that he has to wait until he's 55 or 60 or 70 to be accepted as a Hall of Fame broadcaster," Thompson said. "That name goes on my ballot every year and I don't know whether the majority of people feel that you should finish your career before you go into the Hall of Fame, but if you want to go back 20 years, almost everybody who went to the Hall of Fame were guys who were working. Jon's going to work for a long time, but I think the caliber of his work is such that he should be in the Hall of Fame."
Thompson said the candidacy of Miller, who parted ways with the Orioles after last season, could be blemished by the fact that he is, with the San Francisco Giants, with his fifth team, bucking the trend of Frick winners to spend the bulk of their careers with one team.
"I was so lucky to be here for so many years. That certainly helped me. Jon has gone to Texas, to Oakland, to Boston and we know that he wanted to stay in Baltimore for the rest of his career," Thompson said. "But you think about that, and you really can't make yourself say, 'Hey, just because a man has moved.' He's moved to better himself. I don't see how that should have a bearing on his selection."
Numbers way up
If you add the ratings of Sunday's Orioles-Mariners Game 4 of the Division Series for ESPN and Channel 13, which carried ESPN's signal, you get a total 31.4 Nielsen rating and 56 share of the audience, which means that well over 300,000 local households and close to 60 percent of all the television sets in the Baltimore area that were turned on watched all or part of the contest.
Those are Super Bowl-like numbers and suggest that viewing for the Orioles' continued presence in the postseason will be through the roof.
Last Thursday's Game 2 was seen nationally on ESPN in 2.4 million homes, and the 3.3 cable rating was higher than the 3.0 average for playoff games on ESPN. National numbers for Sunday's game will appear in this space on Thursday.
The ratings for the 10 most-watched sporting events on broadcast television in Baltimore last weekend:
Event, Day, Ch., R/S
O's-Seattle, Sun., 13, 21.9/39
O's-Seattle, Sat., 45, 20.8/41
Ravens-Pitt., Sun., 11, 14.5/33
Cleve.-N.Y., Sun., 45, 10.9/16
S.F.-Florida, Fri., 11, 10.2/18
O's-Seattle, Sun., ESPN, 9.5/17
Cleve.-N.Y., Sat., 11, 5.3/9
NFL on NBC, Sun., 11, 4.8/13
NFL Sunday, Sun., 45, 3.3/9
Minn.-Ari., Sun., 45, 3.3/6
Pub Date: 10/07/97