COCOA, FLA. — Articles published Monday and yesterday on the late sportscaster Chuck Thompson incorrectly characterized his honor from the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1993, Mr. Thompson received the Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award, which, though not signifying induction into the Hall, is the highest honor a baseball announcer can receive.
COCOA, Fla. - It's warm here in Florida, and so is the beer.
Chuck Thompson, who could turn a muggy August evening into a cool drink or a chilly Sunday afternoon into a symphony, has gone on to bigger things, and it's hard to imagine the sports world in Baltimore ever being quite the same.
It wasn't just the voice, though it was a voice that spoke the language of Charm City like none other. It wasn't just a long history in a region that has always had a very personal relationship with its teams and its broadcasters. It was more than that.
Thompson was your favorite uncle who just happened to call the play-by-play for the Orioles and the old Colts, and he graduated into the grandfatherly figure who kept us all in touch with the city's sports legacy.
Now, let me get the truth in advertising out of the way. Everyone knows that I didn't grow up in Baltimore. I grew up listening to the lilting voice of Vin Scully, who has sent several generations of kids to a blissful sleep each night with his wonderful Dodgers broadcasts.
Vinny was the broadcaster of my boyhood and beyond, and I was privileged to get to know him when I covered the Dodgers as a young sportswriter in the 1980s. Maybe it is presumptuous of me to speak for my parallel generation in Baltimore, but I know that every kid who grew up listening to the Orioles in those days gets the same warm feeling when they think of Chuck that I do to this day when I hear Scully on the radio.
It wasn't just a game. It was a conversation. Those talented vocal cords created a common thread that ran through an entire sports community. When Chuck delivered his signature "Ain't the beer cold!" there wasn't a fan within earshot who couldn't feel that icy tang in the back of his throat - even the teetotalers.
Thompson was a local legend, but his credentials as one of the greatest broadcasters of all time were well recognized outside of Maryland. In 1993, he became the 17th recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award - elected by his fellow baseball broadcasters - and was recognized in baseball's Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y.
He was, simply, the voice of Baltimore, and it was a voice that resonated so deeply that the next time you walk down the street in Hampden on one of those cool nights in June, you'll swear you still hear it seaping out of every rowhouse.
There will be a lot of testimonials over the next few days. Everyone who ever held a microphone in Baltimore owes a debt to Chuck - and the respect he garnered inside the sports world should be obvious from the who's who that already has weighed in on his great career - but those weren't really the people he touched the most.
He was the broadcaster for Everyman, a regular guy with a great, big voice who understood that Baltimore fans liked their heroes warm and their National Bohemian ice cold.
Chuck's broadcast career dates back to 1939, but he arrived in Baltimore in 1948. He was the radio voice of the Orioles for 29 seasons.
He made nothing but friends along the way, from Brooks Robinson to Cal Ripken to all the old Colts who still remember the good, old days. Chuck didn't play the game, but he was one of them anyway.
It hasn't been much fun for him the past few years. He suffered from dementia and macular degeneration, which eroded his eyesight and took away his ability to enjoy the games and athletes he once made so enjoyable for everyone else.
He needed the help of his beloved wife, Betty, to get around during the past few years, but he didn't hide from his ailments or the colleagues and fans who still loved him - making a point of attending as many functions as his schedule and health permitted.
Chuck Thompson signed off for the last time yesterday, leaving the airwaves flying at half-staff.