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.
When sports fans say there will never be another Chuck Thompson behind the microphone, they may be right.
The death Sunday of the honey-voiced Baltimore play-by-play man, at age 83, marked the passing of an era in sports broadcasting, experts said yesterday, an era defined by such legends as Thompson, Harry Caray, Jack Buck, Red Barber and others, all now gone.
In so many ways, Thompson was the antithesis of today's slick, ironic broadcasters who worship at the altar of ESPN's Sportscenter and screeching, in-your-face sports talk shows.
For one thing, Thompson came to his job as the radio play-by-play announcer for the Orioles and Colts before the emergence of TV as the white-hot medium that dwarfed all other forms of sports journalism, when calling a game required a highly specialized set of skills.
"He came along at a time when radio was the dominant broadcast medium, which made voice and descriptive ability paramount," said Ted Patterson, WCBM radio sportscaster and author of two books, The Golden Voices of Baseball and The Golden Voices of Football, in which Thompson is featured prominently. "His ability to paint a word picture and open the audience to Chuck's `theater of the mind' was without peer.
"You saw [the game] happening in your mind, thanks to Chuck's descriptive ability. The game itself was his canvas - he just painted the word picture.
"Now with TV, you don't need someone to paint the picture for you. It's there right in front of you. The wordsmiths [in broadcasting] have given way to the labelers ... who put labels on what you're seeing."
By today's standards, Thompson was also a rarity in that he did play-by-play for two different sports - and was a huge hit with fans of both.
Broadcasters "are more specialized today," said Frank Deford, the veteran Sports Illustrated writer and author who grew up in Baltimore. "I don't think there are many announcers who do more than one sport.
"He became the Baltimore announcer. It didn't matter what you were listening to, you were listening to Chuck Thompson."
Thompson also worked in an era when it wasn't considered a sin for the play-by-play man to show delight at his team's good fortune.
When Johnny Unitas would throw a touchdown pass or Brooks Robinson would spear a line drive that no human being had any business getting near, no one would enjoy the moment more than Thompson.
Today, that sort of behavior might earn you a scarlet "H" and the reputation as a "homer" - though Thompson always said he took great pains to objectively describe what was taking place on the field.
"He was not a rooter for the team," said Olympics broadcasting legend and longtime Baltimore resident Jim McKay. "But he was Baltimore. He knew how to communicate with Baltimoreans."
"[Today], Chuck would yell `Ain't the beer cold!' and the [print] media guys would be ripping him for being a con man and a houseboy," said Scott Garceau, longtime sports anchor for WMAR-TV and the play-by-play radio voice of the Baltimore Ravens.
"I think Chuck was more of an `accepted' homer," said WMAR sports anchor Keith Mills. "In that era, it was ... part of your job as the radio play-by-play guy.
"Now, that's taboo. God forbid that anyone considers you a cheerleader for anyone."
Perhaps what endeared Thompson to so many Baltimore sports fans was the sense that he was one of them, a surrogate fan, not a teacher or lecturer or someone hired to make their blood boil, but simply someone who loved the game and the teams as much as they did - but just happened to have a better seat.
"When you look at the great broadcasters of baseball, the great radio broadcasters, you think of guys like Ernie Harwell and Vin Scully, guys who could paint a picture of what was happening at the ballpark," said John Odell, curator of history and research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, where Thompson was enshrined in the broadcasters' wing in 1993.
"It wasn't just the play-by-play, it was all the rest of the ambience, the feeling that was going on. What develops is a very personal kind of relationship. ... I think that's what distinguishes the very best broadcasters from the rest of them."
To some in the business, there's the sense that sportscasting has become too rough - too opinionated and mean-spirited - to allow a gentle man like Thompson to thrive on the airwaves.
"The young [announcers] today seem to think that's the way to do it, beat the pulpit and criticize, whether [they're talking about] Peter Angelos or Art Modell or Ray Lewis or whoever," said Mills, who grew up in Brooklyn Park listening to Thompson on the radio.