Jon Miller selected as Frick Award winner

Ex-Orioles announcer chosen for honor recognizing major contributions in baseball broadcasting

February 01, 2010|By Dan Connolly | Baltimore Sun reporter

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Jon Miller, who called the Orioles' final out of their last World Series Championship title in 1983, has been named the 2010 winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for major contributions in baseball broadcasting.

He will be honored in Cooperstown, N.Y., during this year's National Baseball Hall of Fame ceremony on July 25 along with 2010 Hall inductees outfielder Andre Dawson, manager Whitey Herzog and umpire Doug Harvey and New York Daily News writer Bill Madden, the J.G. Taylor Spink Award recipient for baseball writing.

A list of 10 Frick finalists was whittled down to three last month by a select group of 15 former winners and five historians/columnists.

"I am obviously very excited to be the one who is here," said Miller in a teleconference Monday while on vacation in Cartagena, Colombia.

Miller, 58, spent 14 seasons as the radio play-by-play announcer for the Orioles before leaving after the 1996 season to join his hometown team, the San Francisco Giants, for whom he still broadcasts. He's also been a play-by-play fixture on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts for 20 years.

"Baltimore, San Francisco, ESPN, whichever version you are talking about," Miller said, "to be awarded the Ford Frick Award, without question I am the luckiest man in Cartagena, Colombia, or anywhere else for that matter."

Miller has established himself as not only one of the most distinctive voices in sports broadcasting, but also one of the most entertaining. His repertoire includes a wide variety of impersonations, including a dead-on imitation of Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully, and irreverent one-liners that often take the listener and his broadcast partners by surprise.

"When you work with Jon, you have to be on your toes not only professionally and not only in regard to the game but also to be able to go back and forth with him," said Orioles broadcaster Joe Angel, who partnered with Miller from 1988 to 1990 and in 1992 in Baltimore and in 2002 and 2003 in San Francisco.

"When it got to a point in the game when the score didn't really matter, then we became a couple of guys just trying to keep an audience entertained and give them a reason to listen," Angel said. "When he was the lead guy, you almost had to be an Ed McMahon to his Johnny Carson."

After three years calling Boston Red Sox games, Miller joined Baltimore's WFBR before the 1983 season to partner with Tom Marr after Frick winner Chuck Thompson decided to concentrate on TV broadcasts. Miller was saddled with following a legend, but his first season was aided by the quality of that Orioles team.

"They made me look good," Miler said. "And I think it was the best thing that ever happened to me, going to Baltimore right at that time and at that place. It was the start of a happy marriage for me."

The bitter divorce came after the 1996 season when the Orioles and their owner Peter Angelos did not aggressively attempt to retain Miller and he left for the Giants. Some speculated that Miller simply wanted to return home to San Francisco while others believed that Angelos didn't want Miller because he wasn't always an Orioles cheerleader in his broadcasts. Many fans still point to that separation as one of most significant lowlights of Angelos' ownership of the team.

"I thought I was going to stay there for a long, long time," Miller said Monday. "That did not work out."

Instead, he has found a broadcasting home in the Bay Area where he grew up. During his 30-year career, Miller has broadcast 13 World Series, as well as Cal Ripken Jr.'s breaking of Lou Gehrig's consecutive games played streak and Barry Bonds' breaking of the single-season and career home run marks.

Yet when asked Monday about the most memorable moment of his career, the first thing that came to Miller's mind was Monday, May 2, 1988, when the Orioles returned home to Memorial Stadium with a 1-23 mark after starting the season with a MLB-record 21 straight losses. The attendance for that game, dubbed Fantastic Fans Night, was 50,402.

"Fifty thousand people showed up and the first pitch of the game was a called strike and the crowd went nuts like it was the World Series," Miller said. "It was one of the most exciting nights of baseball I have ever seen. And the Orioles, who couldn't beat anybody, took a 9-1 lead into the ninth inning that night as if they had been doing it all along. Just the pure emotion of that night stood out when the team expected none. ...

"It wasn't an historic night or a record-setting night," Miller said. "There were no World Series that were won or pennants clinched, but it's a night that I always will remember."

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