NEW YORK – Al Michaels refers to his lack of baseball for much of his career “the one regret I might have.”
An absence from regular baseball broadcasts for the past quarter-century didn't prevent the 76-year-old from reaching the Hall of Fame.
Michaels was voted the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcast excellence by the Hall on Wednesday and will be honored July 24 during the Hall's induction weekend.
“This is able now to take me back to to the beginning, because I really feel in a way since it’s been so long since I have done baseball that it’s like an out-of-body experience, like somebody else did this,” he said. "It’s like the circle is complete.”
He broadcast for Hawaii in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League from 1968-70, the Cincinnati Reds from 1971-73 and the San Francisco Giants 1974-76.
Michaels gained a national spotlight when ABC had MLB rights from 1976-89 and again in 1994 and ’95, coverage interrupted by the players’ strike. He didn’t broadcast baseball again until a game on the MLB Network in 2011.
His best-remembered baseball telecast was when an earthquake struck at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park before Game 3 of the 1989 World Series. Michaels was broadcasting with Tim McCarver when the quake struck moments before the scheduled start.
“Well, I don’t know if we’re on the air or not and I’m not sure I care at this particular moment but we are. Well folks, that’s the greatest open in the history of television, bar none," he said. “We're still here. We are still as we can well on the air, and I guess you are hearing us, even though we have no picture and no return audio. And we will be back, we hope, from San Francisco in just a moment.”
“I just had to remain very calm,” he recalled Wednesday. “And I remember thinking just talk about the things you know for certain. Don’t speculate. Don’t guess. Don’t receive outside information that’s not been corroborated. ... The pictures that we had, obviously, the aerial views were highly dramatic. The severed section of the bridge, the fire in the marina and eventually the collapsed freeway in Oakland as the major sites. And all I remember doing is just, hey, here’s what I know, here’s what I see and let the viewer assess it from that point.”
He grew up in Brooklyn as a Dodgers fan. He thinks he was 6 when he went to Ebbets Field for the first time.
“I remember walking in and I was just enamored with the colors,” he said. “We sat in the the upper deck behind the broadcast booth and I looked down and I saw these guys announcing the game and I thought to myself, I want to be here like every day for the rest of my life and get in for free.”
He joined ABC as a backup baseball announcer in 1976 and became lead announcer of “Monday Night Baseball” in 1983. He worked “Monday Night Football” from 1986-2005, then returned to NBC. He is an eight-time Emmy Award winner.
Michaels was on the National Voices ballot that also included Buddy Blattner, Joe Buck, Dave Campbell, Dizzy Dean, Don Drysdale, Ernesto Jerez and Dan Shulman.
Baseball remains Michaels' favorite sport to broadcast.
“It’s so unusual in the sense that there’s a rhythm to it, a pacing to it that no other sport possesses because you’re going to have X number of seconds between pitches. It’s a leisurely pace," he said. "As you know, it can get extremely frenetic and dramatic, which also is fantastic, as the game gets hot in the late innings. But you don’t have that in football. Football is 4 seconds of action and 20, 30, 35 seconds of inaction. Basketball is a flow. Hockey has a flow. They’re continuous. I think baseball enables you to stop and start and reflect and tell stories and that’s why it’s so different. And I think that’s why people are enamored with baseball.”
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