Red Sox radio broadcaster Joe Castiglione has called Ned Martin (above) the “most literate of all broadcasters.” (Photo, National Baseball Hall of Fame)
I wanted to share a letter I wrote to the members of the committee who will be selecting this year’s winner of the Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award, given to a broadcaster for “major contributions” to baseball. Among the eight finalists for the 2017 award is Ned Martin, a Red Sox broadcaster from 1961-1992 and a beloved voice in New England. The winner will be announced at the baseball winter meetings in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 7.
Here’s my letter:
Dear committee members:
Enough politicking has taken place in 2016 to last us a lifetime but in my role as Red Sox historian I wanted to offer a few words about Ned Martin, who is on your ballot for the 2017 Ford C. Frick Award.
For most, if not all of you, Ned is hardly an unknown. I look at the names on your committee, and I see many who surely crossed paths with Ned over the course of his career. And I am certain that many of you don’t need me to tell you how great a broadcaster Ned was.
But as someone who grew up in small-town Massachusetts listening to Ned, marveling at his elegant use of the language and understated grace, I feel strongly that he warrants a place in Cooperstown. Even his signature catchphrase—“Mercy,” which he often said when something extraordinary had just taken place—epitomizes the low-key manner he maintained behind the mike.
Low-key, however, hardly connotes boring. Ned infused his broadcasts with a style that reflected his love of language. “Active verbs are really helpful,’’ he once said. “It isn’t an awful thing to have a vocabulary and use it.’’
Our long-time radio broadcaster, Joe Castiglione, has called Ned “the most literate of all broadcasters—a scholar of literature and a great Hemingway expert. He had a way of describing things very succinctly, honestly and openly. He never interfered with an event.’’
Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy, another small-town Massachusetts boy, has written he belonged to “the chorus of those who worshiped the late, great Ned Martin. He was smart, understated and classy. We were blessed to have him on our airwaves for so many years.’’
Jack Craig, the long-time sports media critic for the Globe and Sporting News, termed the seven-year pairing of Martin and Jim Woods in the ‘70s as the “finest baseball play-by-play ever heard in Boston.’’
“Martin became more than very popular with his listeners,’’ Craig wrote. “They felt genuine affection for him.’’
New England schoolchildren grew up learning to recite “Paul Revere’s Ride.” But this, too, they committed to memory when the Impossible Dream Red Sox won the 1967 pennant.
“The pitch is looped toward shortstop. Petrocelli’s back…he’s got it! The Red Sox win! And there’s pandemonium on the field! Listen.’’
That admonition to “listen” so epitomized Ned’s ability to allow a scene to breathe.
‘Pandemonium on the field’: Ned Martin, Ken Coleman and Mel Parnell shared the broadcast booth for the ’67 Impossible Dreamers (Boston Red Sox archives)
We admired Ned for his intelligence but loved him for his whimsy. Like the penultimate day of the 1966 season, in which a dreadful Red Sox team was wrapping up against an equally dreadful Senators club in Washington before an announced crowd of 485. Instead of beginning his broadcast with the usual “Welcome to Red Sox baseball,” Ned began his broadcast with, “Hello?…Hello?…Hello?’’
You have a ballot with worthy names, but I leave you with this thought from Ned Martin:
“Red Smith used to say he loved ‘the music of the game.’ What a great line. There is a music to it, whether it’s the first crack of the bat in Winter Haven, a full house on Opening Day, the murmuration of a meaningless game in July, or the buzz you feel at a World Series. You can still see something in almost every game that you’ve never seen before. That’s the beauty of baseball, I guess.”
Thanks for reading. I hope you vote for Ned.