Matthews a Frick Award finalist
Royals broadcaster one of 10 eligible for Hall of Fame honor
KANSAS CITY -- Royals broadcaster Denny Matthews is not yet in the Hall of Fame. But he's keeping good company.
Matthews was named as one of 10 finalists for the 2007 Ford C. Frick Award on Tuesday. The winner will be inducted into the broadcasters' wing of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
But Matthews is already in a select category with broadcasters honored at Cooperstown, N.Y. He is among six voices who have been with just one team for at least 35 consecutive seasons.
Matthews began his Major League career in 1969 with the Royals' first game in franchise history, and he has continued through all 38 seasons.
Others behind the microphone in that special category are Vin Scully (57 years) and Jaime Jarrin (48 years) of the Dodgers, Bob Prince (48 years) of the Pirates, Jack Buck (47 years) of the Cardinals, Phil Rizzuto (40 years) of the Yankees and Joe Nuxhall (38 years) of the Reds.
All of those broadcasters except Matthews and Nuxhall are in Cooperstown.
"I think the way broadcasters bounce around now, kind of like the players with free agency, it's pretty unusual to start your career with a team and end it with the same team," Matthews said.
"It's a nice thing. When [George] Brett retired, he felt the same way. It's nice to be identified with just one instead of a bunch."
Nuxhall joins Matthews in the group of 10 nominees this year. The others include two broadcasters with St. Louis ties, radio trailblazer France Laux and colorful pitcher Dizzy Dean. Also nominated were Dave Niehaus (Mariners), Tom Cheek (Blue Jays), Tony Kubek (Yankees), Ken Harrelson (White Sox), Bill King (A's) and Graham McNamee (pioneer).
A graduate of Central Catholic High School in Bloomington, Ill., and of Illinois Wesleyan -- where he lettered in football and baseball -- Matthews was among more than 300 applicants for the Royals' job. He was selected as the No. 2 broadcaster alongside Buddy Blattner.
"I figured when I came here in '69, I'd be here four or five years and, growing up between Chicago and St. Louis as I did, I figured my dream job would be in one of those cities. As fate would have it, I had chances to go to both places and turned them down. So it underscores how your priorities and your ideas change through the years," Matthews said.
His father was a Cardinals fan, so Matthews heard a lot of Harry Caray and Buck as a youngster. Matthews also tuned in to a lot of Cubs radio broadcasts with Jack Quinlan, Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau.
Although the Cubs' TV games didn't reach Bloomington, announcer Jack Brickhouse helped Matthews land the Kansas City job. Matthews went to Wrigley Field to make play-by-play audition tapes and got to know Brickhouse.
"He was a pretty powerful guy in the Midwest with WGN and carried a lot of weight, had a lot of friends and had a lot of influence," Matthews said. "I know he made a lot of phone calls, and Lou Boudreau did the same thing, so those two guys were instrumental in me getting the job."
Matthews became the No. 1 voice in 1975. For 25 years, he worked with Fred White, now the Royals' director of broadcast services. Since 1999, his radio partner has been Ryan Lefebvre.
As a broadcaster in five different decades whose work became synonymous with the Kansas City club, Matthews was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame in 2004 and into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.
Not long out of college, Matthews sent his resume and audition tapes to KC. Blattner encouraged the Royals to hire someone who could relate well to a new team.
"Buddy said it'd be good to get a young guy who doesn't have much experience that I could kind of bring along for when I leave," Matthews said. "You talk about getting a guy with very little experience -- I didn't have any experience."
Blattner now lives in the St. Louis area and recently had a lung removed. His vocal chords were damaged in the process.
"We had one conversation about a month ago, and he had to whisper. I talked to [his wife] Babs about three weeks ago, and he was doing better," Matthews said.
Of this year's nominees, King, Nuxhall and Harrelson were selected by fans through an online vote. The other seven were picked by a Hall of Fame research committee.
The Frick Award winner will be selected by a 20-member electorate consisting of previous honorees Marty Brennaman, Herb Carneal, Jerry Coleman, Gene Elston, Joe Garagiola, Ernie Harwell, Jarrin, Milo Hamilton, Harry Kalas, Felo Ramirez, Scully, Lon Simmons, Bob Uecker and Bob Wolf, and historians/columnists Bob Costas, Barry Horn, Stan Isaacs, Ted Patterson, Curt Smith and Larry Stewart.
The committee of voters will be asked to base its selections on the following criteria: longevity; continuity with a club; honors including national assignments such as the World Series and All-Star Games, and popularity with fans.
The winner will be announced on Feb. 22.
The award is named for Hall of Famer Ford C. Frick, who was commissioner and National League president after a career of broadcasting and sportswriting.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.