'Voice of the Royals' honored at Hall
For 39 years, Matthews has painted the word picture in KC
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Years ago, when Denny Matthews was an aspiring broadcaster, childhood hero Jack Brickhouse gave him a chance to record audition tapes in Chicago. Later, Brickhouse helped Matthews land a job as a Kansas City Royals broadcaster.
Then, on Sunday, Matthews received the same award that Brickhouse had received in 1983 -- the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting.
"Upon receiving the Frick award, Jack said, 'Today, I feel like a man 60 feet, 6 inches tall.' Half a century and a million memories since I grew up listening to Jack, I tell you what, today, I know exactly how he felt," Matthews told more than 75,000 fans gathered on the lawn at the outskirts of Cooperstown.
Matthews was honored with the Ford C. Frick Award in Cooperstown after calling Royals games ever since the club's first season in 1969. He's a lifer, as were writers' award winner Rick Hummel (Cardinals) and inductees Cal Ripken Jr. (Orioles) and Tony Gwynn (Padres).
"Congratulations, Cal, Tony and Rick," Matthews said. "And I'm so proud of the fact that all four of us have spent our entire careers with one organization."
Matthews was hired on the recommendation of the Royals' first play-by-play broadcaster, Buddy Blattner.
"You're working with one of the best, and what a great teacher he was," Matthews said.
Matthews, growing up in Bloomington, Ill., spent many summer nights tuned in to Cardinals games.
"The summer nights in Bloomington were hot and humid. I'm 10 years old, lying on the living room floor with a big pillow propped up against the big console radio, my baseball cards beside me," he recalled, "I'm listening to the local radio station, WJBC, one of the many stations on the Cardinals radio network, and the voices coming out of that speaker -- Joe Garagiola, Jack Buck, Harry Caray, three of the best ever -- together talking to me every night."
"Little did I know, little did they know, but they were preparing and teaching a 10-year-old boy in central Illinois how to broadcast Major League Baseball. And what marvelous teachers they were. And to think, I didn't have to turn in any homework, write any term papers, pay any tuition -- just lie in front of the radio each summer night and learn."
Matthews noted that his partners not only included Blattner, but for 25 years, Fred White and currently Ryan Lefebvre. After broadcasting 1,247 consecutive Royals games, Lefebrve broke the streak to be here for Matthews' induction on Sunday.
Royals owner David Glass and his wife, Ruth, and president Dan Glass and his wife, Penny, also attended the ceremony.
"It's well-deserved, and we're really proud of him," David Glass said. "He's been the voice of the Royals from the very beginning, and he's represented us very well. Now the rest of the country is going to get to get a little exposure to Denny Matthews that the rest of us have known for a long time."
Trying to convey the essence of baseball broadcasting, Matthews read a letter he once received from an elderly lady in western Kansas:
"Dear Denny, I have loved baseball my whole life. I played softball as a young girl. I have listened to you since the Royals started in 1969. I am 93. I can't do the things I used to do. I can't see very well any more, but that's OK, because I have my radio. So you are my eyes at the ballpark.
"I don't have to see, because you create the picture in my mind with your words. Through your eyes and your words, I feel like I'm sitting at the ballpark watching the game. Listening to the Royals is the highlight of my day. It gives me something to look forward to, so keep up the good work. Sincerely, Margaret Jenkins."
With that, Matthews signed off.
"Margaret, I hope you're still listening, because it's folks like you that inspire us to do what we do," he said. "Fans, listeners, friends, my profound thanks to all of you for loving the greatest game in the greatest nation on the face of the earth."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.