Thousands of Marylanders have grown up thinking that the sound of ChuckThompson's voice is as much a part of a radio's apparatus as the volume switchor the channel selector.
To so many of those people, that voice is the sound of summer, just as OldBay provides the flavor of the season. Thanks to portable radios, we'velistened on the road, in backyards and even surfside as that voice limned themechanical perfection of a Jim Palmer delivery, the booming arc of an Eddie Murray homer, the graceful scoop and toss of a Cal Ripken or Brooks Robinsonassist.
Happily, too, we had the bonus for decades of Chuck Thompson in winter,describing the glories of great Baltimore Colt teams, painting the pictures inour minds of John Unitas spirals, Ray Berry tip-toe grabs on the sideline,Bert Jones bombs.
During his 44 years in Baltimore, Mr. Thompson has also done a lot of TVwork, but that medium doesn't challenge the good play-by-play man the wayradio does. If a radio game is the broadcaster's blank canvas, then a telecastis paint-by-numbers stuff. And while Mr. Thompson might not have been asflashy as other artists of the broadcast booth, his smooth tenor, warm mannerand attention to detail have made him one of the most well-liked and respectedmembers of his profession.
Accordingly, and quite appropriately, Chuck Thompson is being inductedthis weekend into the baseball Hall of Fame as the 17th winner of the Ford C.Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting.
This worthy and overdue honor only validates what Marylanders have knownfor years: Chuck Thompson has always been Hall-of-Fame material. Theiradmiration and affection for the man was best expressed on the final weekendof Oriole baseball at Memorial Stadium in 1991, when he was introduced to thefull house and received a standing ovation that lasted several minutes. It wasthe kind of tribute usually reserved for the most beloved of veteran athletes.
As his one-time TV broadcasting partner Brooks Robinson points out, ChuckThompson had opportunities over the years to escape Baltimore and ply histrade for the networks. But he knew he had a good thing going here, coveringthe exploits of mighty Oriole and Colt teams in the Land of Pleasant Living.Which, we would add, was made all the more pleasant by the sound of that voicecoming through our radios and TVs.
Chuck Thompson is going to Cooperstown. Ain't the beer cold.