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Thompson joins Hall, brings fans with him

BaseballReggie JacksonBaltimore OriolesDeath

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Almost a half-century after starting his baseballbroadcasting career, Chuck Thompson received the ultimate award here yesterdayafternoon.

He did so with the same style and grace that has endeared him to threegenerations of listeners in Baltimore. On the day that Reggie Jackson becamebaseball's 216th Hall of Fame inductee, Thompson gained entrance into thebroadcasters' wing.

With his family and hundreds of fans and friends in attendance, Thompsonbecame the 17th recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, emblematic of excellencein his profession. The booming, baritone voice (he once aspired to be asinger) didn't fail Thompson during his humorous and emotional acceptancespeech -- but it did falter once or twice.

"In my profession, you're always supposed to be in control," Thompson toldthe thousands at the ceremony. "But I don't feel in control right now. Onlythe microphone is familiar to me, but there's no game to describe, so I'm alittle nervous.

"Everybody that I've talked to who is familiar with these ceremonies toldme there is no way to prepare for the impact of this moment. And now I canunderstand what they mean."

Thompson described his relationship with Jerry Hoffberger, former owner ofthe Orioles and the National Brewing Company, as one of the most rewardingfeatures of his career.

"It's been a great career," Thompson said. "For the most part, it was ahit-or-miss proposition as to how I got started in this business.

"In all the years I've been in Baltimore [44] I only had one difficulttime -- in 1954, when major-league baseball came to Baltimore. I was on theoutside looking in because of a sponsorship clash.

"But it was that year that I sat down with Jerry Hoffberger and when wewere finished, he shook my hand and said, 'Young man, we've got a deal.' Thathandshake lasted 23 years. We never had a contract.

"I am very proud to have been a part of that kind of trust," saidThompson, whose play-by-play career began in Philadelphia in 1946.

Hoffberger and former Orioles general manager Frank Cashen were among themany Baltimoreans who made the trip to Cooperstown for Thompson's induction.

Thompson recounted how his life "seemed to stop" after the death of hisfirst wife, Rose, in 1985. He spoke of, and to, his three children -- CraigThompson, Sandy Kuckler and Susan Perkins -- his eight grandchildren and hissecond wife, Betty, whom he married five years ago.

"Now, I'm a Hall of Famer -- but so are they," said Thompson, strugglingwith his emotions.

Thompson also said he shared his honor with the generations of Oriolesfans. "They allowed me into their homes and made me a part of their lives," hesaid. "I want them to know that we share this honor.

"We were in this together," Thompson said, directing his remarks to thelisteners. "You wanted it for me -- and I wanted it for you.

"And if someday you come to Cooperstown to see the Hall of Fame and happento see the name of Chuck Thompson in the broadcasters' wing and somebody asks,'Did you know him?' I hope you can say, 'Yes -- he was a friend.' "

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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