It's Bill King's time

It's Bill King's time
October 2, 2013, 9:30 am
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I’ll take King, for no better reason than this: It’s time.
Ray Ratto

Ford C. Frick Award winners
1978 Mel Allen, Red Barber
1979 Bob Elson
1980 Russ Hodges
1981 Ernie Harwell
1982 Vin Scully
1983 Jack Brickhouse
1984 Curt Gowdy
1985 Buck Canel
1986 Bob Prince
1987 Jack Buck
1988 Lindsey Nelson
1989 Harry Caray
1990 By Saam
1991 Joe Garagiola
1992 Milo Hamilton
1993 Chuck Thompson
1994 Bob Murphy
1995 Bob Wolff
1996 Herb Carneal
1997 Jimmy Dudley
1998 Jaime Jarrin
1999 Arch McDonald
2000 Marty Brennaman
2001 Felo Ramirez
2002 Harry Kalas
2003 Bob Uecker
2004 Lon Simmons
2005 Jerry Coleman
2006 Gene Elston
2007 Denny Matthews
2008 Dave Niehaus
2009 Tony Kubek
2010 Jon Miller
2011 Dave Van Horne
2012 Tim McCarver
2013 Tom Cheek

The list of Ford Frick finalists are out, which means next to nothing to many of you, because it’s an award like a hundred others. This one simply names a baseball broadcaster each year to have his name placed on a plaque inside the Baseball Hall of Fame -- not a member of the Hall, mind you, but a piece of bronzed bric-a-brac within its confines.

But it matters to the broadcasters, and to those who grew up listening to them. This is their moment, and yes, it matters.

And why it matters to you in the Bay Area is because Bill King is again one of the 10 finalists, and so, for the first time, is Duane Kuiper. A longtime A’s broadcaster, dead almost eight years now, and a Giants broadcaster, very much alive. Both have their followings, both have their merits. You may argue them at your leisure.

[NEWS: Kuiper, King among 10 Ford C. Frick finalists]

Only Kuiper has the benefit of being the new item on the menu as well as the prodigious Giants’ marketing machine (including Comcast) which turned out the usual massive Internet vote, while King’s candidacy was, is, and will remain more of a grass-roots movement of true believers fighting against the tyranny of numbers.

So I’ll take King, for no better reason than this: It’s time.

That’s a nebulous notion, of course. He can’t enjoy his enshrinement unless there is an afterlife in which such things matter, but he has supporters and family members, and it surely matters to them. Moreover, the idea of whether he is better than Kuiper, or whether either of them is more important than Jacques Doucet or Joe Castiglione, is a meaningless one.

And it is an argument now left to a panel of 20 broadcasters and historians, one of which is Kuiper’s partner, Jon Miller. That is apropos of nothing, as Miller also worked with King. And Lon Simmons, another selector, also worked with both, though more with King than Kuiper. So bias this.

Why King rather than Kuiper? Merely the fact that Kuiper has years still to burnish his reputation as a superb baseball broadcaster, recognized even by those who do not necessarily connect with Giants broadcasts. King, on the other hand, does not, and every year he is left on the ballot is one more year in which the qualities of his work fade in the memory a bit more. Even with A’s broadcaster Ken Korach’s just-published paean to King, “Holy Toledo – Lessons From Bill King,” the words must, in this "I-want-it-now-and-without-having-to-read-it” age, take a back seat to the sounds.

In sum, at the risk of bordering on mawkish sentimentality, King’s supporters need this one a bit more than Kuiper’s, because Kuiper’s supporters still have Kuiper, and that is still hugely better than a name on a plaque.

If the Frick Award turns out to go to Doucet, or Castiglione, or even Hawk Harrelson, then we’re back at this stand again next year making the same case that’s been made time and time again.

That’s the other reason why it’s time for Bill King. Because it’s time for his supporters to stop having to stump for Bill King when their point has already been sufficiently made.

And Duane Kuiper? He’s got solar panels on his house, so he has the advantage of having lower electrical bills. What more can one man want?