Four owners. Ten managers. Eight broadcast partners. Four thousand games. Those are just some of the bases Eric Nadel has touched in the twenty-five years he’s served as the radio play-by-play broadcaster for the Texas Rangers’ major-league baseball club.
Nadel grew up in Brooklyn as a Dodgers fan, but it was the crosstown-rival Yankees that first launched his career. When Nadel was eight he heard Mel Allen and Red Barber broadcast a game on the radio. “That’s what I want to do,” Nadel announced. A few years later, he bought a reel-to-reel tape machine and began recording his commentary to the games he watched on television. At Brown, Nadel called hockey and football games, then spent a few years broadcasting minor-league hockey in Michigan, Oklahoma, and Texas before the Rangers hired him in 1979. Even now the job is as fresh as ever. “Each day I walk into the ball park,” he says, “it puts a smile on my face.”
Along the way, Nadel has witnessed some remarkable major-league history. He called the game in which Nolan Ryan recorded his 5,000th strikeout. He also broadcast Ryan’s 300th win. He was on the air in 1996 when the Rangers won the American League West division title, which clinched the team’s first trip to the postseason. Unfortunately, not all of the Rangers’ history has been so successful. Although the club made the playoffs in 1998 and 1999, the last four seasons have produced more losses than wins. “As announcers, we are the ambassadors of hope,” Nadel says. “It’s much harder when the team isn’t playing well or the team is out of contention. You need to come up with more to keep the audience entertained.”
While a career as a baseball announcer is a dream come true, Nadel says it’s also a lot of work. During the baseball season, he spends 100 nights on the road. The travel is physically draining, but as an employee of the Rangers, Nadel travels on the team’s charter flights. And don’t think the off-season is work-free. In addition to making public appearances to generate enthusiasm for the team, he spends the winter compiling notebooks on every major-league player, a task that has become more complex and time-consuming as the advent of free agency has caused players to change teams more frequently. Nadel explains that his own work habits have changed along with those of the players. “They used to just show up at spring training and start doing their work then,” he says. “It’s far from that now. The players show up in great shape already, and we do the same thing.”