ARLINGTON -- Muskegon, Mich., is a town of about 40,000 people on the shores of Lake Michigan. It was founded as a fur trading post around the beginning of the 19th century, and now it's a manufacturing town in the Rust Belt.
They manufacture armored vehicles, aerospace components, axels, piston rings and turbine engine components. They've also had a minor league hockey team there for more than 50 years. In the mid-'70s, a Brooklyn native, who had just graduated from an Ivy League school, spent three years doing their radio play-by-play.
Eric Nadel looks back on those three years as being the toughest of his career.
"I spent three years there, not knowing if I was good enough to even advance to the higher levels of the Minor Leagues," Nadel said. "I was going to give it one more year, then quit and go to law school."
Nadel, who graduated from Brown University, never did enter the bar. Instead he will be inducted into the Rangers Hall of Fame as part of the club's 40-year anniversary celebration on Saturday. Nadel has been with the club for 34 of those years, and he has reached icon status not only as the voice of the Rangers, but as one of the premier broadcasters in the industry.
Nadel's rich voice, brillant descriptions of the game, memorable calls and profound knowledge of baseball reach listeners on the Texas Rangers Radio Network as far north as Tulsa, Okla., and Joplin, Mo., east into Arkansas and Louisiana, west into New Mexico and south into the Texas Hill Country. They can even hear him in Spokane, Wash.
His honors include being a seven-time Texas Sportscaster of the Year, but this weekend, Nadel will become the 15th member of the Rangers Hall of Fame.
"More than anything, it means that I have been here long enough to have bonded with our fans and developed a relationship with them," Nadel said. "It's not easy listening to the same voice, night after night, 162 times a year without getting sick of it. To have people enjoy listening to me doing that for this long is very special to me. And having had the opportunity to experience the growth of this organization into a model franchise has been incredible."
Maybe by now, Nadel would be arguing cases before the Supreme Court if he had decided to go to law school. But fortunately for Rangers fans, he was hired away from Muskegon to do minor league hockey in Oklahoma City and then it was on to Dallas-Fort Worth. He did more hockey here and also added women's professional basketball to his resume before being hired to do radio and television for the Rangers in 1979.
"When I was hired, it was on something of a trial basis, as I had never broadcast baseball before, and was only going to work on the games that were televised in 1979," Nadel said. "I was just trying to find out if I was any good at doing baseball, and if I liked doing it, and the chance to do it at the big league level was incredible. I continued doing minor league hockey in the offseason for a couple of years, not knowing how this baseball thing would work out.
"All I was trying to do was survive, and fortunately I got a lot of help, and the people in charge of the Rangers Network and the Rangers' front office were very patient with me. I really had no expectations, only the hope that I could make the transition from hockey to baseball and keep the job for more than one year.
"I should also point out that my parents were not totally in favor of my pursuing this career in the first place, but indulged me by sending me to a radio-TV program at Northwestern University when I was in high school, and arranged for me to meet Mets announcer Lindsay Nelson while I was in college. My older sister, Laurie, a writer-journalist, who has always been a bold nonconformist, showed me by example that you don't have to follow a conventional career path."
The man who made the decision to hire Nadel was Roy Parks, who was director of Rangers radio and television broadcasts for the city of Arlington.
"Roy Parks took a big gamble when he hired me," Nadel said. "He coached me very well and paired me with great partners, Jon Miller and Bill Merrill. Jon helped me learn to be conversational and many of the nuances of filling all the dead time. Bill gave me a blank scorebook that he used and helped me learn to keep score the way a broadcaster has to, and I am still using that scorebook today."
Nadel -- who grew up in Brooklyn listening to Nelson, Mel Allen, Bob Murphy and Marv Albert -- started with the Rangers on television, but moved to radio full-time in 1982. Nadel credits Miller and Merrill being his early mentors, but the one person who he is most associated with is the late Mark Holtz. They paired brilliantly on the radio for 13 years before Holtz moved to television in 1995 and Nadel became the lead radio voice.
"Working with Mark Holtz, starting in 1982, was a great breakthrough for me, as we had a special chemistry between us and had a lot of fun on the air," Nadel said. "He was a fantastic broadcaster and a dear friend, and he taught me far more about broadcasting baseball than I could ever explain.
"I met my wife Jeannie in 1984 and we got married in 1986. She knew what she was getting into, but it is still very tough to be married to somebody who is gone so much and who is working a lot of the time when he is home. She has been wonderfully supportive and understanding."
Nadel has seen the good and the bad, lean years with a franchise stricken with financial problems, the 1990s that started out with Nolan Ryan and Ruben Sierra and ended with three division titles in four years, and the run to two straight World Series over the past two years.
His call of Neftali Feliz striking out Alex Rodriguez to end the 2010 American League Championship Series is perhaps the defining call of his career.
"Nothing compares to the thrill and joy of calling the Feliz strikeout of A-Rod that clinched the 2010 pennant," Nadel said. "The way the stadium erupted caused me to be overcome with emotion. My first really big call was Nolan Ryan's 5,000th strikeout in 1989, but so many of Nolan's games were high moments: the two no-hitters, his 300th win, even though I was not calling the final out. Another moment that stands out is the night in 1996 that the Rangers clinched their first division title.
"As a Rangers announcer, there were some bad years and bad games, but I can't really say they were tough times. I have always enjoyed coming to the ballpark and been grateful for the fact that I get to watch Major League Baseball games for a living."
During all that time, Nadel never had any desire to leave Texas, even though friends occasionally hinted there were opportunities elsewhere that he might pursue. Now he has the luxury of a lifetime contract that will allow him to broadcast Rangers games for as long as he desires.
"I never thought of it any other way," Nadel said. "It was so much fun working with Holtzie that I think I would have gladly stayed as the No. 2 guy as long as he was my partner. When he moved over to TV and I moved into his chair, I had already built up enough credibility here, and the fans had a comfort level with me, so it made no sense to think of moving.
"I love living in the Metroplex and have never desired to work for a network or do TV, so this job has been ideal for me. The Rangers' front office has always been very supportive and understanding, which has made things really easy."