Dave Van Horne had his day in the sweltering sun Saturday. A man whose broadcast partners included Hall of Famers Don Drysdale, PeeWee Reese, Gary Carter and Duke Snider stood on the stage at Doubleday Field with rows of Hall of Famers arrayed behind him and spoke in his trademark tones and with his trademark economy in accepting the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcast excellence.
"My career was rescued by the Marlins when it appeared it had come to an end, but I think if the Hall had a choice I'd go in as an Expo and I'd have no problem or qualms with that," said Van Horne, whose current Florida Marlins broadcast partner Glenn Geffner, a former media relations director with the San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox, prepared the speech
This is the first year in which the Hall of Fame split up its ceremonies, with elected players and veteran committee selections Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven and Pat Gillick being inducted Sunday.
Van Horne was honoured Saturday along with Buck O'Neill Award winner Roland Hemond and Spink Award winner Bill Conlin of the Philadelphia Daily News, the winner of the Spink Award for baseball writing.
Van Horne was given a standing ovation by a small but appreciative group of fans sitting behind first base at Abner Doubleday Field, several of whom wore vintage powder blue jerseys. Van Horne mentioned Carter, who was not at the ceremony and was instead at home in Florida battling cancer.
The Canadian connection runs strong here this weekend. In addition to Roberto Alomar and Pat Gillick and the voice of the Montreal Expos, Dave Van Horne, Bert Blyleven spent part of his youth in Saskatchewan after his family immigrated from Holland. It was upon entry to Canada that the family name was changed from 'Bljleven' to 'Blyleven,' which he said meant 'happy life' in Dutch.
Van Horne was pressed into duty after his ceremony, announcing the four-block long "Parade of Legends" down Main Street. Alomar, who like the rest of the Hall of Famers sitting in the back of a pickup truck, waved a Puerto Rican flag.
Buck O'Neill Award winner Roland Hemond's mother was Tracy, Que., before moving to Rhode Island where she met her husband – also a Franco-Canadian. Hemond, who said he didn't speak English at home "until five or six years old." sprinkled in some French words during his speech. Hemond, 81, received the award for "extraordinary efforts to enhance baseball's positive impact on society." Hemond's career started in the 1950s as an assistant scouting director with the Milwaukee Braves, and he went on to be named Sporting News executive of the year three times, helping to build winning franchises with the Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles and Arizona Diamondbacks. Hemond has mentored several current G.M.'s, including Milwaukee Brewers G.M. Doug Melvin, a native of Chatham, Ont. Among Hemond's stories is a decision when he was with the White Sox to not offer Sandy Alomar, Sr., a scouting job upon his retirement as a player. Doing so would have meant firing the White Sox's existing Puerto Rican supervisor – who was in fact the scout who originally signed Sandy Alomar the Braves.
The San Diego Padres hired Alomar as a scout, who signed his son Roberto to a contract.
"If I'd had Sandy as a scout in Puerto Rico, I'd be attending this ceremony because of Robbie," Hemond said.
Club broadcasters travel with the team and are often keepers of secrets as well as chroniclers of the game. Van Horne's career in the business has run the gamut – from the excitement of expansion to frustration as drugs helped ruin the Team of the 80s to ownership intrigue. Wider issues that have plagued the game in his time include steroids. Van Horne shrugged when asked how he stayed true to the team and himself.
"I'm a play by play broadcaster," he said. "So have we touched upon those things over those years? Yes we have, and when we do we'll say "This is what so and so is saying about it this - this is what MLB is saying about it or the commissioner, club president or general manager or player.
"I don't take a stance on that .. but I lay it out. It's the same way I feel about an error on the field., Some fans want a player buried when he makes an error on the field. I will describe the error, say who it was charged to and 'That just cost this team a run." But I won't pound the player over the head with an error.
"That's why on the scoreboard it reads R,H,E. The most important thing is runs, hits and errors in that order. I guess the negative is what I'm talking about. I don't choose to focus on it."