It probably won’t happen this way, but when Dick Enberg is introduced at the Hall of Fame as the 39th winner of the Ford C. Frick Award, the deejay should replay Curt Gowdy’s opening line from the baseball portion of “The Naked Gun”:
After all, being part of a seven-person broadcast booth must have been one of the more challenging moments in Enberg’s career, which will be celebrated at Cooperstown on July 25. The 20-person panel of voters, which made its announcement at baseball’s winter meetings Wednesday, probably didn’t take too seriously Enberg’s supporting role in “Naked Gun” into account. And that’s OK. Enberg also has spent nearly 20 seasons combined as a play-by-play lead for the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Angels, along with having an exhaustive career calling baseball (and football, and tennis, and golf) on network TV. Cooperstown will be Enberg’s fifth Hall of Fame.
Enberg also called one of the oddest baseball games in history, albeit a fictional one, in a legendary comic farce about a blundering L.A. cop tasked with stopping Ricardo Montalban from making Reggie Jackson unknowingly assassinate Queen Elizabeth. (How could this not get green-lighted?) Enberg didn’t get to exclaim his signature phrase — “Oh, my!” — he didn’t even say a word during his biggest moment on screen. The look on his face said enough as spoofed highlights played, mixing real moments, along with fake ones, from around MLB.
Back in the real world, Enberg cried when he took a congratulatory call from Vin Scully, another Frick recipient. Enberg called the Frick Award the biggest moment of his career.
“How does a farm boy from Armada, Mich. get into a group like this?” Enberg said on the call.
Just don’t cry on the stage at Cooperstown, Scully replied.
Enberg, who turns 80 in January, recently has endured some rough times. Earlier this year, he lost his younger brother and sister. But he’s also a grandfather for the first time, and he has his work with the Padres. And he’s got Hollywood acting chops.
Enberg chuckled as he fondly recalled the experience of filming “Naked Gun,” one of at least 16 acting credits to his name. (Will Enberg be admitted to the Screen Actors Guild Hall of Fame too?)
“Leslie Nielsen actually came in and watched — we shot all day,” Enberg said. “He was such a great audience, laughing at everything. One of the scenes they didn’t put in the movie, I thought, was the best of all:
“The [director] said, ‘OK, this time, I want all of you, on your own, to call anything you want. Doesn’t even have to be baseball. It could be anything. So he gave us the cue, and I said, ‘And here’s a line drive going into center field!…’ Vitale is going, ‘And The General, Bobby Knight!…’ And then he said cut, and he had Joyce Brothers walk over behind Vitale and rub his bald head and say, ‘It’s OK, Dick, you’re going to be all right.’ Everyone broke out laughing but they didn’t put it in the movie.”
Dave Brown recently joined Fangraphs and CBS' Eye on Baseball after seven years writing for Big League Stew at Yahoo Sports. He lives in Kansas City with his wife and young daughter — who appears to be a left-hander. Follow him on Twitter @AnswerDave.