By Marice Richter
Nadel was riding alongside his father in the family DeSoto and listening to a New York Yankees game on the radio, when he asked his father whether Mel Allen was getting paid to broadcast the game.
To his delight, Nadel’s father informed him that the Yankees’ legendary play-by-play announcer was indeed being paid.
Right then in 1958, Nadel knew he wanted to become a sportscaster when he grew up.
“My dad was a dentist,” he said. “Getting paid to announce baseball games sounded like a lot more fun than pulling teeth.”
Not only has he achieved his dream, Nadel has distinguished himself with honors and awards that include the 2014 Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. He is also an eight-time recipient of the Texas Sportscaster of the Year award from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.
Now in his 38th year as a Rangers broadcaster, he has the longest tenure of any broadcaster in the history of the club and the second longest continuous tenure with a single team in the American League. For the past 22 years, he has been “The Voice of the Rangers” as lead announcer.
But Nadel’s path to success was not always certain or clear cut. It was a bit messy at times.
Growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., played sports and was an avid fan of Major League Baseball. In high school, his parents indulged his passion for radio announcing by sending to a program at Northwestern University in the Chicago area for some hands-on experience.
While Nadel clung to his passion for sportscasting, his parents had a different plan for him. After completing his Ivy League education at Brown University, they expected him to attend law school.
“I conveniently forgot to take the LSAT,” he recalled.
Instead, he was hoping to parlay his experience as a college radio station announcer of football and hockey games into a career. He sent out resumes and audition tapes to minor league teams across the country but graduated jobless in 1972.
Unwilling to let go of his dream, he took a menial job at Brown while hoping for miracle.
“I had a degree in political science from Brown and I was cleaning toilets in Brown dormitories,” he said.
By the end of that summer, he got an offer to do play-by-play announcing for the Muskegon Mohawks, a minor league hockey team in Muskegon, Mich. Three years later and still in Muskegon, he started reconsidering law school.
Fate again intervened and he landed a job in 1975 with a higher-profile minor league hockey team in Oklahoma City. A year later, the team merged with the Dallas Blackhawks and Nadel moved to Dallas.
In 1978, he was out of a job after the team announced a move Canada and he couldn’t work there since he wasn’t Canadian.
Nadel barely had time to contemplate his future when he got a call from the Texas Rangers. Without an audition tape for baseball announcing, he got a four-game on-air audition at the end of the season and landed the job in 1979.
“The fact that the Rangers underperformed and were unsuccessful then worked to my advantage,” Nadel said. “They didn’t have to pay my moving expenses.”
Nadel, then 27 years old, earned a starting salary of $16,000 a year.
For his first three seasons, Nadel called games on radio and television. For 13 years beginning in 1982, he worked alongside Mark Holtz on radio station WBAP. After a short return to television, he became the team’s lead announcer in 1995, broadcasting through KRLD, ESPN and now 105.3 The Fan.
Known for his home run call “that ball is history,” Nadel said his most memorable calls include Nolan Ryan’s 5,000th career strikeout and the final outs of Game 6 of the 2010 and 2011 American League Championship Series, which sent the Rangers to the team’s first two World Series appearances.
Nadel turns 65 this month(May) but has no plans to retire. He said his lifetime contract with the Rangers allows him to work as long as he wishes – but with more games off as he ages.
“People don’t retire in this business,” he said noting that Vin Scully at age 88 is still doing play-by-play for the Los Angeles Dodgers.”
Outside of work, he keeps busy with a variety of pursuits. The arrival of outfielder Ruben Sierra in the 1980s prompted Nadel to learn to speak Spanish. He participated in Spanish-language broadcasts in Latin American countries to polish his skills during the Rangers’ offseason.
He has also led baseball trips to Cuba in recent years and has written several books, including Texas Rangers: The Authorized History in 1997.
A devout music fan who is as supportive of up-and-coming talent as he is a fan of rockers like Bruce Springsteen, presents his annual Birthday Benefit every spring at Dallas’ Kessler Theater to raise money for Focus on Teens, a non-profit organization that aids homeless teens in the Dallas schools. This year’s fifth annual bash is May 26.
Nadel, and his wife, Jeannie, are also involved with dog welfare causes, including rescue and grief support. He helped raise money to establish the first leash-free dog park in Dallas in 1997.
Nadel’s whirlwind life, including extensive travel during the baseball season, keeps him plenty busy. But he relishes downtime at his North Dallas with a cigar and the company of his wife and dog, Kirby.
The Nadels also own a second home in the Durango, Colo., area, where they visit as often as possible. The couple enjoys hiking, surrounded by the unspoiled beauty of the San Juan Mountains.
As he officially becomes a senior citizen, Nadel is focused on staying healthy and fit. He works out five days a week and eliminated gluten and dairy products from his diet.
All he has ever wanted was to be a play-by-play radio announcer and he considers himself fortunate to have had a successful career doing just that.
“I am lucky,” he said. “I love that I get paid to do what I love.”