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Go to the Hall, Miss Agnes Thompson's being honored

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Go to war, Miss Agnes -- Chuck Thompson is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Orioles' legendary announcer was named yesterday as the 1993 winner ofthe Ford C. Frick Award, given to a broadcaster who has made a majorcontribution to baseball. His legion of admirers responded to the selectionwith ringing endorsements, while no doubt proclaiming: "Ain't the beer cold."

Thompson, who has announced major-league baseball for more than sixdecades and also gained fame as the longtime voice of Baltimore Coltsfootball, will be added to the broadcast wing during Baseball Hall of Fameceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y., on Aug. 1.

For the past 44 years Thompson has lived in the Baltimore area, where hebecame as well known as any of the athletes with whom he has been associated.For most of that time, Thompson has been a fixture in the Orioles' broadcastbooth.

"Chuck's six decades as a major-league broadcaster, 33 years with theOrioles, have made him a Baltimore legend," said Hall of Fame president EdStack, who made yesterday's announcement. "His easygoing manner has endearedhim to his listeners and viewers and his sense of humor have contributed tohis popularity."

Thompson is the 17th recipient of the Frick Award, which was establishedin 1978. A special committee of baseball officials and broadcasters makes theselection each year.

Reached at his winter residence in Bradenton, Fla., Thompson, 71, admittedto being overwhelmed by his selection. "I'm a little better now than when Ifirst heard the news [over the weekend]," said Thompson. "But I don't know ifI'll ever get over the enormity and the prestige of this.

"I never felt this would happen -- I didn't think I was good enough," saidThompson.

Others were ecstatic over Thompson's selection. "It's richly deserved,"said Orioles president Larry Lucchino. "The man has been an institution. Hehas been the personification of Orioles baseball for at least a fewgenerations. I'm glad to see baseball give him the recognition he deserves."

When Thompson learned of his selection, one of his first phone calls wasto Brooks Robinson, the Hall of Fame third baseman who was his partner onWMAR-TV for 10 years.

"Brooks has always been very public in his support for me and I wanted toshare it with him," said Thompson. "He and [Robinson's wife] Connie got on thephone and all I can tell you is it was a great conversation with somewonderful people."

Robinson has long been outspoken in his belief that Thompson deserved Hallof Fame recognition, and reiterated those feelings last night. "It's been along time coming and he's certainly deserving," said Robinson.

"He's a guy who could've done anything he wanted in the business, but hedecided to stay in Baltimore. And I respect him for that," said Robinson.

"The thing that I remember most from working with him was that he alwayshad the right words. It was amazing -- I don't know what it is, he just hasthe ability to say the right thing.

"Now," said Robinson, "it's time for him to enjoy it. He's going to have aball up there [Cooperstown]. When I talked to him, I said 'you better startwriting your speech.' I just think it's a wonderful thing."

Jon Miller, who has worked in an adjacent radio or television booth duringmost of his years in Baltimore, related a story that perhaps best exemplifieshow his contemporaries regard Thompson. "It was about 12 years ago when I waswith the Red Sox and I remember sitting on the bench talking with [broadcastpartner] Ned Martin," said Miller.

"Ned told me if he had to pick someone to do one big game, he would askChuck. That shows the kind of respect he has among his peers.

"Chuck has that tremendous voice and the ability to paint a picture withwords," said Miller. "But, to me, what says it all about Chuck and the regardin which he is held was that final weekend at Memorial Stadium [in 1991].

"How long was that ovation when he was introduced? It seemed like fiveminutes. I've never heard an ovation like that for anybody other than a formerplayer. This [the Frick award] is a well deserved honor."

A native of Reading, Pa., where he began his career in 1939, Thompson didplay-by-play of home games for the Philadelphia Phillies and Athletics in1947-48. He came to Baltimore the next year to broadcast games of the Triple-AInternational League Orioles. He never seriously considered leaving.

"I think it's been a privilege to have had the opportunity to broadcastfor three generations," he said of his tenure here.

It was during the early minor-league days that Thompson endeared himselfto Baltimore sports fans by introducing such exclamatory phrases as "Go towar, Miss Agnes" and "Ain't the beer cold" when the local teams did somethingextraordinary.

It was also during those early years that Vince Bagli, who would go on tobecome the dean of late-night sports anchors in Baltimore, first met Thompson.Bagli marvels at the career he has watched from the start.

"I don't think anybody has ever 'worn' better than Chuck," said Bagli."He's just done it -- and he got better. I honestly think he's as good now ashe ever was.

"He's really loyal -- and he always looked out for the young guys. Iremember meeting him as a student at Loyola College who wanted to get into thebusiness and he invited me into the booth with him -- and then took me out fora hamburger.

"To have gone through that, and then to work with him for 12 years[broadcasting Colts games] was something special. To me, once the ball was inplay, there was nobody better at calling the game," said Bagli.

Although he announced his retirement after the 1987 season, Thompson wasnever able to get far from the microphone. After filling in occasionally, hewas lured back to the radio booth by WBAL and has worked about half theOrioles' 162-game schedule for the last three years.

"We are absolutely delighted," said Jeff Beauchamp, vice president andstation manager of WBAL. "We're really proud and happy for Chuck -- and tohave him out of retirement and back on the radio with us.

"Chuck is such a modest man, but this is one of the few times that I cansense his pride," said Beauchamp. "He's really a very happy man. And he shouldbe -- he's very deserving."

Beauchamp revealed yesterday that WBAL is planning elaborate coverage ofThompson's induction. "We're going to have guys up there [in Cooperstown] andwe're going to try and broadcast the ceremony.

"We're going to make a big deal of it, because this is something big. It'sthe ultimate honor," said Beauchamp.

Honored announcers

Announcers who have won the Ford C. Frick Award, given by the BaseballHall of Fame for major contributions to the game by broadcasters:

1978 ... Mel Allen, Red Barber

1979 ... Bob Elson

1980 ... Russ Hodges

1981 ... Ernie Harwell

1982 ... Vin Scully

1983 ... Jack Brickhouse

1984 ... Curt Gowdy

1985 ... Buck Canel

1986 ... Bob Prince

1987 ... Jack Buck

1988 ... Lindsey Nelson

1989 ... Harry Caray

1990 ... By Saam

1991 ... Joe Garagiola

1992 ... Milo Hamilton

1993 ... Chuck Thompson

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