COOPERSTOWN _ Tony Kubek did his Ford C. Frick Award speech the same way a good broadcaster calls a game.
Without a script.
Kubek went off the cuff Sunday at the National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Cooperstown, sharing stories of his playing days and broadcasting career without the help of cue cards or a written speech in front of the estimated 21,000 fans at the Clark Sports Center.
His nearly 15-minute speech, the longest of the day, covered tales from his playing days. He also thanked family members and colleagues from his broadcast days.
"This place is magical," Kubek said. "Somebody set (the Hall of Fame) in this area with a purpose that has sustained what it means and for baseball people, especially you fans here watching, it's got to feel like a slice of heaven.
"I've tried to figure out why people are so passionate about this game," he continued. "Because even these great Hall of Famers got beaten down by the game. But they still set the standard. It's like you're in a box with a lock on it. You want to get out. But you can't. You don't want to get out. You want to stay part of it. And I'm glad I'm a little part of it right now."
Kubek may have found the answer after all, though.
"As I walk the streets in Cooperstown, I figured out why there is such passion for this game," he said. "I saw the smiles on people's faces. We've got terrible economic times, wars going on. Seems like the world is chaotic. And yet, people can come here or go to a ballgame and they can smile just a little bit. It's an amazing game."
Mainly a shortstop for his nine-year playing career with the New York Yankees, Kubek won the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 1957 and was a three-time All-Star.
He played on seven AL champion teams and three World Series winners before his career ended following the 1965 season.
"The biggest opportunity was given to my father," Kubek said. "He played minor league baseball, never made the major leagues. He had to quit to support his family. He always made sure that we had a bat _ nails in it, electrical tape around it _ a ball, used a glove and he was supportive. He gave me the opportunity to play at any time I wanted to. And that was very important to me."
His time in baseball was far from over, though.
Kubek served as an analyst on the backup game for NBC's Game of the Week from 1966-68 and joined the top-level team in 1969. He joined Jim Simpson, Curt Gowdy, Joe Garagiola and Bob Costas during his NBC tenure.
"There was a time when those of us who were players and were thinking about becoming broadcasters were encouraged to pay close attention to one man and the way he went about his business," Hall of Famer Don Sutton said as he presented Kubek. "That one man was Tony Kubek. And I'll always be grateful that my first day in the life as a broadcaster I sat alongside Tony Kubek and hopefully sucked up a little of what he was teaching that day."
During his broadcast career, Kubek called some memorable moments _ including Hank Aaron's 715th home run in 1974 and Carlton Fisk homering to win Game 6 of the 1975 World Series for the Red Sox.
Over his 24 years in the booth, Kubek called 11 World Series, 14 AL Championship Series and 10 All-Star Games.
He also called games for the Toronto Blue Jays from 1977-89 and ended his career with the Yankees for the Madison Square Garden Network from 1990-94.
"Tony Kubek's resume calls him a baseball analyst," Sutton said. "But in the truest sense of the words, Tony Kubek was a complete baseball broadcaster."
Peters earns Spink
Nick Peters, who covered the San Francisco Giants for 47 years for the Berkeley Gazette, the Oakland Tribune and Sacramento Bee, was honored with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.
Peters, who retired in 2007, covered more San Francisco Giants games than anyone in history. He also covered 10 Hall of Famers who played for the Giants: Steve Carlton, Gary Carter, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Joe Morgan, Gaylord Perry, Duke Snider and Warren Spahn.
"I'm extremely grateful and humble to be standing here before the great players I covered to receive recognition for doing something I loved and was fortunate to get paid for it," Peters said. "My journalism professors emphasized that a reporter should never be part of the story, so I'm a little uncomfortable standing before you and being part of this great story and great day for myself, my family and my friends."
Baseball, which Peters said was a passion for him at a young age, helped pave the way for his journalism career.
"I learned math by computing batting averages and ERAs and invented a baseball game that taught me that baseball isn't a perfect science," Peters said. "Johnny Temple beat Ted Williams by more than 100 points for the batting title. I improved that game, but I still couldn't hit a curveball or a fastball, for that matter. So I started writing on the high school newspaper. It came easy."
He studied journalism at City College of San Francisco and San Jose State University, but soon after taking a job with the Berkeley Gazette in 1961, Peters was drafted by the Army. He wrote for a weekly newspaper in Anchorage, twice earning the honor as Alaska's top sportswriter.
"(I beat) two Eskimos and a sled-dog team," he quipped.
He then returned to the Bay Area and began covering the Giants. Besides newspapers, he also worked as a correspondent for Sports Illustrated and the Sporting News.
During his speech, he thanked his wife and children for putting up with him as he missed birthdays and other milestones while traveling with the Giants.
Most of all, he thanked the players he covered.
"I still haven't covered a better player than Mays, a better pitcher than Marichal or a better leadoff hitter than Rickey Henderson," Peters said. "And though the Giants didn't win a World Series in my 47 years of covering them, all I had to do was cross the bridge and the A's won four of the six they played."
Retirement likely came at the right moment, however, as Peters said he isn't a fan of technology.
"Thanks to good timing, I was able to write about the game I loved, staying close to home, never looking for a job and never blogging or tweeting," he said. "I don't embrace technology, as you probably figured out. But I do embrace this award, and thank you very much for this honor."
P.J. Harmer can be reached at email@example.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 229.