Say the words "Yankee Tradition" and fans will immediately think of the great players that helped make the New York Yankees the sports world's preeminent franchise. The list of immortals who wore the Yankee uniform is almost endless. But there is another area that has seen its share of greatness in Yankee history: the broadcast booth.
Just as they dominate the number of players in the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Yankees also dominate in the Hall's broadcast wing. Since the Hall started handing out the Ford Frick Award for broadcast excellence in 1978, 12 men who announced Yankee games have been bestowed this honor, more than any other team. Some spent their entire careers in the Bronx; others had brief tenures there. Nonetheless, each of them were most worthy recipients.
The first to be honored in 1978 fittingly were Mel Allen and Red Barber. Allen would become known as "The Voice of the New York Yankees", starting in 1939, then working continuously from 1946-1964. While Barber was most associated with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he spent 13 years in the Yankee booth from 1954-1966.
1980 saw Russ Hodges get the call. Most famous for his call of Bobby Thomson's home run off Ralph Branca in 1951, Hodges worked with Mel Allen doing Yankee and Giant home games from 1946-1948. When the teams started doing all the games in 1949, Hodges became the Giants' full time announcer.
Four years later, Curt Gowdy received the Frick Award. Ironically, he replaced Russ Hodges, working alongside Mel Allen in 1949 and 1950 before becoming the voice of the Red Sox. Gowdy would gain his greatest fame calling baseball for NBC Sports for many years.
The following year saw Eloy "Buck" Canel was honored. Canel was the Spanish language announcer of Yankee games in the 1960s and 70s. He was the first Spanish language announcer to be enshrined.
Number six would be Joe Garagiola in 1991. He had the unenviable task of following Mel Allen, who was let go in 1964. Garagiola worked Yankees games from 1965-1967 before joining NBC Sports.
1999 was the year Arch McDonald was honored. Though best known as the voice of the Washington Senators, McDonald was the first Yankee announcer in 1939. Former Yankee second baseman Jerry Coleman got the call in 2005. He was in the booth from 1963-1969 before going West and becoming the beloved voice of the San Diego Padres.
2009 was the year for Tony Kubek. A former Yankee, Kubek did games for NBC Sports and the Toronto Blue Jays before coming to New York to do Yankee games on the Madison Square Garden Network from 1990-1994. Kubek made history as he was the first analyst to receive the Frick Award.
Tim McCarver was enshrined in 2012. Known mostly for his work on ABC, CBS, and FOX as well as the New York Mets, McCarver did Yankee games on WNYW Channel Five from 1999-2001 alongside former Yankee Bobby Murcer.
In 2019, announcer Al Helfer got the Frick Award. Known as "Mr. Radio Baseball", Helfer did games for the Mutual Broadcasting System as well as various teams, including one year with the Yankees in 1945. Helfer's partner that year was Don Dunphy, who would later gain his greatest fame as a boxing announcer.
The 12th and most recent Yankee announcer honored was Ken Harrelson in 2020. Though he achieved his greatest fame as the announcer for the Chicago White Sox, the man nicknamed "The Hawk" called Yankee games in 1987 and 1988 on the old SportsChannel cable network alongside Bobby Murcer.
Will any of the current or future Yankee announcers one day join this elite group? No one can answer that question, but one thing is for certain. Anyone who does will be following in the footsteps of men who set the standard for what it takes to be called not just a Hall of Fame announcer, but a Hall of Fame Yankee announcer.