If you're a baby boomer and grew up in Cleveland, there is no doubt you remember Indian broadcaster Jimmy Dudley, who died last week at age 89 in Tucson.
"So long, and lots of good luck, ya heah!" was Dudley's signature close to all Indian broadcasts…broadcasts he opened with "Hello baseball fans everywhere."
In between those lines was sandwiched some of the best baseball play-by-play of all time. Jimmy Dudley was the Indians from 1948 to 1969, when he was unceremoniously dismissed by Tribe General Manager Gabe Paul. Reacting to a power play by Bob Neal, Dudley's play-by-play partner, Paul brought Herb Score from TV to radio and left the Voice of the Indians for some 20 years without a team at the start of the 1970 campaign.
Dudley began with the Indians when Cleveland baseball history had reached a crescendo. It was the year of the Tribe's storied World Series victory over the Boston Braves and the never-to-be forgotten one game playoff with the Red Sox. Bill Veeck was the owner of the Indians, and another broadcasting legend, former Indian shortstop JackGraney, was Dudley's sidekick in the booth.
Not only did Cleveland race to the pennant, outdueling the Sox and the mighty Yankees, they did it before behemoth crowds at Cleveland's Municipal Stadium, as Dudley would say, "on the shores of beautiful Lake Erie."
By 1954, Dudley had emerged as the Number One Indians broadcaster, although Graney continued in the booth. Again Cleveland had a season to remember. It was a season that saw the Indians finish ahead of their arch nemesis Yankees, but lose to the New York Giants and Willie Mays in four games. The Series will be forever remembered for Willie Mays' over-the-head catch of a VicWertz drive, that could have changed the outcome of Game One and perhaps the entire Series.
As it turned out, however, that game and that Series set the tone for the remainder of Dudley's broadcasting career in Cleveland. In the next 13 years only once, in 1959, did the Tribe make a serious run at the pennant. Frank "Trader" Lane was general manager and "the Rock" -Rocky Colavito- was the hero on the field that year. In fact, the charismatic Colavito was both hero and heartthrob, the idol of millions of fans in Northeast Ohio. Unfortunately, even with the Rock, who hit 42 home runs, and Tito Francona, who came off the bench to hit .363, the Indians were no match for the "Go-Go" White Sox of Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox. It was a season of heartbreak for Indian fans and particularly for Dudley, who, in the game that eliminated the Tribe from contention, actually dropped the call for a split second as first baseman Vic Power grounded out to end the team's pennant hopes with five games remaining.
Not only were the Indians out of the race, "Trader" Lane sent Colavito to Detroit for Harvey Kuehn in a post-season deal that sent the Indians spiraling into oblivion for the next two decades.
Despite this, and the fact that the Indians would play to home crowds that sometimes numbered in the hundreds, Dudley continued to resonate.
He was born in Virginia and his southern accent had a rythmic lilt. Many of sports' greatest broadcasters (Mel Allen, Red Barber, Ernie Harwell, Lindsey Nelson) had Southern roots. Dudley was perhaps the most melodic of them all.
He complimented the nature rhythm of his voice with catch phrases such as, for a 3-2 count, "the string is out."
There was a dark side to Dudley's tenure in Cleveland. While he loved the fans and the fans loved him, he and his third partner in the booth, Bob Neal, never got along. In fact, they never spoke. While other broadcast teams (Bob Elson and Don Wells in Chicago; Bob Prince and Jim Woods in Pittsburgh) would conduct a constant banter throughout the game, Dudley and Neal were never heard together. Neal was perhaps the more versatile of the two as a football broadcaster, morning radio host and sports commentator, but Dudley remained the Indians Number 1 voice. Dudley did the first three innings and the last three of every game. Neal found himself in the small, overhanging press box at Municipal Stadium for the middle three innings, something that ate at him constantly. It was Neal's frustration, coupled with his front office clout that unseated Dudley in February 1970, just prior to the start of a new season.
With such short notice, Dudley was unable to land a play-by-play position in 1970, but the following year he resurfaced in Seattle as voice of the new Pilots franchise. But the franchise fizzled after one season, leaving Dudley again without a major league play-by-play assignment.
He moved to his beloved Tucson, where the Indians had trained until their recent move to Florida. Jimmy did some broadcasting for the Toros Triple A team and Arizona State baseball, but his days as a major league broadcaster were over.
He returned to Cleveland from time to time to do commercials for an aluminum siding company, but he and wife Angie found life quite accommodating in the desert. It was only in the past few years that the Alzheimer's with which he was afflicted took a serious toll. Jimmy was unable to attend last year when he was inducted into the Broadcaster's Wing of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. He was represented by family members.
It is said, however, that Jimmy Dudley knew of his enshrinement and knew that baseball and its fans had given back a small part of what he gave to them as the Voice of the Tribe and one of the game's broadcasting legends.