By Marty Appel
“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s been a pleasure.”
That was Frank Messer’s sign off when he held the mike at the end of a game, and the words could easily be volleyed back to him by listeners. When Frank passed away in Deerfield Beach, Florida on November 13, age 76, many people recalled the solid and easy-going-down style he brought to the Yankee microphone for many years.
He was a “pro’s pro,” according to broadcasting insiders. He didn’t take over a broadcast booth like the legends of the game, nor did he win over fans with a homespun style. Instead he delivered everything like a Mel Stottlemyre complete game, smooth and easy, right on the black, and before you knew it, he had you.
Frank was hired in 1968, to what had been Mel Allen’s “seat” in the booth. Mel left after 1964, and for three years, Joe Garagiola had been his replacement. When Joe’s duties with NBC’s Today Show made it impossible to handle both assignments, he left and the search began.
“It was a very long search,” recalled Howard Berk, a CBS executive then joining the Yankee front office. “Everyone wanted the Yankee job. We listened to many, many tapes. Frank had been doing the Orioles games, and his tapes were strong. And we kept going back to him. He had a great style and such enthusiasm for coming to New York.”
For years, Frank played straight man to the playful Phil Rizzuto and the wizened Bill White, helping the latter break into the broadcasting business. When commercial copy needed to be read, when clinics needed to be hosted, when contests needed to be run, or when the famous “disclaimer” (“This copyrighted broadcast……”) needed to be uttered, Frank was The Man. He was a masterful Master of Ceremonies for the annual Old Timers Day, as well as for the memorable Mickey Mantle Day in 1969. And he continued to be the voice on the field for Old Timers Days even after his Yankee days had ended.
“He was one of the regular card players on the back of team busses,” recalled Bobby Murcer. “I’m not saying how good he was, because I was the only one who lost all the time, but he was a good guy to travel with. And if you surprised him with a good hand, he’s say ‘good golly Miss Molly,’ just like he did on the air.
Frank is survived by a son, Richard, two daughters, Mikki and Krissi, four grandchildren, and countless Yankee fans who found it a pleasure to listen to him for 19 seasons.