Halsey Hall was a baseball broadcaster who appealed to everyone. We shouldn't even pigeon-hole him as a baseball announcer or even sports announcer.
Baseball was this grand showcase by which the common citizens could escape their mundane existence. Hall's voice described a universe where "our team" played before many thousands at our own Metropolitan Stadium. The Twins traveled all over the U.S. too. Prior to 1961, Minnesota had nothing like that.
Hall was committed to baseball in Minnesota well before 1961. He loved sports but he loved people even more. It was a no-brainer to have Hall installed right away in the Twins' broadcast crew. He broadcast baseball in a time when fans didn't expect such a detailed analysis of the game. Broadcasters were more superficial. They described the obvious. They told stories. They laughed a lot. Hall had an infectious laugh. The minutiae of the game was something for the players themselves to master, not the fans.
Then, with the onset of ESPN and niche programming, the media people in baseball sensed a new need: the need to really get into the nuts and bolts of the game. Hall's era was long gone. How many of you miss the older approach? Surely anyone my age misses Hall, who died in 1977. This was no nomadic sports professional. He had his feet planted firmly in Minnesota. He nurtured the game of baseball long before the Twins were conceived. It might be hard to imagine that earlier time, a time when baseball was on the fringes here. We were minor league. I have read that the Minneapolis Millers were so good, they could beat a big league team on a given day. Fine. But minor league is still minor league.
Dave Moore pined for those Nicollet Park days long after that facility faded into the mists of memory. Ol' Dave, the iconic WCCO TV news anchor, was in the minority on that. Minnesota embraced the Twins and were barely willing to treat the Millers as an asterisk.
Progress. The construction of Met Stadium was our historic commitment that was needed in order to get big league baseball. We still had to wait for an extended time, even after the Met began functioning. Progress meant that by 1980, we were told we had to leave the sadly obsolete Met and move under a roof. We had to have a dome! Except that of course the dome ended up having a lifespan just like the Met. We answered the call to get baseball outside again. Are we finally satisfied? Halsey would surely like the new facility. I think he would have been happy anywhere, surrounded by interesting people about whom he could tell stories.
Halsey was an immense blessing to have around during a rain delay. He'd even pop in at the booth of announcers for the opposing team. No hyperbole: Hall was an icon in the minds of the first generation of young Twins fans.
Histories are wanting
I'm not sure the online-based histories of Hall do total justice to the man. They seem to be written from the perspective of his media compatriots who were amused by his peccadilloes. Surely that brings amusement. But my generation when young couldn't have cared less about that. Maybe we were vaguely aware that Halsey indulged in the sauce once in a while. That is not how we defined him. We defined him as this charming uncle sort of guy, always engaging with his sense of humor and talent as raconteur. He was totally disarming. He helped us forget about our problems. There was nothing like listening to a good Halsey Hall laugh to make the whole day seem right.
Halsey was color analyst for Twins baseball on both radio and TV. He had a trait in common with John Madden: he hated to fly. He spent a lot of time studying train schedules. If he had to fly, he'd approach the ticket counter and request "one chance to Chicago."
Hall came from a really good bloodline. His mother May Hall was a noted Shakespearean actress. His grandfather was a distinguished Missouri judge. But Halsey had little contact with his mother. His parents split up when he was just an infant. His father's side of the family was defined by newspaper work. Thus Halsey was guided into the media universe. He cut his teeth as a newspaperman. His great uncle Harlan Hall was a co-founder of the St. Paul Dispatch.
Halsey got out of the Navy in1919 and plunged into the newspaper field. He wrote popular columns. He wrote about his "Celestial All-Star Team" whenever a baseball great passed away. He reported Babe Ruth joining that heavenly circle in August of 1948.
Hall began developing his broadcasting talents. Like Ronald Reagan, who was fond of telling such stories, Hall would sometimes call a major sports event from a detached location. He helped WCCO Radio establish itself with a national reputation. Remember those bygone times with the likes of Boone and Erickson, Steve Cannon, Maynard Speece and Franklin Hobbs? Halsey shared a half-hour news block with the unforgettable Cedric Adams. It was Halsey who coined the name "Golden Gophers" for the U of M Gophers. He described the action when Bernie Bierman was coach.
He became a fixture at Nicollet Park, home of the AAA Millers. Halsey found time to referee football and basketball games, developing a high-tier reputation. Sometimes he would even combine his roles as referee and reporter. He gained note as a toastmaster.
Finally the year 1961 came along and Minnesota joined the big leagues. With JFK freshly installed in the White House and "Camelot" in full swing, we greeted the Twins and Vikings. Can you now imagine life without them? Hall sat in the booth with Herb Carneal. The 1972 season was Halsey's last in the booth. That was the summer before my senior year in high school. Halsey had been like a companion for me in my growing-up years. I sort of felt he'd be around forever. The invincibility of youth can make us overlook how the toll of advancing years forces us into changes, and ultimately death comes.
A little research shows that Hall had a passion for poetry. His daughter said "he thought words could solve anything." My kind of person for sure.
Halsey had extended hospital stays for heart troubles in 1974 and 1975. In 1989, Halsey was posthumously inducted into the Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame.
Coming out to the hinterlands
I remember when Halsey came to Morris MN. This was for the celebration honoring our own Jerry Koosman. Koosman was fresh from being a hero in the 1969 World Series. I remember Halsey seated in a position of honor for a program at our public library mall. I might have made eye contact with him for a moment or two. He was obviously happy and relaxed - this was clearly no "chore" for him. He came to the microphone and talked about the key to the city Jerry had just received. In those days when Foster Brooks humor was big, Halsey wondered if the key would open the establishment across the street: the municipal bar and liquor store. It wasn't named "the Met" just yet. It would take on the "Met" name in connection with Koosman's heroics.
Koosman was a starting pitcher with the 1969 World Champion New York Mets.
Halsey was the No. 1 exhibit you could put forth for enjoying life. I'm sure he's still describing baseball and telling stories in connection with those "Celestial All-Stars." Harmon Killebrew is batting cleanup.
Halsey Hall RIP.