The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Frank Herzog is in D.C. Sports HOF but not Redskins Ring of Fame. That’s just wrong.

Frank Herzog was part of the 2016 D.C. Sports Hall of Fame class that was recognized before the Nationals-Pirates game at Nationals Park on Sunday. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)
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Frank Herzog used to feel almost embarrassed when Redskins fans would gush to him about his place in team history. He was just the broadcaster, he would tell them, not the one winning games. And yet fans still associated him with greatness.

“It was the sense that I had a responsibility for it, that I somehow played a role — more of a role than I did play,” he said Sunday afternoon. “Look, I’m just sitting up there watching what’s going on, and calling it to the best of my ability. … So when they did that, I was going you know, it’s not me.”

Eventually, though, Herzog decided that what fans were actually saying was that they still remembered the fun everybody was having back in the Gibbs era, the shared experiences of winning and happiness. And so he changed his response.

“We had a great time, didn’t we?” he began telling fans. “They’d tell me stories about family reunions and families together, going to the ballpark, wearing their headsets. So I think when you look back at the greatest decade in Redskins history, we all shared in it. And that’s what makes it special.”

Herzog was talking moments before his Sunday induction into the Washington D.C. Sports Hall of Fame, a mythical Hall whose members are enshrined on that giant blue wall at Nationals Park. And his induction reminded at least some observers that there’s another similar institution that still hasn’t included Herzog. That would be the Ring of Fame at FedEx Field, which already includes non-players like former PA announcer Phil Hochberg and former Prince George’s County Executive Wayne Curry, but not Herzog, the voice of all those Super Bowls.

The Hogettes campaigned for Herzog’s inclusion several years ago, with Boss Hogette Mikey T telling WTOP that Herzog’s “blood is burgundy and gold.” But it didn’t happen, and so now Herzog’s name is on the baseball stadium, but not the football stadium. That seems wrong. If that Redskins Ring has anything to do with the amount of joy associated with its members, Herzog deserves a place.

Herzog formed the famous radio trio with Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff in 1981, a group that remained intact until 2004, when Herzog was replaced. He called John Riggins’s Super Bowl-clinching score, he created the iconic “Touchdown, Washington Redskins” call, and he helped provide the soundtrack for Gibbs’s first Washington tenure.

“That [trio] is emblemized in everybody’s mind for the rest of their lives,” as John Riggins once put it.

Herzog retired from his part-time broadcasting gig at WTOP in 2010, and soon moved to North Carolina. He still follows the Nats and Redskins (although he’s also fond of  the Panthers), and he said he has no interest in returning to play-by-play. He also seems to underestimate his continued appeal in Washington.

“After about three or four years, I figured well that’s about it, they’ve forgotten me,” Herzog said on Sunday. “There’s a new world in sports. You know, I’m gone. So when I got the [Hall of Fame] letter, it was really touching.”

He came to Sunday’s event with about two dozen family members, including daughters from Seattle, New Jersey and North Carolina, plus an assortment of nieces and nephews and grand-nieces and grand-nephews, who all came to D.C. “just to party this weekend and have a good time celebrating the old man,” he said. “So that’s been great. That’s probably as rewarding as the Hall of Fame.”

Herzog joins a host of other D.C. Hall members who are there at least in part for their broadcasting, from Bob Wolff and James Brown to Jim Gibbons and Phil Chenier.

Sunday’s other inductees included Christine Brennan, Marco Etcheverry, Patrick Ewing, Earl Lloyd, Dexter Manley, Missy Meharg, Bob Milloy, Hymie and Phil Perlo and Harold Solomon.