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Matthews stops at Blood Drive on way to Cooperstown

Missouri pair take similar paths to Hall
15th Annual Hall of Fame Blood Drive

Denny Matthews For Denny Matthews, the road to Cooperstown this week had a few stops along the way.

One big one on Tuesday afternoon happened to be at the Community Blood Center on 4040 Main Street in Kansas City, Mo. The other one, of course, was later that evening at Kauffman Stadium.

On Sunday, July 29, Matthews receives one of the top honors in broadcasting when he is recognized as the Ford C. Frick Award recipient during the 2007 National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y. Although, the Royals have been celebrating the "Voice of the Royals" all season, a special salute to Matthews' accomplishment took place Tuesday, July 24, in front of a sellout crowd with the Royals hosting the New York Yankees.

But, even before he hit the pre-game celebration on the field, Matthews found himself celebrating with those who took time to participate in the 15th annual Royals Hall of Fame Blood Drive. It's the second time in four years that Matthews has been the guest of honor at the annual blood drive. In 2004 when he was inducted into the club's Hall of Fame, the long-time broadcaster showed his appreciation for donors, who have shown nothing but support for Matthews throughout his years behind the microphone.

"I think the greatest way for fans to honor me at this time is to come out and donate for this blood drive," Matthews said. "Everyone has just been great not only now, but throughout my time with the Royals."

Matthews' fans must have gotten the message as the blood drive was well on its way to reaching its goal of 1,200 registered donors halfway through the second day of the event. By 3:30 Tuesday afternoon, 969 registered donors had already made their way in.

Frick Award "I think the best thing about this whole drive is how much the Royals and Denny get behind it and support it," said Mary Kelley, marketing manager for the Community Blood Center. "Having Denny as a part of this has really brought in the donors. He has really won over this community, which has such affection for him. We are on target to surpass the goal and we have the Royals and Denny to thank for that."

Set in the summer months, the annual blood drive aims to drive Kansas City residents to donate in the months of the year that struggle with consistent donations. This year's week-long drive started Monday, July 23, at several locations around the Kansas City area and also in St. Joseph and Jefferson City, Mo., and Lawrence and Topeka, Kan. All registered donors for the drive received a pair of tickets to an upcoming Royals game and a commemorative T-shirt. Donors also had the chance to register to win an inning in the radio booth with the award-winning broadcaster. Those who stopped by on Tuesday, to meet Denny and take part in a free tailgate, were also pleasantly surprised to be treated to Jack Stack Barbeque and Good Humor ice cream.

"Jack Stack Barbeque just stopped by and dropped off food," added Kelley, "and the Intercontinental Hotel got wind of the drive and sent over the Good Humor truck, telling them to donate at least $400 worth of ice cream."

For 39 seasons - otherwise known as the club's entire existence - Matthews has been broadcasting for the Royals. This past February he got the call about the Ford C. Frick award, which has been taken home by several well known broadcasters throughout the seasons including Jack Buck, Harry Caray, Jack Brickhouse, Ernie Harwell and Bob Uecker - all names that Matthews now feels proud to join.

"This is pretty heady stuff," said Matthews, at a Feb. 23 press conference. "I see the list of previous winners, some guys I listened to on the radio in bed as a kid turning the dial to bring in their signals. Little did I know at that time that I would come under their influence."

The Central Illinois native joined the team for its inaugural season in 1969, beating out more than 250 applicants for the No. 2 announcing position alongside veteran Bud Blattner. In 1975, Matthews jumped into the No. 1 spot and teamed with Fred White, another voice familiar to sports fans in the Midwest. The Matthews and White team worked through the Royals golden years in the late 1970s and 1980s, guiding listening fans through some of the franchise's most memorable moments. In 1999, Matthews switched partners again, this time partnering with young radio personality Ryan Lefebvre. But, through all the ups and downs of the franchise and no matter who was sitting next to him in the booth, one thing has always remained consistent: Matthews' voice coming across the airwaves. The longevity with the Royals puts Matthews in an elite category of one of only nine announcers in Major League history to spend his entire career with one team for at least 35 straight seasons. And, the list he is a part of is nothing short of exclusive. The others that share the honor are Vin Scully (56 years with the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers), Buck (47 with the St. Louis Cardinals), Jaime Jarrin (44 with the Dodgers), Phil Rizzuto (40 with the New York Yankees), Joe Nuxhall (40 with the Reds), Uecker (36 with Milwaukee), Richie Ashburn (35 with Phillies) and Mike Shannon (35 with Cardinals).

To win the Ford C. Frick award, Matthews was selected by a 20-member electorate, comprised of the 14 living Frick Award recipients and six historians and columnists. This season he was chosen from a group of 10 finalists that included Bill King of the Oakland Athletics, the Chicago White Sox broadcaster Ken Harrelson and Cincinnati's Nuxhall.

"Broadcasting the Royals first game, which also happened to be my first game, I actually had the honor of being the first person to say 'the Royals win," which was pretty cool," Matthews said. "Now, I'll be standing at the same podium in Cooperstown where Joe McGruff (Kansas City Star sports writer) stood in 1984, where George Brett stood in 1999 and where, last year, Buck O'Neil stood - and that's pretty cool, too."