When we lost Joe Garagiola back in March I had planned on writing about the subject of sports broadcasters. As life went on it kind of slipped away from me so I decided to revisit the subject when Vin Scully called his final out for the Dodgers.
So pull up a chair, members of my blog audience and grab a beverage.
Vin Scully joined Red Barber in the Ebbets Field broadcast booth in 1950. He would eventually take over the “Cat Bird Seat” in Brooklyn and will be vacating the booth at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on October 2. His 67 years as the voice of the Dodgers, which spanned two locations on opposite coasts, is the longest tenure of a broadcaster with one organization. This record wont be touched for a very long time, if ever.
Mr. Scully, I have to thank you for influencing me. My writing style is much like your broadcasting style. Yes you have a legendary way of describing facts that happen on a baseball field (and in years past on a gridiron as well), but your story telling talent is unparalleled. I can hear your voice as I tell stories here on WordPress just as if I was watching a Dodger broadcast. Thank you again Vin!
On the night that we lost Joe Garagiola I began to think and reflect on all the sports voices I’ve heard over the years. I can honestly say there have been many literary influences that have shaped me. Those of us who grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s will remember when NBC had a stronghold on Major League Baseball. I have such fond memories of the “Game of the Week” on Saturday afternoons. I will say that as a young boy growing up in Queens my first broadcast idol, if you will, was Curt Gowdy. Like Scully, Gowdy was a story-teller in addition to being almost flawless in describing the action on the diamond as well as the football field. His longtime baseball partner, Tony Kubek still strikes me as one of the best analysts of my time.
My Queens upbringing formed a bond with the New York Mets who played in my home boro. The trio of Bob Murphy, Ralph Kiner, and Lindsey Nelson remains full of fond childhood memories. They were the voices of the Mets from their inaugural season of 1962 until Nelson left the Mets for San Francisco following the 1978 season. I was pretty disappointed when he left. Mets baseball would never be the same. Met fans who followed the franchise will always remember Bob Murphy’s “Happy Recap” when the Mets won, and Ralph Kiner’s post-game show “Kiner’s Korner.”
In addition to his baseball career, Lindsey Nelson spent years behind the CBS College Football mic. He was the annual voice of the Cotton Bowl. It’s not the same without him.
The “hated” crosstown Yankees also had their share of broadcast legends. From Mel Allen’s “How about that” to Phil Rizutto’s “Holy Cow!” But for most of this blogger’s life nobody manned the public address microphone like Bob Sheppard. Growing up as a Met fan I didn’t go to many Yankee games. I was at the Big Ballpark in the Bronx twice and saw a handful of Yankee games at Shea Stadium in 1974 and 1975. For those who may not know the Yankees played those two years in Flushing while the Stadium was undergoing a massive renovation. Sheppard had a presence unlike any other public address announcer. Players referred to him as “the voice of God.”
Growing up, baseball wasn’t the only sport that I took to. To this day I am a hockey fanatic. Just as a coming attraction I will be following the Florida Panthers this year here on my WordPress page. That being said, I became a fan of the New York Islanders when the NHL awarded a franchise to Long Island. Tim Ryan was an established NHL announcer when he joined the Islanders TV crew in their inaugural season. I grew up listening to him as well as Marv Albert calling Rangers games on radio. As much as I hated the rival Rangers, I have got to admit Marv’s call of the Rangers and Knicks games was a big influence. I miss Marv as a hockey announcer and still enjoy his NBA broadcasts on TNT.
In 1980 the voice of the Islanders changed. The legendary Ryan would leave Long Island for a national football job with CBS. Jiggs McDonald would join Ed Westfall as voice of the Islanders. The tandem would last seventeen wonderful years that included four Stanley Cup championships and a streak of nineteen consecutive playoff series wins. Any Islander fan from that era can still here Jiggs referring to Westfall as “18” in reference to his uniform number in his playing days with the club.
Hearing Marv open Ranger broadcasts still rings through my head. “This is Marv Albert with Sal “Red Light” Messina at Madison Square Garden” was how each home broadcast began. Marv would then describe how the game would begin by identifying the 7th Avenue end and 8th Avenue end of Madison Square Garden as to which net the teams were to defend.
In today’s time there are so many voices to be heard, so many new pictures to be painted. To me the story-teller that would be the heir apparent to Vin Scully has to come from the hockey world. Mike “Doc” Emrick who broadcasts the NHL for NBC and its networks has a unique way of calling games while getting descriptive. Locally Steve”Goldy” Goldstein’s New York accent throws me back to my childhood roots as the voice of the Florida Panthers.
Local sports legend Jim Mandich was the voice of the Miami Dolphins. It was such a sad South Florida day when we lost him to cancer in 2011. We also have a Scully disciple on the Marlins radio network in Dave Van Horne. Dave is another great combination of facts and story telling.
There are just so many more that are going through my head, probably enough to fill another blog.
In closing, thank you so much Vin Scully. I hope someday you can pull up a chair and read my work.