The first instant replay on a football telecast
On December 7, 1963, 58 years ago, the Army-Navy game was played at the behest of Mrs. Jaqueline Kennedy whose husband, President John F. Kennedy, had been assassinated a couple weeks earlier. Philadelphia’s Municipal Stadium was packed to the gills, some 102,000 fans shoed their way in. The setting was as emotional as you’d imagine. Apparently, after consulting with her brother-in-law Robert Kennedy, Mrs. Kennedy made the decision to play the annual game.
From a television perspective, it was the first time that instant replay was used. The millions around America watching somberly had no warning of replay or what the new technology meant. For that matter, Tony Verna, then a 29 year production vet for CBS didn’t even share the plan with his broadcasters, Lindsey Nelson and Jim Simpson, until the morning of the game.
Navy was #2 in the country led by Roger Staubach at QB. The Midshipmen won 21-15.
Fans tuned in the CBS telecast thinking they saw the same play run twice. Announcer Lindsey Nelson had to remind perplexed viewers ,”This is not live. Ladies and gentleman, Army did not score again.” I always wished that Vin Scully would have had a shot at doing the broadcast. He was a Navy man himself and would have been a consoling voice when the country needed it the most. It’s not at all a shot at the brilliant Nelson, who himself was a soldier during World War II.
Boothmates don’t always get along:
There were more than just a few. Off the top of my head, I’ll rattle off a number of memorable ones. Most involve baseball and understandably so. The announcers work in a confined booth for hours at a time for 162 games and rarely a breather for either one.
- In 2018, Tigers TV announcers Mario Impemba and Rod Allen got into a physical brawl over of all things a chair. Both were fired. Finding work thereafter hasn’t been easy. Impemba told a reporter this year that it was the first time that he hasn’t worked since 1986. He did get a one year assignment with Red Sox radio following the melee.
- Joe Garagiola was hardly transparent or disarming. The ex NL catcher didn’t get along with a host of his mates, famously Harry Caray and later Red Barber who accused Joe of talking over him and wanting to be dominant on-air. In the mid 1950s, word was that that Garagiola decked Milo Hamilton in St. Louis. Hamilton was then a young broadcaster beginning his career.
- On the network side, Curt Gowdy, one of the most giving voices in TV history, and Garagiola didn’t see eye-to-eye.
- Lindsey Nelson called the former MLB catcher “one of the most ambitious men he knew”. Hardly a compliment. (l-r. Garagiola in hat, Caray and a young Jack Buck)
- Chrysler was one of baseball’s bigger sponsors. Garagiola ingratiated himself with the company’s top executives who pushed for Joe to get more visibility. Remember, the one who pays the fiddler calls the tunes.
- Through it all, what was interesting to me was how Garagiola was particularly mindful of the Kirk Gibson- Dennis Eckersley dramatic confrontation. Joe infused a brief comment or two in in the tingling at-bat but otherwise stayed clear of Vin’s call. In a conversation I had with Bob Costas he greatly respected how Joe handled the moment.
- Last week, Joe’s grandson, Chris Garagiola, was added to the Arizona Diamondbacks radio broadcasts.
- In my only conversation with Hamilton, not long before his death in 2015, he told me that he was baseball’s second-best broadcaster, behind Scully! Hamilton was hardly known for his humility. He had issues with Caray too, first in St. Louis and later in Chicago. Hamilton had a great voice and was excellent on huge calls but that’s where it ended.
- Going into the 1974 season and Hank Aaron nearing the record, Hamilton had an understanding with the Braves organization that when it was Hank’s turn at the plate, he would voice the at-bat no matter which of his colleague announcers was on the rotation. Once Ruth’s record was surpassed, the usual broadcast rotation was put back in place.
- It just so happens that the Dodgers were in Atlanta when Aaron broke Babe’s record. But there was no such understanding that Vin’s sidekick Jerry Doggett would be pre-empted for Vin, if Hank stepped into the batter’s box with a chance at the big swing. It happened to be Vin’s turn when Hank came up. Scully proceeded to grip one of baseball’s great moments with his silky voice and underscored it as only he can. The mix of the deep south, a Black man breaking the record of an icon, racial justice and tolerance. It hit Vin and he captured it all, from the Civil War to a country becoming more accepting. There’s only one Scully. (Scully, left, Garagiola, right)
- Everyone loved Mel Allen. A warm guy. Curt Gowdy and Russ Hodges partnered separately with Mel on the Yankees broadcasts, between 1946 and 1950. Never an issue.
- Many years after he stopped broadcasting, Red told Pete Silverman who was in charge of production at MSG Network that Mel Allen jumped all over him in the booth. “That man would interrupt me,” Barber told Silverman. Red announced Maris’ 61st while emotionally distant. Typical of Red, when the ball landed in the right field seats, he focused on the young man who fetched the ball that had a $5,000 bounty on it. But after a minute or so, Allen joined the broadcast to comment on the historic occasion. Phil Rizzuto called it in impassionate fashion on radio.
- Ernie Harwell spent time in the late 1940s and early 50s with Barber in Brooklyn and then Hodges in the Polo Grounds. Ernie, one of the most forgiving men you’ll meet, couldn’t stand two people, Leo Durocher and Red Barber.
- Barber was just not very pleasant. Marty Glickman told me he was as cold as ice off-air and as warm as can be on-air. He’d walk down the station’s corridor without saying hello to anybody, just holding his brown lunch bag.
- You don’t hear much about Al Michaels and the egos he dealt with in his four decades on-air. But Michaels and Boomer Esiason were oil and water. They were together for two seasons, one just the two of them and another with Dan Dierdorf as a trio. Esiason blamed Michaels for his firing, telling Richard Sandomir in the New York Times, “Al could have been better for me, and I tried with him, but it never clicked with me because he never wanted it to click.”
- Bob Neal and Jimmy Dudley were partners in Cleveland, covering the Indians on radio in the 1960s. Partners were a misnomer. The two despised one another, so much so, that they’d do anything to make the job more difficult for one another. For instance, one voice would put up a large briefcase on the counter between the two of them to make it impossible to see things on the periphery. Eventually, Cleveland General Manager, Gabe Paul, had to get rid of one of them. Paul dumped Dudley who eventually won a Frick Award two years before his death in 1997.
- Marty Glickman and Les Keiter were adversaries and antagonists. Glickman owned New York when Les arrived; pre/post on Dodgers radio, Knicks basketball and the football Giants plus talk shows. Keiter (left) was an interloper, raised in Seattle, who like Marty, was an excellent rapid-fire announcer. Keiter was best known in New York for recreations of San Francisco Giants games once the club left the Polo Grounds. Very creative. Marv Albert was a fan of both. Marty told me that when Keiter’s WINS got the Giants rights, Les called him and asked whether he would to do his color, an insulting step-down for Glickman. Marty told Les where he can go. And neither had a nice thing to say about the other the rest of their lives.
- Glickman also had it in for Chris Schenkel. Marty brought Schenkel down from Providence to work with him as a color commentator on the Giants’ football radio broadcasts. When Harry Wismer’s voice dried up doing a Giants game in Los Angeles, Schenkel was brought up to preside over the telecast. Marty and Chris got along famously. In fact, Schenkel got married in Glickman’s New Rochelle home. Years later, in the late 60s, Marty’s son Johnny wanted to get into Purdue’s aeronautical and engineering school. He had flown helicopter missions in Vietnam. Schenkel, who was from Indiana, was well connected at the school. Marty told me he tried to reach Chris multiple times and he never returned his calls. “I kept calling and he never called back. After all, it was my son!