Halby's Morsels

Halby’s Morsels: A Cosell-Summerall confrontation; Trump’s USFL-NFL vision; Harlan’s magic; Costas at 22

Kevin Harlan's hat trick, breaking into three broadcasts with creative calls; Pro Bowl on ESPN Sunday: 50 years ago, Don Criqui did it on CBS

 

The untold encounter of Howard Cosell and Pat Summerall, a 1966 classic witnessed by former and longtime Islanders announcer and broadcast good-guy Barry Landers:

howard cosell reading
Howard Cosell

In 1966, Barry Landers interned for Pat Summerall (left) who at the time was the sports director of WCBS Radio in New York. One day during the baseball season, Pat took Landers with him to Yankee Stadium, where upon entering the media room, Summerall was greeted flamboyantly by Howard Cosell.

Howard created a scene. Barry remembers it well. “In his typical brash and loud voice and for all to hear, Cosell announces,  ‘Look who has arrived, old #88, the greatest kicker in New York Football Giants history!’

“The reporters in the press room were startled by Howard’s brashness, As Pat and I approached the table where Howard was sitting, Summerall, smiling, put his hand on Cosell’s shoulder and leaned heavily on it as the blood drained from Cosell’s face. Howard’s face turned colors, from red to ashen. In a less than loud voice, Pat told Howard. ‘If you ever pull that shit again, I will kick your ass from here to River Avenue,’ which was the street right outside Yankee Stadium.” 

Landers was a disciple of Win Elliot, a talented hockey announcer who worked for years for CBS Radio. Barry would eventually be the well liked radio voice of the New York Islanders. His dulcet and riveting call of those excellent Islanders teams in the 80s was first rate.

In catching up with Barry, he tells me that the irrepressible Ed Ingles, 87, a New York sports radio fixture has been under the weather recently. For those unfamiliar with the name, Ingles was sports director of WCBS Radio forever, beginning in the 1970s. Before sports talk radio hit the airwaves in 1987, all-news stations like New York’s WCBS and WINS and those in Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia and other larger American markets, were a godsend for sports fans. Their twice an hour sports updates were really the only way to get the latest scores. Ingles was a true pioneer, creating the economized sports reports. No one really did it before him. Sports updates today on all-sports radio mirror the format that Ed developed decades ago. In ninety seconds, Ingles spewed just about all the essentials fans needed. The morning paper didn’t have the late night scores, ESPN wasn’t born yet and the internet was no more than a dream. New York had Ed. Get well soon!

President Donald Trump and the USFL:

Image result for new jersey generals donald trumpIn the 1980s, the President owned the New Jersey Generals of the failed United States football League. ABC Television ran the USFL package. Positive, motivated  and spirited, Trump told Jim Spence the number two executive at ABC Sports that he envisioned the day of the Galaxy Bowl when the USFL champ would meet the Super Bowl winner for a default world football championship. The USFL eventually folded. No Galaxy Bowl was ever played.

Kevin Harlan hits the Hat-trick:

kevin harlanA cat scurried onto the field at Met Life Stadium last November 4th. Working the game on national radio, Kevin Harlan’s play-by-play call never broke stride. He seamlessly segued from calling the game to describing the cat chase. Kevin painted a graphic picture of the challenging effort of the stadium security people to get the elusive and bothersome feline off the gridiron. Kevin has a knack for building drama in ways that transcend the game. He’s a master at keeping audiences engaged no matter who or what takes center stage, whether predictable or unpredictable. 

In 2016, Harlan broke convention. Broadcasters are generally urged not to glorify or dignify the antics of recalcitrant fans who break the law scurrying disruptively onto the field. But when Harlan spotted a defiant fan running elusively on the playing field at Levi’s Stadium, he gave the episode the treatment, describing the incident with his trademark bells and whistles. The recording went viral on social media.

This past December 29th, Harlan hit the hat trick when he actually called two games simultaneously. This time it was on CBS Television. He did the entire Chiefs victory over the Chargers in Kansas City and as the Patriots-Dolphins game was proceeding down the stretch, he called a critical Dolphins touchdown orchestrated by Ryan Fitzpatrick over the Patriots in Foxboro. The second seed in the AFC East was at stake and it hinged on the results of both games. So Harlan kept his vocal pulse on both simultaneously. Again, it was enthralling.

Harlan on CBS:

CBS continues to underuse the popular Harlan on football. The fact of the matter is that the criticism of Harlan essentially originates from one corner of America, the Northeast. Critics say he hollers. I don’t agree. Kevin doesn’t employ Brooklyn-like wry humor either, the kind best suited for late night comics. I can’t recall disparaging quips flowing off the lips of Pat Summerall, Al Michaels, Curt Gowdy or Jim Nantz. On-air network success is largely about warmth which Kevin exudes regularly. While yes, Kevin’s broadcasts might be high octane, his voice doesn’t screech at anytime, from the first quarter through the fourth.

Marv Albert and using the overused plaudit great:

The word great is an overused accolade, whether referencing sports accomplishments or achievements in other walks of life. A little better than an ordinary accomplishment and there’s an irresistible temptation by broadcasters to label it great. Many say, “He had a great night or he’s a great player.” It’s praise tossed around way too freely. I can remember Marv Albert sharing these sentiments with me years ago. The truth is that you’ll rarely hear Marv call a player great unless it’s earned and merited over a window of time.

Things I found while looking for something else: The precocious Bob Costas at a remarkable 22:

YouTube has a couple of long stretches of games that the ABA’s Spirit of St. Louis played in January and February, 1975. Bob didn’t turn 23 until the following March. He called Spirit’s games on powerhouse KMOX Radio in St. Louis and apparently did some of them on television too. The one on YouTube that I saw is actually a simulcast. Costas sounded strikingly seasoned despite being just a year or two out of college.

There’s no question, listening to the recording today, that there was more than just a hint of Marv Albert in Bob’s style. Marv was already a well accomplished radio announcer then for the Knicks. Costas was raised in New York and was influenced by Marv. At least, three players that I saw in that short stretch of video are no loner alive. Larry Finch who later coached Memphis State, the troubled but talented Marvin Bad News Barnes and Steve Jones who in the ’90s was on the NBC team with Bob that covered the NBA.

As the story goes, Barnes once refused to board a plane from Louisville to St. Louis. a short flight of less than an hour. See, St. Louis is an hour behind Louisville. As such, the flight was scheduled to arrive St. Louis (Central Time) before its Louisville departure time (Eastern Time), Barnes famously said, “I ain’t getting in no damn time machine.” He rented a car instead.

The Pro Bowl today and yesterday:

This year’s Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday in Orlando and will be carried by ESPN. Joe Tessitore and the unfairly beleaguered Booger McFarland will have the call. For years, it was played after either the old NFL Championship Game or the Super Bowl. Fifty years ago in 1970, NFL Hall of Fame broadcaster Don Criqui called it. Don was just 29 then. All the prior broadcasters of the game (1952- 1969) are now deceased. Others who have done the Pro Bowl through the decades since, in increments of ten are: 1980, Al Michaels; 1990 Mike Patrick; 2000, Michaels and 2010 Mike Tirico

The last announcer standing from SBI also did the last one the Chiefs played in, 1970:

After the passing of Jack Whitaker last August, only one broadcaster is still alive who called the first SB. Tom Hedrick, 85, did the game on the CBS Radio Network with Jack Drees. Tom, Voice of the Chiefs then, also did the 1970 Super Bowl, the last one KC played in, 50 years ago. He did that one too on CBS Radio. Tom’s partner was longtime Lions announcer, the late Bob Reynolds.

Women have come a long way in broadcast sports:

In the late 1960s, United Airlines had one flight a day from LaGuardia to Chicago that was labeled ‘men only.’ Look it up. Women were not permitted on the flight. Even the NY Times, the vanguard of liberal advocacy had separate Help Wanted sections, one for men and one for women.

Just a few days ago, the ACC Network ran a broadcast of a Georgia Tech-Syracuse women’s basketball game. It was produced and called entirely by women in every lead position, from broadcast team, control room “front bench”, studio hosts and more.

Get Well:

Bill Hillgrove has been the Voice of the Steelers, Pitt football and basketball seemingly forever. He was out for a few weeks after undergoing back surgery Bill returned a few days ago. He turns 80 in November.

Ratings:

Both Fox and CBS have been busting buttons all season. NFL ratings were consistently up. Not much news  came directly from the networks yesterday. Sports Media Watch reported:

  • “Lopsided NFC Championship down on FOX. Second-least watched NFC title game since 2013, ahead of Vikings-Eagles two years ago.”
  • “Titans-Chiefs lowest rated AFC Championship in five years, least-watched in 11. First game of playoffs to hit a multi-year low.”

The ten highest rated markets for ESPN’s college title game last week included only one in the nation’s top 10, Atlanta.

    Rank         Rating           Market

  • 1            48.9             New Orleans
  • 2            42.7             Birmingham
  • 3            33.9             Greenville
  • 4            26.5             Knoxville
  • 5            26.4            Columbus, OH
  • 6            24.3            Atlanta
  • 7            23.1            Charlotte
  • 8            23.1            Austin
  • 9           23.0             Nashville
  • 10         21.0             Oklahoma City

 

 

 

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David J. Halberstam
David J. Halberstam

David is a 40-year industry veteran who served as play-by-play announcer for St. John's University basketball in New York and as radio play-by-play voice of the Miami Heat in South Florida. He is the author of Sports on New York Radio: A Play-by-Play History.

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Barry Kipnis
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If my memory isn’t failing me, I recall Ed Ingles doing news updates in the ’60s on WMCA 570 on the dial in NY when the station featured rock-n-roll music and their notable disk-jockeys, the Good Guys, including the late Jack Spector, who moved on to hosting a sports call-in show on the same station.

Barry Kipnis
Member

To prompt the kind of reaction related by Barry Landers, I think there must have been a simmering feud or dislike between Summerall and Cosell that preceded this incident. Taken in isolation, it seems all Pat had to do was laugh it off and/or just ignore it (sure everyone there knew what kind of a ______ Cosell was).

Michael Green
Member

What a great set of stories! Summerall was not the type to put up with much. As for Cosell, the new CD of Bob Costas has him doing a great impression of Cosell and talking about both his encounter with him and one between Cosell and Jim McKay. Cosell was … Cosell. One of them was just about the right amount.