Halby’s Morsels: The realigning of the Yankees broadcasts; NHL’s doubling in size and more

John Sterling, Michael Kay and Bob Shepard

In 1992, John Sterling had a new partner, Michael Kay. A newspaper man with the instincts of a good reporter, Kay learned the ropes and was not afraid to ask tough questions. He worked at WFUV, the Fordham student station, and later became a reporter for the Daily News.

Kay has a good nose for a storyline and grew as a play-by-play man. His development has been lauded by Mike Lupica, the Daily News columnist, who suggests that Kay be given more than a meager two innings a game. But that seems unlikely until George Steinbrenner blows the whistle on Sterling.

Kay always remembers what the late Mel Allen told him: “When you’re on the air, make believe that you’re talking to just one person.” Kay gives opinions and is also quite descriptive, while at the same time conversing with his partner Sterling. Initially, to many, he’s made John more tolerable. In his Christmas Gab Bag column, Bob Raissman suggested that Kay get “a sharp object to puncture Sterling when he puffs up with condescension.”

In 1998 Sterling was lauded by Lupica and others for suppressing any personal agenda and described pitcher David Wells’ perfect game with breathtaking and memorable drama.

Through it all, there’s redemption. It’s the stately sound of Yankee Stadium public address announcer Bob Sheppard, dignified and restrained and whose syllables are perfectly enunciated. The echo of a man who lived until he was almost 100; part of the Stadium’s lore, has been the backdrop of Yankee Stadium, both old and new.

Sheppard taught at St. John’s University and passed in 2010 at age 99. He was an absolute gem. In the pressroom, he called me over one day and said, “David, There’s no need to say. ‘It’s off of his hands.’ Leave it simple. ‘It’s off his hand and out of bounds.”

NHL Expansion – 1967 – from 6 to 12

It was tumultuous when it executed the action in 1967. The NHL doubled from 6 to 12 franchises. It still had the historical six, the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Bundles keep tiptoeing along. The NHL and NFL have 32 teams each. MLB and the NBA are only up to only 30.

The six new teams were:

Los Angeles

The Kings’ first voice was Jigg McDonald, its inaugural year. The National Hockey League moved from six members to twelve, in one blitzing season, 1967-68. Yes, that long-ago winter, Jigs McDonald began to grow up fast. Over the next 55 seasons, he put his fingerprints on lots of NHL territory; Isles, Kings, Flames, Toronto, Florida and non-linear TV networks. There are now 32 NHL teams, demonstrating that the league has a strong appetite to expand. The had only 6 in 1967.


Al Shaver, another Canadian sports voice joining the broadcasts in the U.S. He called the North Stars at the team’s birth, 1967. When it moved and became the Dallas Stars in 1993, he retired too, doing  some college hockey thereafter. Shaver passed earlier this month at age 96.


A versatile and confident voice, Notre Damer Tim Ryan, is among the top NHL play-by-players ever nationwide. He’s done so much, from the NFL to tennis and the Olympics to the NHL. Tim was always gracious and informative.


Stu Nahan, a Canadian native, developed a connection with the Flyers hockey franchise in Philadelphia. He stylized himself into a man with a soloist’s heart for one season. Ditto for Gene Hart and Don Earle.


Mike Lange created a preponderance of the Penguins broadcasts with a peculiar style. It was generally made up of inconclusive and unrelated comments. He handled radio, TV and did simulcasts. He’s now retired at 76. Lange has to be credited with stimulating fans mixed with nuttiness. “Stop the press!” Ed Conway, did U Pitt before he proceeded Lange.

St. Louis

When the Blues were born in 1967, the biggie in St. Louis, KMOX, had the rights. Jack Buck did lots of the schedule. The team under the helmsmanship of the great Scotty Bowman encouraged KMOX to bring down Dan Kelly. Before viewers knew it, he was considered among the best ever. A hollow voice, a captivating rhythm and right on the action. Loved in St. Louis. Sadly died at age 52, after 21 seasons with St. Louis.


Ryan Ruocco 

He was elevated a year or so ago at ESPN, when given the top assignment covering the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. He’s gotten somewhat better but he’s still a tough listen. The screeching of his vocal cords is still difficult on our eardrums. Ryan has a thick New York accent is pretty well prepared.

Coverage of the women’s title game was his best yet. He was ready. He has also applied for Yankees’ radio play-by-play, taking over for Sterling. Shocking:

Men’s March Madness Finals on TNT – 9.44 Million / Women’s March Madness  on ABC TV – 10.65 Million

Jack Quinlan 

He was the Cubs’ key announcer in the mid 1950s through 1965. Jack sounded a bit like Hall of Famer, Pat Hughes, recently coronated with the Frick. Bob Costas has often poured plenty of praise on Jack. Quinlan did the famed 1960 World Series between the Yankees and Pirates. He died in 1965 in. He was quick and crisp.

Quinlan was killed in an auto accident after leaving a golf outing during spring training of 1965. He was only 38 at the time of his death.


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 and The Fundamentals of Sports Media and Sponsorship Sales: Developing New Accounts.

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Michael Green
20 days ago

It’s nice to see Dan Kelly mentioned. I didn’t get to hear him until CBS showed an NHL game or two in the late 1970s as part of the CBS Sports Spectacular with Dick Stockton. He was so good. Growing up, I was spoiled by Bob Miller with the Kings.