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Happy Thanksgiving: Lots in the broadcast space for which to be thankful!

From the young to the active to the retired; from budding announcers at Syracuse to visible women behind the mic to talking with Vin Scully

      

Thanksgiving is an inclusionary American holiday; a good day for all of us to identify events and developments for which we are grateful.

I am thankful to those who continue to contribute their thoughts, opinions and views to this website through customized columns. I’m hardly a techie so I couldn’t have launched this site in January without Jason Conger-Kallas. He’s been amazing and indispensable

 

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I remember with joy the late Dick Barhold, whom I first got to know in the 1980s. Dick was sightless and a walking encyclopedia of broadcast sports; a veritable treasure of dates, facts and broadcast anecdotes. I spent hundreds of hours with him, mostly on the telephone. They were priceless experiences. I could never have written my book on broadcast sports history without him, Sports on New York Radio: A Play-by-Play History

Marv Albert shares a precious story about a time in the 1960s when he returned from the Olympia in Detroit, calling a Rangers-Red Wings game on radio. Dick called Marv to ask him whether his broadcast position in Detroit had changed from the previous season. Stunned by the very question, Marv paused for a moment and first told him that the position did indeed move to the other side of the building. He then asked Dick how he knew. Dick told him, ‘This year you said the Rangers were shooting for the goal to your left, last year you said they were shooting for the goal to your right.’  Now that’s someone who didn’t let anything get by him.

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I appreciate the brilliant Bob Costas who gave a mesmerizing and stimulating acceptance speech in Cooperstown this past summer. It was there that he was bestowed with the coveted Ford Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting. Bob delivered a spellbinding retrospective of his life in baseball and the love he continues to have for great announcers, past and present. Bob talked about how talented baseball broadcasters effectively tell stories, while he himself continued to regale the Cooperstown guests with the tale of an unforgettable 16 inning game in 1963 between the Giants and Braves at Candlestick. Both starters, Hall of Famers Warren Spahn and Juan Marichal went the distance, something unimaginable today. Spahn had stopped slugger Willie Mays, 0 for 5, going into the home half of the 16th in a scoreless game.

Mays ended it with one swing of the bat, tagging Spahn with a homer, giving the Giants a 1-0 win. The story spoke volumes of the day when pitch counts were less dictatorial than managers’ instincts. It engaged Marichal, Joe Torre, Henry Aaron and Bob Uecker, all of whom were sitting then just behind Bob on the platform and who were all on the roster of one of the two teams that year.

Bob Costas wows Cooperstown accepting Frick Award: ‘Broadcasters are inseparable from the game itself’

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I enjoyed interacting with three accomplished women sportscasters, one more humble than the next. Linda Cohn, Lesley Visser and Suzy Kolber have excelled for years. They talked about their beginnings, their careers, women pioneers and those who helped them along the way. Linda, Lesley and Suzy all broke new ground. Each is unique and each is talented in her own way.

ESPN’s Linda Cohn: Longest Tenured Woman Anchor on Network TV

Lesley Visser: A pioneer who broke ground with gentle footsteps and without threats or accusations

ESPN’s Suzy Kolber, a pro’s pro and NFL fixture, talks life, her career and Joe Namath: “He’s a good person”

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I had an opportunity to appreciate the success of students, alumni, professors and counselors at Syracuse’s Newhouse and Falk Schools; spawning grounds for future broadcasters and sports executives. The professionalism is impressively rampant. The administrators care and the passionate students are eager to learn, succeed and quickly get hands-on experience.

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I had a wonderful time doing pieces on top-class agents like Sandy Montag and Steve Herz; understanding the business from their perspective.

Super agent Sandy Montag says salaries for A level network announcers are still strong

Q&A With Well-Respected Sports Announcer’s Agent Steve Herz

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Following the Red Sox this season, I enjoyed the radio duo of Joe Castiglione and Tim Neverett. They’re a throwback. They spin yarns and paint nice pictures. It doesn’t hurt to call games for a winning team.

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I had opportunities to talk with retired broadcasters like Monte Moore who called the Kansas City and Oakland A’s for years and Verne Lundquist whose hearty laugh and warmth on-air are irreplaceable. I caught up with ESPN’s Dick Vitale who helped grow and later maintain college basketball’s popularity for decades. I talk from time to time with the retired Joe Tait. Based on the body of his work, Joe is arguably the best NBA radio announcer ever. No one connected the dots so immaculately and consistently for 40 years. He inspired guys like Don Fischer, the Voice of Indiana University and Kevin Harlan of CBS and Turner fame.

Monte Moore: Longtime A’s Voice: “My Worst Year was 1970 with Harry Caray”

Verne Lundquist; a Hearty Laugh and Natural Warmth that Might Never be Replaced

Dick Vitale: For Almost 40 Years on ESPN, College Basketball’s Colorful Cheerleader

Tears of Appreciation: Costas, Enberg, Glickman, Scully and Joe Tait

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Living in Florida, we get pro and college games galore. There’s something magnetic about the energetic Gene Deckerhoff, arguably the most popular play-by-play man in the state. Although he refers to both Florida State and the Bucs as ‘we,’ he’s never dour, even this year when both teams are suffering. Other than using ‘we,’ he’s straight down the middle with his call. He doesn’t sound subdued when his teams trail in games and unlike others makes no excuses. You’ll know where his heart is but he’s straight down the middle in his assessments. Gene always has fun on air, win or lose, and so do the fans who listen to him around the state.  A fall Florida weekend isn’t complete until a dose or two of Gene Deckerhoff. What he doesn’t like mentioning though is the fact that he’s an alum of arch rival  Florida.

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Roy Firestone was part of my early adulthood. No interviewer puts his subjects at such ease as Roy. One of ESPN’s first-decade pioneers, Firestone says he’s done over 5,000 interviews. When ESPN launched, it had little in the way of play-by-play. What it did have was Roy. Better than almost anyone, he can get interviewees to open up or as Roy might tell you, “to show some heart and soul.’ When we talked, he shared a few tricks of the trade.

Early ESPN interviewing icon, Roy Firestone: Opinions today are the cheapest form of programming

Roy Firestone, ESPN pioneer: TV interviews are now a vast wasteland

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Nationally, from this pulpit at USA Today, Rudy Martzke ruled the roost in the critic space of sports media in the 1980s and 90s. He had a great influence on the broadcast community, from network executives to broadcasters. He still has his finger on the pulse and is never too busy or too guarded to share his views with our readers.

Rudy Martzke releases his TV ‘Rudy Awards’ – for first half of 2018

Getting Caught Up with Retired USA Today Sports Media Columnist Rudy Martzke

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I’m delighted that older guys excel; the Suns’ Al McCoy (85), ESPN’s Hubie Brown (85), Dick  Vitale (79) and Brent Musburger (79). These giants have maintained their passion, resolve and sharpness.

Al McCoy: Suns’ Voice Looks Forward to his 47th Season this Fall

Dick Vitale: For Almost 40 Years on ESPN, College Basketball’s Colorful Cheerleader

Brent Musburger, #3 all-time network sports personality, going strong in his 3d iteration! Voice of VSiN

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I’m grateful for online streaming. Never in my wildest dream would I believe that I can do one stop shopping for games and favorite play-by-play announcers with the touch of a finger on my PC or Smartphone.

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I already started and by next Thanksgiving  hope to finish a glossary of phrases for calling basketball on radio and television. There are lots of common and unique terms used to describe activity on and off the floor. I’ve been compiling them for many years.

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Finally, I’m thankful for the unequaled and unparalleled, Vin Scully. I savor every conversation and interaction I have with him. He’s a once in a century announcer and a wonderful human being.

Catching up with Vin Scully; The great master shares tips and encourages reading

Happy Thanksgiving! All the best and peace on earth!

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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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Michael Green

Happy Thanksgiving to you. And I’m thankful for you and this website–and for your book on New York sports broadcasting.