Lesley Visser’s pep and punch always sparkle; Sean McManus retires in the Spring; Stubborn Herbie won’t shush

On Lesley Visser and Sean McManus at CBS

I had a chance to catch up with the always enlightening and versatile Lesley Visser. She wrote for the Boston Globe fluidly and still knocks out stories brilliantly. Visser defines the meaning of a pioneer in the business. Lesley has covered it all and unimaginably so.

Partaking in half a dozen Super Bowls, Visser’s first was in 1992 for CBS and later hosted with ABC and Westwood One Radio. She began at CBS, left for ABC and returned to CBS until leaving recently.

In addition to the NFL, NCAA men’s basketball, NBA, MLB, Figure skating, Tennis, Horse racing and more arcane events. Lesley has always been influential to the youth breaking into the business. Watch her for thirty minutes and you’ve made a new friend. Have a problem, reach out to Lesley and she’ll cheer you up.

When Visser broke into television in the early 80s, communication was still limited. She cracked TV barriers  in the Boston area, then polished her own resume as an articulate interviewer on ABC. CEO Sean McManus who’s retiring had lots of confidence in Lesley.

Visser’s big smile was always encouraging. When I interviewed Lisa Salters of ESPN, we talked about the plight of women in the business and she wanted to meet Lesley. I told her that I’d check with Lesley who said, “Sure.” They met and Lisa was in awe over her energy and enthusiasm”

Lesley told me,  “I’ve worked for Sean (McManus) for more than 20 years (a conversation for another time, but he re-upped me at CBS when I was 69, that’s got to be another frontier for women! – next year will be my 50th in the business, maybe we can someday talk about the highs and lows – and completely embarrassing moments!) but for now, Visser shared a quote with me about McManus when I asked for it.

“Sean is the quiet captain, more Steve Kerr than Bob Knight, and he’s leaving CBS with a treasure-chest of properties. Having worked for him for more than 20 years, I know that he’s kind and loyal and discerning – no detail is too big or too small.  I told David Berson that it’s not easy following John Wooden, but Sean’s leaving us in good hands!”

My two favorite sports division heads are Sean McManus whose dad was Jim McKay on ABC. Mark Lazarus, top man at NBC now was first elevated at Turner on the sales side. Years later he succeeded the creative Dick Edersol.  

Kirk Herbstreit

Got this note over the weekend from a prominent, disguised and retired network broadcaster:

“Help, !!!, Help, !!, David. Herbstreit on the ND-Duke game !!!!!…I tuned in and it’s nonstop Herbie.

“But enough of Herbmouth, I am running out of ear-plugs.”

So while Rece Davis, a longtime ESPN staffer, sat in for Chris Fowler on the Irish broadcast, Herbie simply didn’t allow Rece time to speak, utter a word or share any play-by-play. Herbie was completely inconsiderate.

There are not many to whom I simply can’t listen. The top two are Herbstreit as discussed, followed by the Thunder’s Matt Pinto. He spits out so much data that it’s an absolutely impossible to digest. If Albert Einstein recreated himself, he couldn’t figure it out either. 

Dick Barhold and Red Barber

Red Barber, was known to be egotistical, thought he ran the booth and issued rules for the Brooklyn booth. Red gave Vin Scully a tough time early. When Red was fired by the Yankees in 1966, he complained to the media. He thought he was untouchable. Barber though was considered to be the best, he and and Mel Allen.

Barber identified Vin Scully and hired him at 23. Greatest catch ever.

Red caught the youngish Scully drinking beer in the press room. He gave Vin a piece of his mind when he saw it. Barber was a taskmaster. Red gave baseball a geography and rhythm on radio.

Red and Mel Allen overlapped for eleven seasons (1954-64). Years later Red told former MSG Network Executive Pete Silverman that Allen wasn’t sufficiently respectful of him.    

Sightless Dick Barhold was a Sivant. Throw a date at him of yesteryear and he’d tell you what occurred on a specific date. Without Dick and his plethora of information I would never have been able to write the book, Sports on New York Radio: A Play-by-Play History. He friendship was prosperous with Marty Glickman, Marv Albert,  Mike Breen and others. We often spoke every day. Dick was a walking encyclopedia. Mention a date and he’d give me an immediate answer.  

Spencer Ross and Marv Albert started doing hoops in New York the same season, 1967-68. Ross launched the ABA as the New Jersey Americans and Marv began the Knicks. Both initially worked alone.

I might have shared this with readers before. In the mid 60s, Marv started with the Rangers before getting the Knicks gig. Barhold wondered why the Rangers were ‘moving right to left’ in the first period instead of ‘left to right.’ Stunned, Albert asked Barhold how how he knew? “Well last year, in the first period, the Rangers went left to right at Detroit’s Olympia. This year it was reversed.

Vision disabled Dick digested every word and picture painted. One of Barhold’s best moment was when Marty Glickman took him out to a Jets practice. He loved Red Barber and Mel Allen on baseball, Merle Harmon on the Jets, Marty Glickman on the Football Giants and Knicks, Win Elliot on the Rangers. 


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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