Marty Glickman, Harry Caray, Jack Buck and the early days of the NBA; which actually started in 1946

Marty Glickman in the old Madison Square, where he was a tutor to many including Marv Albert.

When my career was heavily involved in broadcast sales, I attended a couple of annual meetings hosted by Chevrolet, a lead sponsor of Major League Baseball. Representing KMOX in St. Louis was Jack Buck.

It was Winter time and Jack was downloading the bright sun on a lounge chair at our Palm Springs hotel. We talked announcers and I added my love for Marty Glickman’s football and basketball in New York. It seemed that all New York fans loved Marty for both football and basketball in the Knicks’ early years. In New York, he did both the Giants and later the Jets. (Caray fools with Buck)

Buck stopped me in mid-sentence, telling me that Marty was indeed a great basketball announcer, though not  football. I was a generation younger than he so I quickly shut up. Marty was indeed coronated a great Basketball Voice, winning the first Curt Gowdy Broadcast Award. 

Each trip down the floor, his delivery was perfectly pitched, so that there was a special juxtaposition to his voice when a shot was taken. Players weren’t just taking a shot, they were taking a hook, a set, or a runner. Marty had played the game and could talk quickly and clearly without stumbling.

Glickman might not have been the very first to broadcast basketball nationwide but he  might as well have been. He helped build the game through his rhythmic and captivating call.

Ted Husing was football’s broadcast father, Red Barber baseball’s, Foster Hewitt’s hockey and Glickman introduced  basketball. For that matter, Hoops  grew after the war, particularly in the New York City area, where the school yards were filled with kids playing the city game. Marty would exclaim “swish” when shots went through it the net cleanly without as much as touching the rim.

The college basketball broadcasts became so popular that they were occasionally picked up by other stations across the country and on Mutual Radio. This was college basketball’s golden age. The game was a constant subject of conversation and Glickman identifiably attached.

In 1950 CCNY (City College) became the only team in the history of the college game to win both the National Invitation Tournament and the National Collegiate Athletic Association crown in the same year. The Beavers beat Bradley for both titles and Marty called each one. The city was enthralled. Madison Square Garden drew 600,000 for college for the sport that winter.

Unfortunately, it all came crashing down when the point-shaving scandal hit. It was found that players at CCNY and other schools fixed games. City College, Long Island University, and New York University never really recovered.

It would take some 30 years before St. John’s and the Big East would restore electrically  to the college game again in New York. As a matter of record, professional basketball was hardly a dream yet in New York in the 1930s.

The National Basketball League was born in 1937 and the Basketball Association of America would launch in 1946. In 1949 the two leagues merged. The BAA was in Big Cities like New York and Boston. The NBL had clubs in Minneapolis, Rochester and other smaller cities. Some of the most Pollyannaish of pro-basketball dreamers fought hard, and eventually won.

Madison Square Garden’s Ned Irish and business manager Fred Podesta in the spring of 1946 hired Glickman as the team’s principal voice. Through it all, the New York City-bred Glickman painted the pro game with s colorful call. He continued to develop the nomenclature for  a game he played in High School. He incorporated the players’ vernacular and making them household terms.

The league was basically constructed, organized by arena owners who were hoping that basketball would add revenue on what otherwise would be dark nights. MSG’s Irish thought that the league would succeed if it could attract women. As such, he suggested that a lady be involved on Knicks’ broadcasts. The answer was Sarah Palfrey Cooke, a Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion. It was a grand idea but she hardly knew the rudiments of the basketball.

The first two Knicks’ games that initial season, 1946-47, were not carried and it would be 41 years before all games would be carried live in 1987-88.

On the train to St. Louis Marty explained elementary basketball rules to Palfrey. A field goal, he told her, was two points. When Cooke asked what’s a field goal, it was obvious that this wasn’t a marriage made in heaven.

Before long, Stan Lomax was summoned to take over for Cooke. A fixture on WOR, when management wasn’t generally as restricting. It would allow talent to do work on other stations. Sponsors owned programming. Back then play-by-players and sponsors, wielded more power than stations.

In 1945, Don Dunphy did the first game of a hoops doubleheader on WINS and a boxing match later that night for Gillette on WHN. When he arrived in St. Louis, Glickman remembered running into the colorful Harry Caray, Voice of the baseball Cardinals.

Caray’s son, Skip, and grandson Chip, have since also done play-by-play of NBA games, making for three generations of the Carays on the NBA and MLB airwaves. November 7th, 1946 was the 24th birthday of the great jazzman, Al Hirt. Marty Glickman made music of his own, with equal rhythm and strength. He created basketball’s beat. Glickman’s presentation was rapid-fire, and there was an infectious tension to his voice.

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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