Marty Glickman’s early NBA years; He developed basketball’s broadcast phraseologies


Don Haley snuck in late last week with crisp and brutal comments:

If not Rickie …. there’ll be some ’splainin’ to do

John Sterling’s immediate heir as the radio voice of the New York Yankees might just be local boy Justin Shackil, whose early rounds have been shaky at best.

On the day of the announcement, Shackil was at the mic with Suzyn Waldman in Toronto. A sampling over only the first few innings of the contest contained these gems (I paraphrase):

• “(Austin) Wells “hits a fly ball to left and it’s caught by Verdugo.” Verdugo is Wells’ teammate. It was the Jays’ Daulton Varsho who caught the ball in left. Duh.

• Another, with Aaron Judge at bat: “Here’s the 3-1 pitch….over, strike 3!”
Shackil’s from Fordham. He’s not Vin Scully.

And no, Suzyn, that’s not baseball.

On the flip side, the younger of the two current auditioners, Emmanuel Berbari, could be a surprise in this game within the game. Barberi’s few chances at the mic so far have proven surprisingly cogent, clear and complete. At age 24, he has a future ahead of him (unlike many of the rest of us, whose futures are well in the past)

Another frequent stand-in, Ryan Ruocco, has a razorlike delivery (but it’s an electric razor, unfortunately). He also practices upspeak (aka uptalk), the 1980s San Fernando Valley style of conversation in which one raises one’s voice at the end of a declaration as if to be asking a question. “Upspeak” or “uptalk.” You can look it up on Google.

Were I suddenly to be crowned king, I’d appoint Rickie Ricardo, currently the Spanish language voice of the Yankees (and football Eagles). A former NYC deejay, Ricardo (his adopted stage name), presents an affable persona behind the mic and is blessed with the same rich voice as Sterling’s. He also seems to work well with Waldman.

While Ricardo was working the 2019 Yankee series in London, I actually thought he was the beloved Sterling. He’s easily the most polished of all the pretenders.

If only Rickie could speak out of both sides of his mouth, he could keep his old job as well.


The Influence of Marty Glickman 

Marty Glickman did first NBA game ever on television. He told budding broadcasters that when he called football or basketball games, he felt as though he himself was actually playing the game. When the football sailed in the air or the basketball zipped around the court, Marty magically painted an unmatched description.

marty glickmanIn other words, a sequence may sound something like this, “Braun has the ball along the the right sideline for the New York Knickerbockers (original name of the team), to the back of the key it’s moved, to Vandeweghe.” To Marty, a sweet rhythmic caption was critical. It wasn’t until the 1970s that TV and the NBA built valuable partnerships. Until then it was exclusively radio. It was Marty and he was just that, a pleasure.

There was radio, but nothing steady on TV. During the final moments, the Knicks were holding for a final shot to win the game, “Cousy is dribbling in middle of the floor and in place. His teammates are milling and waving.” Another Marty gem to punctuate a special moment. Cousy dribbles along the right sideline using those silky hands and supple wrists.” Brilliant!

In those early days when teams hired new announcers, applicants sought tapes of Glickman’s play-by-play for a basic fundamentals. A native New Yorker, Jim Gordon, had a long and successful sports broadcast career in the Empire State. Jim did the Knicks, Rangers and Football Giants. He admired Marty for his friendship and talent.

For that matter, Marty was given the first Curt Gowdy Award in 1991. Announcers like Johnny Most in Boston, Chick Hearn in Los Angeles, Ed Kennedy in Cincinnati, Buddy Blattner in St. Louis, Eddie Doucette in Milwaukee, Bill King in San Francisco and Marv Albert in New York. They were all kings of their cities. They all built an association with their clubs.

What’s sad is that today, there’s only one video remaining of Glickman’s professional play-by-play, It’s one of the 1964 NBA Finals from Cow Palace in San Francisco against the irrepressible Boston Celtics. You can still get it on YouTube.

I found this in a publication (Mid 1950s): “The greatest play-by-play announcer is a fellow you may never have heard of. I refer to Marty Glickman, the former Syracuse University footballer and Olympic sprinter, who now broadcast for station WMGM. He does local basketball and football games, and anything else that comes along. He can’t be touched for actual game announcing, especially in basketball.

“You know how fast a basketball game moves. Well, Marty never misses a pass
or a shot. He stays on top of every play, and despite a machine-gun delivery, he
rarely fluffs a line. You have to hear it to believe it.”

The New York Times was complimentary of him too. “Marty Glickman has devised a
special technique in his work. His delivery is smooth and assured.”

Glickman’s broadcasts were so graphic and informative that if coaches were unable to see the game live, they would sometimes rely on Marty’s broadcast. His influence on other broadcasters is well documented. Mary Albert, Johnny Most, and Spencer Ross head the list. The late Chick Hearn, a Hall of Famer himself, says that the first pro game he ever heard was described by Marty.

AM Radio stations were dominant until the FM dial encroached a little at a time. By the late 1940s the New York Times listed FM programming, but it invariably said, “Same as AM.”

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
1 month ago

Sadly, being out west, I didn’t get to hear Marty Glickman on basketball. But I know he influenced Chick Hearn, who was the best out this way, and when I was in New York and got to hear Glickman do the Jets on radio, I knew I was listening to a master.