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Morsels and Jottings: 3.4.18

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Getting mentally ready to broadcast: Scully, Hearn, Glickman, Husing, McNamee

Vin Scully – In the car ride over to Dodger Stadium, he would listen to the appropriate genre of music to fine tune his mood. Sometimes it meant something a little more upbeat and at other times, music a little more soothing.

Chick Hearn – Particularly on the road where he grew impatient during long days before game time, Chick did crossword puzzles. Jack Ramsay, Hall of Fame basketball coach and later broadcaster, was a crossword puzzle whiz. Doing so sharpens word retention and name retrieval.

Marty Glickman – Would read Chaucer and do mouth exercises to loosen his lips.

Ted Husing – Known as America’s first sportscaster – studied the thesaurus before virtually all on-air assignments that required him to extemporize.

Graham McNamee – The country’s first popular announcer – whipped himself into a frenzy so that he stimulated his audience.

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Worth Noting: Steve Martin-Hornets, Tony Fiorentino-Heat, Tim Ryan, Don Criqui

Steve Martin _ Charlotte Hornets

The longtime announcer is hanging up his cleats when the season ends. He started with the original Charlotte Hornets, when the club first assembled on the floor in 1988.  Martin moved with them in 2002 to New Orleans where they’re now the Pelicans. But when Charlotte was awarded a brand new franchise in 2004, he returned to Carolina and has been one of the team’s broadcasters since. Martin did television most of his years in Charlotte and radio in recent years. Steve was always a favorite. A great set of pipes and unpretentious, he never overdid it. He was an easy listen. He didn’t scream and unlike misguided announcers didn’t spew stats, factoids or data that were impossible to digest. Martin was praised by the TV color commentators he’s worked with through the years for giving them the runway they needed to do their gigs. Martin’s New England inflections, a reminder of his Maine roots, were unmistakable. His warmth on and off the air will be missed.

Tony Fiorentino – Miami Heat

A former school teacher in Westchester County and a high school baseball and basketball coach, Tony Fiorentino has been with the Miami Heat since the team’s inception in 1988. He served as an assistant to the Heat’s first coach Ron Rothstein. Later, through a litany of on the court and front office changes, Tony maintained some role with the club. In other words, he’s been an official part of the organization for 30 years. He always served with alacrity, whether as scout, community ambassador, assistant under Pat Riley, running summer camps or as assistant again under Coach Rothstein for the co-owned Sol of the WNBA. Tony always did what was asked of him and did everything with equal zeal.

For the past 15 years Fiorentino has been the team’s television commentator. He’s excellent on-air and liked by Heat fans. He wears the Heat’s emotions on his sleeve, shares human interest stories and has a natural and warm laugh. What you feel from him off-air is what you get on-air. Tony is patient, giving and a warm teacher. He can simplify strategy to basic teachable elements, an expertise he likely perfected in the classroom and through coaching youngsters. Viewers can definitely appreciate some of the finer points of the game listening to Tony.

It’s too bad that this is his final season.  John Crotty will take his seat. Crotty was a star at Virginia, played for the Heat and is in the real estate business in South Florida. He’s currently the team’s radio color commentator and will move over to TV next season. A company man through and through, Tony will leave the telecasts graciously.

Tim Ryan (the longtime, versatile network sportscaster) wrote a terrific book, On Someone Else’s Nickel.  Q&A session with the author will be posted tomorrow. Tim attended Notre Dame where he worked for the school radio station. By his senior year, Tim was sports director. Ryan tells me that at that point, he appointed future network sportscasting star Don Criqui to an on-air role on the school station. Criqui still calls Notre Dame football on radio. The Irish have the deepest radio network of any college program in America.

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Halby’s Views: Steve Lappas,Tim Brando, Steve Bardo, Villanova Radio

Steve Lappas is among the top college basketball color commentators on television today. He brings the necessary ingredients to every broadcast; knowledge, personality and emotion. A thick New York accent, Lappas played his college ball for City College of the City University of New York. Later, of course, he coached Villanova and the University of Massachusetts. His raspy delivery is scented with a natural urgency, passion, conviction and pragmatism.

In a critical possession late in a game, two players of the same team chased a loose ball and collectively knocked the ball out of bounds. It struck viewers as awkward. Lappas said, “I would rather have two guys chase the ball than no one!” Lappas can be critical too, yet not acerbic. When a Hoya inbounder turned the ball over, Steve said, “He should have known that he could run the baseline.” In other words, Lappas was implying that Georgetown rookie coach Patrick Ewing or one of his assistants should have informed the player of this option. Viewers knew what Lappas meant but he made his point without pointing harsh fingers. Lappas is a mix of Al McGuire and the absent-minded professor.

Tim Brando, now at Fox, has made Steve Bardo, a better color commentator. Bardo seemed reticent and uncomfortable in the past. Brando is getting Bardo to open up a bit. Steve’s making more insightful comments, “When a teammate is fronted the passer has to jam the ball in” or “Air balls are hard to prepare for by the team that’s on defense.” After watching a game most fans want to feel they learned something on the telecast. I wish all color commentators would recognize this need and stop spewing inanities.

Whitey Rigsby has to shush! Please! Villanova radio broadcasts are a painful listen. Color commentator Rigsby has been doing the Wildcat broadcasts for some 38 seasons but I don’t remember him jumping over his old partner, the late Andy Musser, the way he does Ryan Fannon. It doesn’t matter when; as Fannon sets up a play, or is in midsentence or even smack in middle of a critical play. Whitey doesn’t discriminate. He does so early in the game or late, when the game is on the line.

Basketball color commentators on radio are generally extraneous. Rigsby is downright intrusive, if not borderline disruptive. It often reaches points where listeners have no idea what’s taking place on the court. Fannon, a team-player, says the two have good chemistry. Perhaps. But for Rigsby, chemistry is best spelled M-U-Z-Z-L-E.

Fifty year milestones: Marv Albert, Spencer Ross, Duquesne, Frank Messer

Duquesne Basketball

Ray Goss, 81, holds the current record for seniority at one college. He’s been the Voice of the Dukes for 50 years! Duquesne’s athletic office says that the Dukes have played basketball for 102 years and that Ray has done more than half their games through the last half century. In the 1950s, Duquesne basketball on radio was done by longtime Steelers’ announcer, Joe Tucker. His color commentator was none other than the iconic ‘Gunner,’ Bob Prince. Future NBAers, Sihugo Green, Norm Nixon and Mike James played for Duquesne. Goss has missed only two games through the years, one in 2011 after losing his wife and back in 1978, when he had an opportunity to audition for an NBA broadcast job.

Second in seniority in the college ranks is co Pittsburgher Bill Hillgrove who’s called Steelers games for 24 seasons and has been the voice of Pitt football and basketball for 49 years. Dick Groat, the former star Pirate who played hoops at Duke, does color on Pitt games. Dick is 87.

The ABA and its red, white and blue ball launched in 1967.  Spencer Ross was the play-by-play voice  of the league’s New York area franchise, the New Jersey Americans. Fifty years ago at the end of that inaugural season,  the Americans finished in a tie for the final playoff spot but had no facility to host the tiebreaker, so the Americans forfeited the game. Their home, the Teaneck Armory, was booked for some other event.

Spencer was an extraordinary basketball broadcaster on radio. Years later he returned as the team’s television voice. When he did, they were the New Jersey Nets of the NBA. That same 1967-68 season was Marv Albert’s first as the radio voice of the Knicks. It was also Clyde Frazier’s rookie year and the season during which the Knicks and Rangers moved in midseason to the new Madison Square Garden (above Penn Station). Fifty years ago this spring Marv did his first ever NBA playoff series which the Knicks lost to Philadelphia, the defending champs,  in the first round. Listening to Albert and Ross, two disciples of Marty Glickman, stimulated many to aspire broadcasting. Albert, of course, is now the lead NBA announcer for Turner and Ross is essentially retired, active on social media and living with his wife in Manhattan.

The Yankees had a new announcer 50 years ago. Frank Messer succeeded Joe Garagiola who left to work fulltime for NBC. Frank had been with the Orioles. He spent 18 years with the Yanks. The ’68 baseball season was the last one before divisional playoffs were introduced. When the regular season ended, the Tigers and Cardinals met in the World Series, won by Detroit. Messer passed in 2001 at age 76.

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Job Opening for budding announcer

Jeff Lantz of MiLB tells me that there’s an opening for a play-by-play announcer for the West Virginia Black Bears in Morgantown, WV. They are a short season club in the New York-Penn League and play from June through August. Matthew Drayer is the contact there. Email: Matthew Drayer

I’m happy at point to mention job openings for clubs, stations and networks. Whether it’s on-air, play-by-play, color, studio, talk, updates , production opportunites, I’m happy to do so as a service.

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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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Bob Fromme

Very interesting reading. You do have some awesome contacts and get info no one else has. Best to Donna.