Commentary and Notes

Voices, Musicians, Comedians, Business Execs and others who’ve stimulated us for decades

Getting older is a challenge. My wife and I are Brooklynites who moved down here to South Florida in 1992. No regrets!

I conjured my top ten names, those folks who influenced me and my career some way or the other. There’s no science to it. It’s just a quick personal assessment, expressed independently and arbitrarily.

Ten great people in their fields:

People of the top News and Sports Media whom I admire

(In alphabetical order)

Wolf Blitzer – CNN

He speaks with strength and thoughtfulness, is self-contained and functions with a warm heart. From what I’ve read and heard he’s always wanted to be a journalist and TV anchor, covering international events. Blitzer sought television since childhood in Buffalo. When CNN was growing its news division in 1990, Wolf was hired. During the Gulf War, Blitzer got great visibility because Fox and other news outlets didn’t really exist yet. The late night comedians liked to humor him a bit. Wolf is special to me. My dad and he come from neighboring Polish towns. My grandparents were unfortunately wiped out in Auschwitz as I believe were Wolf’s. Blitzer also loves his hometown Buffalo Bills.

David Brinkley – NBC and ABC

When NBC Anchors, David Brinkley and Chet Huntley, partnered in 1956 they competed against CBS’ Walter Cronkite. I became a fan of Brinkley. He spoke in a staccato style and his body posed itself with a little angle. His choppy style told millions of viewers what was happening around the world. David later moved to ABC. They said that Chet was about performance and David more materialistically precise. Remember though that the 1960s were still prior to the wave of cable; ABC, CBS and NBC.

Warren Buffett – A brilliant financial thinker

Shareholders elbow their way into Omaha each spring, it encourages millions to listen, watch and record at home. For a nonagenarian, Warren’s stage presence is absolutely remarkable. Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger engage in memorable and unsolicited responses. Folks listen and watch in the millions. We hope and pray that at age 93, Buffett keeps moving with the same vigor and Munger remains through the crack of his 100th early in 2024. Al Michaels told me that he attended a formal dinner where he was assigned the same table as Buffett. The country didn’t know him nearly as well then as it does today.

Bob Costas – the ultimate prodigy

When you earn the full praise of Vin Scully with no hesitation, it can’t get much better. Bob and Vin have New York roots. Costas was a kid from Syracuse after four years when he was hired at KMOX in St Louis in the early to mid-1970s. Before you knew it, CBS TV yanked him. By 1980, NBC nabbed him where he carried the flag for 40 years. He was fantastic presiding in the studio, calling football, superb on baseball and did every last place he was sent. He’s rarely shy. Bob will gather his thoughts and share his certainty in an economy of words. Costas can oversee just about anything with gusto. 

Marty Glickman – Olympic athlete and father of radio basketball 

I got to know Marty fairly well during my young-adult New York years. Glickman was opinionated and we lived on the same Manhattan block on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. At that point, he did UConn football and basketball and I did St. John’s. Beyond all his on-air gifts and his love for teaching and training, he was just a wonderful man, a giving man. It would be a bit bold of me to label our relationship with Glickman a friendship, yet we were close. It was more of a mentorship than anything else. He was always generous with his time and advice. Other than Mel Allen and Red Barber, Marty is likely #3 all-time announcer in New York popularity. From Marv Albert, Spencer Ross. Sal Marciano, Len Berman to Spero Dedes, there are also dozens of others to whom Glickman felt close.

Benny Goodman- I fell in love with the clarinetist and the short lived era of the Big-Band

He played his clarinet immaculately. In January, 1938, Benny accepted an unheard of invitation to play Big-Band Music at Carnegie Hall. Until then, it was essentially the home for nothing other than classical music. Benjie, Benny’s daughter, told me that dad was a fan of both baseball and Boxing. Vin Scully told his radio audience on a World Series broadcast over CBS Radio in the 90s that there were debates over who’s the best clarinetist, Goodman or Artie Shaw. The same was true for centerfield, Vin added, “Willy Mays or Mickey Mantle?” Harry James, the marvelous trumpeter of his day, told the New York Times, ”Tonight I feel like a whore in church,” walking into the august Carnegie Hall.

Jay Leno – His late night humor couldn’t be more comforting or soothing

He came away as not very contrived but admits he’s not a big sports fan. Leno cares most about his car- collection. He’s valued in assets at roughly $450 million. More challenging for Leno was that he followed an absolute legend in Johnny Carson who didn’t have to compete with cable TV or thicker competitive satellite programming. Jay had an unforgettably looking shaped face. He made me laugh, listen and eventually sleep. A crossword question: “Jay who works for a peacock?” Yes I miss the lantern-jawed entertainer.

Lindsey Nelson – A wonderful gentleman who helped launch the Mets broadcasts in 1962

Nelson was the ultimate Southern Gentleman. Frist at NBC, where he did pro basketball in the 1950s partnering with Curt Gowdy. Tons of football, Coveted Bowl games, MLB Game-of-the-Week and more. Lindsey was worldly and never at a loss for a word. When the Mets launched in 1962, they played at the old Polo Grounds. Nelson, Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner started a 17 year trio together. Fans today don’t realize that the Mets’ Nelson rarely uttered anything nasty. And he was also an excellent storyteller. Perfect grammar too. The 60s and 70s were wonderful to Nelson. Lindsey also presided over Monday Night Football on Mutual Radio. He’s in both the Baseball and Football Halls of Fame.

Vin Scully – Simply put, the best ever, few will challenge that assessment

When asked who the best sportscaster ever was, I can’t imagine why there would be any debate? He’d simply call us Friends. Unmatched in influence over listeners. He also did years of the NFL on CBS. In addition to his 67 amazing seasons with the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers, there was also golf and tennis. Scully always maintained his humility and humbleness. He and John Wooden built a warm friendship too. Tears dripped from my eyes when he passed. In Vin’s last years, Sandy was dying in his arms. No surprise, the giant broadcaster too maintained and pushed as hard as he could. The end came for both,  Vin died just after Bill Russell, two unmatched giants.  

Barry White – He’s reminiscent of the mid 1970s and the Soul Era of Music

How about, Barry White? Man, can he pump it out! A big man during the soul era of the 70s. The collective inflection of White and Luciano Pavarotti was ear-piercing and unforgettable. They performed jointly in Italy. For those who can appreciate these gentlemen’s overpowering, scintillating and heartwarming stage presences, it was exceptional. For two incomparable voices tooled with palpable emotions, you hated losing White at 58 and Pavarotti at 71. Think of the 1970s.

 

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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
5 months ago

Thanks for this–and for the site.

This reminded me of a profile I read of Vin in which Jack Whitaker said, “His heroes are the old vaudevillians,” and Vin did once say he would have loved to have been a song-and-dance man (like his mentor!). It’s interesting to think about the people from diverse fields who shape those OUTSIDE their fields. Here’s to the Benny Goodman of sportscasting websites!