By Peter Schwartz
The title of this story might seem a little corny since I am a sportscaster, but just hang with me because I’m still very much like many of you.
I’m a sports fan. I’ve always been a sports fan and I make a living as a sportscaster because….well I love sports. The day I’m told I can’t be a fan while having this job is the day I do something else for a living.
In fact, I pursued a career in sports broadcasting because I knew at a young age that I really didn’t want to do anything else. I didn’t want to be a doctor. I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I wanted to talk about sports for a living. I went to a lot of sporting events when I was a kid, mainly with my dad although my mom tagged along here and there.
Growing up in New York, I went to all kinds of games…Yankees, Mets, Jets, Giants, Islanders, Rangers, Devils, Knicks, and Nets. We also went to college games and Cosmos soccer matches in the 70’s and 80’s when they were in their heyday filling up Giants Stadium. If they kept score, I went to see the games, whether I was a fan of the team or not.
When I wasn’t at games, I watched them on television and it was during one of those games when I realized what I wanted to do for a living. I couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7 years old when my dad and I were watching a baseball game and it hit me.
“Daddy, I want to talk like that guy when I grow up,” I told my father.
I wanted to be a sportscaster.
From that moment on, I listened to every announcer more carefully. Whether it was a play by play announcer, the local television or radio sports anchor, or as I got older and it became more prevalent, the local sports talk show hosts. Along the way, there were a few, both local and national, that served as inspiration for me to become a sportscaster down the road.
Other sportscasters have told stories like this but I wanted to be a sportscaster so bad that I took a tape recorder with me to games and did play by play into them. Sometimes there were nasty looks from nearby fans about what I was doing, but it was worth it!
I bring this up because two broadcasters that I’ve always respected, Vin Scully and Dick Enberg, both retired this past weekend after finishing up their respective baseball seasons.
Sports fans fall in love with sportscasters for different reasons. One might get attached to a sports talk show host because he or she can keep you company and be a soothing voice late at night. You might find a particular television or radio anchor as a dependable source to get the day’s sports news and scores. Or, in most cases, the connection comes with your favorite team’s play by play announcers.
While my connection to sports broadcasters was predominantly local as it pertains to New York, there’s no question that Scully and Enberg were both influential on myself as well as other aspiring sportscasters.
There’s no doubt that Scully was beloved by Dodgers fans for 67 years in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, but younger fans may not realize that he was also a national treasure. Scully was the voice of NBC’s Saturday game of the week and for so many World Series. He called Kirk Gibson’s dramatic home run in the Dodgers victory over the A’s in game one of the 1988 World Series. He also was on the call for the Mets win over the Red Sox in the 1986 Fall Classic.
One of my favorite memories of Scully was when he was doing a Yankees game on NBC during the 1980’s. Yankees slugger Dave Winfield crushed a foul ball way up into the upper deck at Yankee Stadium. Scully, ever so eloquently, called the play something to the effect of “Winfield hits one foul upstairs into the empty chairs!” Classic Scully! I also remember Scully doing some NFL games for CBS back in the day and he was great at football as well.
From a football perspective, Dick Enberg, who stepped down as a broadcaster for the San Diego Padres, provided so many great memories calling football games for NBC and later on for CBS. With his familiar “Oh My” after great plays, Enberg was an exciting, professional play by play announcer and he certainly had an impact on my career as I’ve been lucky enough to do some football games in my career. I remember one game in particular when NBC tried an experiment having Enberg do Jets/Browns game by himself without an analyst.
Having had to do that many times during my years in the Arena Football League and my current work doing high school football, I’d like to think I learned a little something because Enberg nailed it!
When I think of reasons that I went into broadcasting, longtime New York Islanders television voice Jiggs McDonald is number one. I loved listening to him during the Isles’ Stanley Cup dynasty in the early 1980’s and I’m privileged that I became friends with him years later when I became a member of the media. I’m glad younger fans have been able to hear him in recent years filling in on Islanders telecasts.
Other local New York voices like Phil Rizzuto (Yankees), Marty Glickman (Jets), Jiggs McDonald (Islanders), Spencer Ross (Jets and so many other teams), Warner Wolf (anchor) and Jim Karvellas (Knicks and Cosmos) come to mind as brilliant announcers who inspired me to chase my dream. I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of those broadcasters and I’ve told them that they played a role in my career.
I’ve never met Vin Scully or Dick Enberg but hopefully one day I will. I would congratulate them on their great careers and thank them for helping inspire a young kid that grew up in Queens and Long Island dreaming of being a sportscaster.
There are so many of these great voices that will always hold a special place in my heart!