At 81-years old most people would gladly settle into retirement, but Yankees radio voice John Sterling chose the opposite route. Instead, he’s adding a job. Sterling recently launched a podcast, Pinstripes and Bright Lights on RADIO.COM.
One of the best broadcasters in the country for his ability to tell a story, Sterling flips the microphone on to share an interesting memory, anecdote or behind-the-scenes look at America’s pastime for the podcast. His unique and colorful style endeared Sterling to Yankees fans as his voice became synonymous with the club.
Having been in the booth for every inning of every Yankees game in the last three decades, Sterling certainly will never run low on material for his podcast. The iconic voice of the Bronx Bombers called a remarkable 5,060 consecutive games for the Yankees before taking a few days off earlier this year, but even at the age of 81, Sterling has no plans of slowing down.
Brandon Contes: Let’s start with the podcast, Pinstripes and Bright Lights, was this your idea or was it something Entercom presented to you?
John Sterling: Actually, it was two outside producers from Boston who came to me with the idea of doing a podcast. I’m not an internet kind of guy, but they explained what they wanted and I said sure! Frankly, they do all the work, they produce it, they sell it and they style it. All I do is give them content.
Last year I did maybe 10 stories, long stories. One story was about Joe DiMaggio, one was about Ted Williams, another about Willie Mays and so on. They put this package together, Pinstripes and Bright Lights and I hope it attracts a lot of listeners and that we’ll continue it for a while.
BC: You mentioned long stories, but the episodes are quick, which personally, I love. I look for podcasts that are in the 10 to 20 minute range, because no matter what I’m doing or where I’m going, even if I’m going around the corner, by the time I grab my wallet and keys, get in the car and go, I always have time for a 10 to 15 minute podcast. If it’s an hour long, I have to find time for it. Was the timeframe by design?
JS: I don’t really plan anything, I live by the seat of my pants and I broadcast by the seat of my pants. I told these stories and I didn’t time them, I don’t do any of those things, I’m not a stat guy if you ever hear me call a game.
I’ll use the DiMaggio story as an example. In 1949, Casey Stengel’s first year, DiMaggio missed the first 65 games because of a heel injury and it was a very dramatic story that I’ll shorten for this interview.
One beautiful late June morning, DiMaggio woke up in his suite in a Midtown hotel, and he had been wearing a carpet slipper on his bad heel because he couldn’t put any pressure on it. He stepped out of bed and nothing happened, he didn’t feel anything, he couldn’t believe it, he walked around the suite and didn’t feel any pain. The Yankees were playing an exhibition game that night, a Thursday, and then they were heading to Boston for a three-game series.
And this of course is Joe DiMaggio now. He called them and said, ‘I need pitchers to throw to me and I need kids to shag.’ As the story goes, he went to Yankee Stadium and hit until his hands bled and he told the Yankees I’m ready to go to Boston tomorrow. The Yankees left that night and he flew up the next day and walked into the clubhouse at Fenway Park telling Stengel I’m ready to go.
You’ll have to listen to Bright Lights and Pinstripes for the rest, but it was a tremendous weekend for DiMaggio and the Yankees. The Yankees won the pennant by one game and the final two games of the year were against Boston at Yankee Stadium. They won Saturday to tie Boston and they won Sunday to win. That was the first of Stengel’s and the Yankees’ five straight World Series Championships. It’s a pretty good story, at least I’d like to think so.
BC: Were these all stories you already knew of and chose to share on your own, or were they suggested and given to you by the producers of the podcast?
JS: I had read about all of them, certainly, but nothing is written down. I don’t know what that proves, but I just do them from the top of my head and I hope they work.
BC: You’re a fantastic story teller. Whether you’re doing a game, or the podcast, or just talking to me right now. And I know you introduce the podcast by saying ‘hello fans’ as if you’re talking to a group, but when I’m listening, it feels like you’re talking to me one-on-one. I think that’s true for the way you and Suzyn Waltman call a game together also. The way you engage with each other, there’s an easiness to it. It’s such a great way to build that unique connection with fans whether it’s through a game broadcast or your podcast. So it might only be a 10 minute long podcast, but it resonates with listeners.
JS: I began like everyone else. I had a very formal upbringing in broadcasting and I started in a really small town at a small station, and I worked my way up. But when you go on the air that’s what you’re supposed to do, you’re supposed to envision that you’re talking to one person and that’s how I’ve envisioned it since the beginning as Boy Disc Jockey. So thank you for saying it because that’s what you’re supposed to do.
BC: You welcome fan engagement with letters on the podcast, do you think you’ll ever include a guest?
JS: I don’t think we’ll have guests, we certainly haven’t spoken about that. I will read a letter, or two or three and answer them on air. Then I’ll go into whatever story I have that day and I hope that it will be interesting. If I was driving, and I heard someone tell a really good story about these different people, I would be interested, so I really hope the listening audience is.
BC: Did you grow up a Yankees fan?
JS: Actually I did, but I do want to say this. I broadcasted the Braves before the Yankees. Well, I wouldn’t care who I’m broadcasting, when you work for a team and you’re investing your career in that team, you want the team to win! Why? Because you have more listeners, you have better ratings and the station can charge more for advertising, so it’s more financially successful.
The old line its good for business – well – it’s good for business! I never dreamed I could get the Yankee job and here it is, 31 years later and they have a terrific team and it’s been a heck of a year. The Yankees are a hugely successful franchise and I’m glad to be part of it.
BC: Your consecutive games streak was 5,060 games with the Yankees? But it goes back even before that with Atlanta, correct?
JS: I was a little run down near the All-Star break and the London trip didn’t do me any good, so I was persuaded by my program director Mark Chernoff to take some games off. He kept saying to me, ‘I don’t want you to get sick and be out for a long time.’ So I took four games off and they dovetailed with the All-Star break, which gave me four more days off. That’s the only games I’ve missed in 38 years. With the Atlanta Hawks and Braves I had five years doing them together, I was doing about 220 games a year!
I got to the Yankees in ‘89 and didn’t miss any games until this year’s All-Star break, so I’m proud of it, but I also never really cared about the streak.
BC: Were you surprised how many others did care?
JS: Yes! Oh my goodness, I couldn’t believe the reaction, people thought I was dying, but yes, I was surprised.
I missed two games in my first year with the Yankees, when I had to lay my sister to rest so I don’t consider that missing two games, those days were for a death in the family. Those are the only games I missed in 38 years, from my first Hawks game beginning in November 1981, until this All-Star break. But you know what? When you think about it, it’s not important. I’m not getting anything out of it and it’s amazing how many people cared about it which is wonderful. But I never went to work every day thinking, ‘Oh, I’m adding one more to the streak,’ I never thought about it. I was healthy and that was my job, so I went to broadcast the game.
Also, I go to the game because I love the games, I get into the games. So it was very easy for me to go and do a baseball game or basketball game, or even college football and college basketball, I get a big kick out of them.
BC: Obviously you love going to games, I love going to games, but I’m 31 years old and I think about the amount of hours you put into a broadcast and the amount of travel that you have to do throughout the entire season. It seems a little daunting.
JS: Yes, that’s the toughest part of it, without question. And it’s even tougher being with the Yankees because baseball doesn’t give the Yankees a lot of getaway day games and as a result, we keep getting into these cities at four in the morning. I call it Yankee time. And I would say that’s the tough part of the job. I also don’t go to sleep right away, it takes me a while to unwind after a flight, so I go to bed even later than other people. That’s the tough part, of the job.
BC: You did 30 straight years without missing a game which means you were never able to listen to a Yankee call on the radio or sit back and watch them live on television. So when you did take a few days off, did you get to do that?
JS: I sure did, I didn’t want to listen on the radio because I didn’t want to have to answer what I thought of the people who replaced me, who I understand did a really great job. At home I have two big screens on the wall of my bedroom side by side, so I actually watched the games without sound, I would watch the Yankee game on one screen and the Mets game, on the other screen and I really enjoyed it.
People would ask, ‘Did it bother you missing games?’ No, I never had any problem in missing those games. I have a host of friends in the business who do the same thing. Tom Hamilton in Cleveland, Denny Matthews in Kansas City, Michael Kay of course on YES, Howie Rose on Mets radio and Gary Cohen on television, they all miss games and they’ve been telling me, ‘John, you gotta take time off, you have to take games off,’ which is now an accepted thing and I never did it until this year. I can’t say it bothered me at all.
BC: So will you schedule games off next season?
JS: No. No I’ll go and see how I feel that’s all.
BC: Was that the same time Michael Kay was out?
JS: Michael’s surgery was just after the games I missed.
He missed four or five weeks and as a matter of fact, I had the same surgery back in 1980, so I told him – here I am, fine. You have to learn how to use your voice, I hurt my voice because I was doing a three-hour daily talk show and Nets basketball and Islanders hockey and Morgan State football, my goodness it was a lot. I had the operation and got a few ideas on how to use my voice correctly and I haven’t hurt it since. I told Michael, imagine in 40 years how they must have improved the technique, so you’re going to be great. And of course, he came back great.
BC: Do you think about the Hall of Fame at all? Being the voice of the Yankees for so long, the streak, the home run calls and their popularity, is that something you think about?
JS: Well, it’s brought up all the time. I don’t think I’ll ever get in. I remember Harry Caray, before he got in, he never thought he would make it because his style was so different and I kind of think the same way of myself. They seem to bring in people who have a different style than I have. If it ever happened, I’ll be very happy, but if not, I’m fine.
BC: I think the uniqueness is what makes you so popular and generational. People that were listening when they were in grade school are now in their 40s and their kids are listening. You’re one of the sounds of summer and I think the uniqueness of what you bring to a broadcast helps build that connection I mentioned earlier.
JS: Well, I wish you were voting!
BC: Do you remember which of your creative homerun calls came first? Was it Bern baby Bern?
JS: It was without question Bernie Williams, but I had done this for other athletes in other sports. I had one with Dominique Wilkins on the Hawks, he would do something great and I would say ‘Dominique is Magnifique’ and it caught on, he loved it. I do everything by the seat of my pants, I’m not thinking these things out. One day when Bernie did something great, I said, Bern baby Bern. It caught on, he loved it and then there was Bernie goes Boom. [Laughs]
It was never meant to be for every player. But it turned into that, I’m very proud and happy about it, but it’s become as they say, a cottage industry so now I’m supposed to do something for everyone and I try.
BC: What do you think led to that becoming the case? Was it radio shows replaying them? Or the internet and the way everything gets shared on social media?
JS: The answer is yes!
BC: Is there pressure now that you need to create one for every player?
JS: I don’t know if its pressure, I don’t think they’re going to put me up in a tree if I don’t come through. [Laughs] But yeah when the Yankees acquire a new player in the offseason, people start wondering about the call, so we try to find something, some are very good and some aren’t.
BC: Did you have calls in your back pocket for Bryce Harper and Manny Machado?
JS: [Long Pause] I did not. [Laughs]
I thought the Yankees were right in not going after them and tying up all that money in one player. Brian Cashman has had the best year that any GM has ever had. That’s why the Yankees have survived with the incredible injuries, not just the number of injuries, but injuries to their biggest and best players. The things Brian has done are sensational, whether it’s Gio Urshela, Mike Tauchman or Cameron Maybin. I’ve been able to find something for the home run calls and it’s fun, but it’s not the end of the world. People get so excited about everything, it’s just a zany thing to do on the games.
BC: Were you surprised how quickly the Yankees were able to rebuild in the last few years? It looked like they were headed for a down period and it just never got that bad before they built championship aspirations again.
JS: Even when they really weren’t very good, Joe Girardi did a phenomenal job, he was winning games in the mid-80s. So when they were having their down year, they were still over .500 and they were very competitive teams. Then Brian Cashman made these great trades and Judge came up through the farm system, and Gleyber Torres was traded for. Gary Sanchez also came up through the farm system and they’ve built up a terrific ball club.
BC: As the voice of the Yankees, do the playoffs still generate extra excitement? Or because the Yankees were there so many times, are you immune to the added energy and new expectations?
JS: Oh no, you react to the game. I’m really good at that, I react to the game that day. A couple of years ago, the Yankees went to the ALCS, and lost in seven to Houston, the eventual champion. The Yankees played six playoff games at home that year and the new Stadium was just as loud as the old Yankee Stadium, it was thrilling, absolutely thrilling.
BC: Some TV play-by-play voices have joined the local radio call for the playoffs. Kay being on ESPN and the Yankees on WFAN make the hypothetical even harder, but has Michael ever expressed an interest in doing that? Joining you and Suzyn for a few innings during the playoffs?
JS: No, not to me anyway. And Michael would tell me before anyone else. Michael knows how it works. If you do television, you wind up not doing the playoffs because they’re all on national TV. They do allow home radio and if they didn’t I would be very unhappy, I don’t want them to play these big games in the playoffs without my broadcasting them and Suzyn feels the same way.
BC: How do you view the rest of your career? Is it a goal of yours to retire on your own? Some professional athletes have retired as an All-Star, others say they’ll play until their uniform is ripped off.
JS: At the present time, I have four kids in college so I have to work. [Laughs]
When that’s over, I’ll think about it, but I’ll take it year by year. I don’t want to go on-air if I can’t do it, but I honestly don’t know. I can’t imagine retiring, but I guess there will be a day when I just – even Vin Scully finally retired and he was 88 or 89, so I have some years left.
Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.
Brandon Contes is a former reporter for BSM, now working for Awful Announcing. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonContes or reach him by email at Brandon.Contes@gmail.com.
In Defense Of Colin Cowherd
“How did we get to this place where there are sites and Twitter accounts going through The Herd with a fine-toothed comb to create content out of ‘oh my god, look at this!’?”
I don’t understand what it is about Colin Cowherd that gets under some people’s skin to the point that they feel everything the guy says is worth being mocked. I don’t always agree with a lot of his opinions myself, but rarely do I hear one of his takes and think I need to build content around how stupid the guy is.
Cowherd has certainly had his share of misses. There were some highlights to his constant harping on Baker Mayfield but personally, I thought the bit got boring quickly and that the host was only shooting about 25% on those segments.
Cowherd has said some objectionable things. I thought Danny O’Neil was dead on in pointing out that the FOX Sports Radio host sounded like LIV Golf’s PR department last month. It doesn’t matter if he claims he used the wrong words or if his language was clunky, he deserved all of the criticism he got in 2015 when he said that baseball couldn’t be that hard of a sport to understand because a third of the league is from the Dominican Republic.
Those missteps and eyebrow-raising moments have never been the majority of his content though. How did we get to this place where there are sites and Twitter accounts going through The Herd with a fine-toothed comb to create content out of “oh my god, look at this!”?
A few years ago, Dan Le Batard said something to the effect of the best thing he can say about Colin Cowherd is that he is never boring and if you are not in this business, you do not get what a compliment that is.
That’s the truth, man. It is so hard to talk into the ether for three hours and keep people engaged, but Cowherd finds a way to do it with consistency.
The creativity that requires is what has created a really strange environment where you have sites trying to pass off pointing and laughing at Cowherd as content. This jumped out to me with a piece that Awful Announcing published on Thursday about Cowherd’s take that Aaron Rodgers needs a wife.
Look, I don’t think every single one of Cowherd’s analogies or societal observations is dead on, but to point this one out as absurd is, frankly, absurd!
This isn’t Cowherd saying that John Wall coming out and doing the Dougie is proof that he is a loser. This isn’t him saying that adults in backward hats look like doofuses (although, to be fair to Colin, where is the lie in that one?).
“Behind every successful man is a strong woman” is a take as old as success itself. It may not be a particularly original observation, but it hardly deserves the scrutiny of a 450-word think piece.
On top of that, he is right about Aaron Rodgers. The guy has zero personality and is merely trying on quirks to hold our attention. Saying that the league MVP would benefit from someone in his life holding a mirror up to him and pointing that out is hardly controversial.
Colin Cowherd is brash. He has strong opinions. He will acknowledge when there is a scoreboard or a record to show that he got a game or record pick wrong, but he will rarely say his opinion about a person or situation is wrong. That can piss people off. I get it.
You know that Twitter account Funhouse? The handle is @BackAftaThis?
It was created to spotlight the truly insane moments Mike Francesa delivered on air. There was a time when the standard was ‘The Sports Pop’e giving the proverbial finger to a recently deceased Stan Lee, falling asleep on air, or vehemently denying that a microphone captured his fart.
Now the feed is turning to “Hey Colin Cowherd doesn’t take phone calls!”. Whatever the motivation is for turning on Cowherd like that, it really shows a dip in the ability to entertain. How is it even content to point out that Colin Cowherd doesn’t indulge in the single most boring part of sports radio?
I will be the first to admit that I am not the world’s biggest fan of The Herd. Solo hosts will almost never be my thing. No matter their energy level, a single person talking for a 10-12 minute stretch feels more like a lecture than entertainment to me. I got scolded enough as a kid by parents and teachers.
School is a good analogy here because that is sort of what this feels like. The self-appointed cool kids identified their target long ago and are going to mock him for anything he does. It doesn’t matter if they carry lunch boxes too, Colin looks like a baby because he has a lunch box.
Colin Cowherd doesn’t need me to defend him. He can point to his FOX paycheck, his followers, or the backing for The Volume as evidence that he is doing something right. I am merely doing what these sites think they are doing when Colin is in their crosshairs – pointing out a lame excuse for content that has no real value.
Demetri Ravanos is the Assistant Content Director for Barrett Sports Media. He hosts the Chewing Clock and Media Noise podcasts. He occasionally fills in on stations across the Carolinas. Previous stops include WAVH and WZEW in Mobile, AL, WBPT in Birmingham, AL and WBBB, WPTK and WDNC in Raleigh, NC. You can find him on Twitter @DemetriRavanos and reach him by email at DemetriTheGreek@gmail.com.
Even After Radio Hall of Fame Honor, Suzyn Waldman Looks Forward
WFAN recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, but that’s not something that Waldman spends too much time reflecting on.
Yankees radio broadcaster Suzyn Waldman was at Citi Field on July 26th getting ready to broadcast a Subway Series game between the Yankees and Mets. A day earlier, Waldman was elected to the Radio Hall of Fame and sometimes that type of attention can, admittedly, make her feel a bit uncomfortable.
“At first, I was really embarrassed because I’m not good at this,” said Waldman. “I don’t take compliments well and I don’t take awards well. I just don’t. The first time it got to me…that I actually thought it was pretty cool, there were two little boys at Citi Field…
Those two little boys, with photos of Waldman in hand, saw her on the field and asked her a question.
“They asked me to sign “Suzyn Waldman Radio Hall of Fame 2022” and I did,” said Waldman. “I just smiled and then more little boys asked me to do that.”
Waldman, along with “Broadway” Bill Lee, Carol Miller, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, Ellen K, Jeff Smulyan, Lon Helton, Marv Dyson, and Walt “Baby” Love, make up the Class of 2022 for the Radio Hall of Fame and will be inducted at a ceremony on November 1st at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago.
Waldman, born in the Boston suburb of Newton, Massachusetts, was the first voice heard on WFAN in New York when the station launched on July 1st, 1987. She started as an update anchor before becoming a beat reporter for the Yankees and Knicks and the co-host of WFAN’s
mid-day talk show. In the mid 1990s, Waldman did some television play-by-play for Yankees games on WPIX and in 2002 she became the clubhouse reporter for Yankees telecasts when the YES Network launched.
This is Waldman’s 36th season covering the Yankees and her 18th in the radio booth, a run that started in 2005 when she became the first female full-time Major League Baseball broadcaster.
She decided to take a look at the names that are currently in the Hall of Fame, specifically individuals that she will forever be listed next to.
“Some of the W’s are Orson Wells and Walter Winchell…people that changed the industry,” said Waldman. “I get a little embarrassed…I’m not good at this but I’m really happy.”
Waldman has also changed the industry.
She may have smiled when those two little boys asked her to sign those photos, but Waldman can also take a lot of pride in the fact that she has been a trailblazer in the broadcasting business and an inspiration to a lot of young girls who aspire, not only to be sportscasters but those who want to have a career in broadcasting.
Like the young woman who just started working at a New York television station who approached Waldman at the Subway Series and just wanted to meet her.
“She stopped me and was shaking,” said Waldman. “The greatest thing is that all of these young women that are out there.”
Waldman pointed out that there are seven women that she can think of off the top of her head that are currently doing minor league baseball play-by-play and that there have been young female sports writers that have come up to her to share their stories about how she inspired them.
For many years, young boys were inspired to be sportscasters by watching and listening to the likes of Marv Albert, Al Michaels, Vin Scully, Bob Costas, and Joe Buck but now there are female sportscasters, like Waldman, who have broken down barriers and are giving young girls a good reason to follow their dreams.
“When I’ve met them, they’ve said to me I was in my car with my Mom and Dad when I was a very little girl and they were listening to Yankee games and there you were,” said Waldman. “These young women never knew this was something that they couldn’t do because I was there and we’re in the third generation of that now. It’s taken longer than I thought.”
There have certainly been some challenges along the way in terms of women getting opportunities in sports broadcasting.
Waldman thinks back to 1994 when she became the first woman to do a national television baseball broadcast when she did a game for The Baseball Network. With that milestone came a ton of interviews that she had to do with media outlets around the country including Philadelphia.
It was during an interview with a former Philadelphia Eagle on a radio talk show when Waldman received a unique backhanded compliment that she will always remember.
“I’ve listened to you a lot and I don’t like you,” Waldman recalls the former Eagle said. “I don’t like women in sports…I don’t like to listen to you but I was watching the game with my 8-year-old daughter and she was watching and I looked at her and thought this is something she’s never going to know that she cannot do because there you are.”
Throughout her career, Waldman has experienced the highest of highs in broadcasting but has also been on the receiving end of insults and cruel intentions from people who then tend to have a short memory.
And many of these people were co-workers.
“First people laugh at you, then they make your life miserable and then they go ‘oh yeah that’s the way it is’ like it’s always been like that but it’s not always been like this,” said Waldman.
It hasn’t always been easy for women in broadcasting and as Waldman — along with many others — can attest to nothing is perfect today. But it’s mind-boggling to think about what Waldman had to endure when WFAN went on the air in 1987.
She remembers how badly she was treated by some of her colleagues.
“I think about those first terrible days at ‘FAN,” said Waldman. “I had been in theatre all my life and it was either you get the part or you don’t. They either like you or they don’t. You don’t have people at your own station backstabbing you and people at your own station changing your tapes to make you look like an idiot.”
There was also this feeling that some players were not all that comfortable with Waldman being in the clubhouse and locker room. That was nothing compared to some of the other nonsense that Waldman had to endure.
“The stuff with players is very overblown,” said Waldman. “It’s much worse when you know that somebody out there is trying to kill you because you have a Boston accent and you’re trying to talk about the New York Yankees. That’s worse and it’s also worse when the people
that you work with don’t talk to you and think that you’re a joke and the people at your own station put you down for years and years and years.”
While all of this was happening, Waldman had one very important person in her corner: Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who passed away in 2010.
The two had a special relationship and he certainly would have relished the moment when Suzyn was elected to the Hall of Fame.
“I think about George Steinbrenner a lot,” said Waldman. “This is something that when I heard that…I remember thinking George would be so proud because he wanted this since ’88. I just wish he were here.”
Waldman certainly endeared herself to “The Boss” with her reporting but she also was the driving force behind the reconciliation of Steinbrenner and Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra. George had fired Yogi as Yankees manager 16 games into the 1985 season and the news was delivered to Berra, not by George, but by Steinbrenner advisor Clyde King.
Yogi vowed never to step foot into Yankee Stadium again, but a grudge that lasted almost 14 years ended in 1999 when Waldman facilitated a reunion between the two at the Yogi Berra Museum in New Jersey.
“I’m hoping that my thank you to him was the George and Yogi thing because I know he wanted that very badly,” said Waldman.
“Whatever I did to prove to him that I was serious about this…this is in ’87 and ’88…In 1988, I remember him saying to me ‘Waldman, one of these days I’m going to make a statement about women in sports. You’re it and I hope you can take it’ (the criticism). He knew what was coming. I didn’t know. But there was always George who said ‘if you can take it, you’re going to make it’.”
And made it she did.
And she has outlasted every single person on the original WFAN roster.
“I’m keenly aware that I was the first person they tried to fire and I’m the only one left which I think is hysterical actually that I outlived everybody,” said Waldman.
WFAN recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, but that’s not something that Waldman spends too much time reflecting on.
“I don’t think about it at all because once you start looking back, you’re not going forward,” said Waldman.
Waldman does think about covering the 1989 World Series between the A’s and Giants and her reporting on the earthquake that was a defining moment in her career. She has always been a great reporter and a storyteller, but that’s not how her WFAN career began. She started as an update anchor and she knew that if she was going to have an impact on how WFAN was going to evolve, it was not going to be reading the news…it was going to be going out in the field and reporting the news.
“I was doing updates which I despised and wasn’t very good at,” said Waldman.
She went to the program director at the time and talked about how WFAN had newspaper writers covering the local teams for the station and that it would be a better idea for her to go out and cover games and press conferences.
“Give me a tape recorder and let me go,” is what Waldman told the program director. “I was the first electronic beat writer. That’s how that started and they said ‘oh, this works’. The writers knew all of a sudden ‘uh oh she can put something on the air at 2 o’clock in the morning and I can’t’.”
And the rest is history. Radio Hall of Fame history.
But along the way, there was never that moment where she felt that everything was going to be okay.
Because it can all disappear in a New York minute.
“I’ve never had that moment,” said Waldman. “I see things going backward in a lot of ways for women. I’m very driven and I’m very aware that it can all be taken away in two seconds if some guy says that’s enough.”
During her storied career, Waldman has covered five Yankees World Series championships and there’s certainly the hope that they can contend for another title this year. She loves her job and the impact that she continues to make on young girls who now have that dream to be the next Suzyn Waldman.
But, is there something in the business that she still hopes to accomplish?
“This is a big world,” said Waldman. “There’s always something to do. Right now I like this a lot and there’s still more to do. There are more little girls…somewhere there’s a little girl out there who is talking into a tape recorder or whatever they use now and her father is telling her or someone is telling her you can’t do that you’re a little girl. That hasn’t stopped. Somewhere out there there’s somebody that needs to hear a female voice on Yankees radio.”
To steal the spirit of a line from Yankees play-by-play voice John Sterling, Suzyn Waldman’s longtime friend, and broadcast partner…“that’s a Radio Hall of Fame career, Suzyn!”
Peter Schwartz has been involved in New York sports media for over three decades. Along the way he has worked for notable brands such as WFAN, CBS Sports Radio, WCBS 880, ESPN New York, and FOX News Radio. He has also worked as a play by play announcer for the New Yok Riptide, New York Dragons, New York Hitmen, Varsity Media and the Long Island Sports Network. You can find him on Twitter @SchwartzSports or email him at DragonsRadio@aol.com.
No Winners in Pittsburgh vs Cleveland Radio War of Words
“As talk radio hosts, we often try to hold the moral high ground and if you’re going to hold that position, I can’t help but feel integrity has to outweigh popularity. “
For nearly 18 months, we’ve known the NFL would eventually have to confront the Deshaun Watson saga in an on-the-field manner, and that day came Monday. After his March trade to the Browns, we also could more than likely deduce another item: Cleveland radio hosts would feel one way, and Pittsburgh hosts would feel another.
If you’re not in tune to the “rivalry” between the two cities, that’s understandable. Both are former industrial cities looking for an identity in a post-industrial Midwest. Each thinks the other is a horrible place to live, with no real reasoning other than “at least we’re not them”. Of course, the folks in Pittsburgh point to six Super Bowl victories as reason for superiority.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when news started to leak that a Watson decision would come down Monday. I was sure, however, that anyone who decided to focus on what the NFL’s decision would mean for Watson and the Browns on the field was in a no-win situation. As a former host on a Cleveland Browns radio affiliate, I always found the situation difficult to talk about. Balancing the very serious allegations with what it means for Watson, the Browns, and the NFL always felt like a tight-rope walk destined for failure.
So I felt for 92.3 The Fan’s Ken Carman and Anthony Lima Monday morning, knowing they were in a delicate spot. They seemed to allude to similar feelings. “You’re putting me in an awkward situation here,” Carman told a caller after that caller chanted “Super Bowl! Super Browns!” moments after the suspension length was announced.
Naturally, 93.7 The Fan’s Andrew Fillipponi happened to turn on the radio just as that call happened. A nearly week-long war of words ensued between the two Audacy-owned stations.
Fillipponi used the opportunity to slam Cleveland callers and used it as justification to say the NFL was clearly in the wrong. Carman and Lima pointed out Fillipponi had tweeted three days earlier about how much love the city of Pittsburgh had for Ben Roethlisberger, a player with past sexual assault allegations in his own right.
Later in the week, the Cleveland duo defended fans from criticism they viewed as unfair from the national media. In response, Dorin Dickerson and Adam Crowley of the Pittsburgh morning show criticized Carman and Lima for taking that stance.
As an impartial observer, there’s one main takeaway I couldn’t shake. Both sides are wrong. Both sides are right. No one left the week looking good.
Let’s pretend the Pittsburgh Steelers had traded for Deshaun Watson on March 19th, and not the Browns. Can you envision a scenario where Cleveland radio hosts would defend the NFL for the “fairness” of the investigation and disciplinary process if he was only suspended for six games? Of course, you can’t, because that would be preposterous. At the same time, would Fillipponi, Dickerson, and other Pittsburgh hosts be criticizing their fans for wanting Watson’s autograph? Of course, you can’t, because that would be preposterous.
When you’re discussing “my team versus your team” or “my coach versus your coach” etc…, it’s ok to throw ration and logic to the side for the sake of entertaining radio. But when you’re dealing with an incredibly serious matter, in this case, an investigation into whether an NFL quarterback is a serial sexual predator, I don’t believe there’s room to throw ration and logic to the wind. The criticism of Carman and Lima from the Pittsburgh station is fair and frankly warranted. They tried their best, in my opinion, to be sensitive to a topic that warranted it, but fell short.
On the flip side, Carman and Lima are correct. Ben Roethlisberger was credibly accused of sexual assault. Twice. And their criticism of Fillipponi and Steelers fans is valid and frankly warranted.
You will often hear me say “it can be both” because so often today people try to make every situation black and white. In reality, there’s an awful lot of gray in our world. But, in this case, it can’t be both. It can’t be Deshaun Watson, and Browns fans by proxy, are horrible, awful, no good, downright rotten people, and Ben Roethlisberger is a beloved figure.
Pot, meet kettle.
I don’t know what Andrew Fillipponi said about Ben Roethlisberger’s sexual assault allegations in 2010. And if I’m wrong, I’ll be the first to admit it, but I’m guessing he sounded much more like Carman and Lima did this week, rather than the person criticizing hosts in another market for their lack of moral fiber. Judging by the tweet Carman and Lima used to point out Fillipponi’s hypocrisy, I have a hard time believing the Pittsburgh host had strong outrage about the Steelers bringing back the franchise QB.
Real courage comes from saying things your listeners might find unpopular. It’s also where real connections with your listeners are built. At the current time in our hyper-polarized climate, having the ability to say something someone might disagree with is a lost art. But it’s also the key to keeping credibility and building a reputation that you’ll say whatever you truly believe that endears you to your audience.
And in this case, on a day the NFL announced they now employ a player who — in the league’s view — is a serial sexual assaulter, to hear hosts describe a six-game suspension as “reasonable” felt unreasonable. As talk radio hosts, we often try to hold the moral high ground and if you’re going to hold that position, I can’t help but feel integrity has to outweigh popularity.
Garrett Searight is the Editor of Barrett Sports Media and Barrett News Media. He previously was the Program Director and Afternoon Co-Host on 93.1 The Fan in Lima, OH. He is also a play-by-play announcer for TV and Radio broadcasts in Western Ohio.