As baseball season closes in, the thoughts of every fan turn optimistic. Opening Day in baseball, unlike any other sport, is a national celebration, no matter how bad your team is. for the followers of the New York Mets, 2013 looks to be a year with not much hope for the present, but lots for the future. This year again those fortunes will be told by veteran sportscaster Howie Rose, who will call the teams games again for WFAN Radio. Rose, a lifelong New Yorker is forever the optimist, as he also calls NHL games for MSG Network for the downtrodden New York Islanders. Never one to see the glass half empty, Rose has compiled some of his greatest, funniest and most passionate memories behind the mic into “Put It In The Book!: A Half-Century of Mets Mania,” with industry veterans Phil Pepe and Marv Albert.
We caught up with Rose to talk Mets, Islanders, and New York sports
1. You got to close Shea Stadium and will probably got to close Nassau Coliseum…what are your best and worse memories of both?
I have been at Shea Stadium to see the Mets win the NL East Division, the National League pennant at the World Series, but my most memorable night there will always be July 9, 1969. That’s the night Tom Seaver pitched 8 1/3 perfect innings against the Cubs before Jimmy Qualls broke it up with a clean single to left center. It was the first big series the Mets ever played. They won that game and took 2 out of 3 from Chicago. It was the night the franchise came of age, in it’s 8th season. The worst memories would be losing the 2000 World Series and watching the Yankees celebrate on the Mets’ turf, and the final game of the 2007 season when the Mets lost to the Marlins, completing a collapse during which they blew a 7 game lead with 17 games remaining, and lost the division to the Phillies..
As far as the Coliseum goes, being there when they won their first Stanley Cup in 1980 was terrific. Having known most of those players since they reached the National Hockey League it was wonderful to see them celebrate what they worked so hard for. The worst memories will be all of those nights with maybe 8,000 people in an ice cold building, remembering how it was in the glory days, and wondering how it had all gone so wrong.
2. You were also one of the first consistent voices of talk radio in New York…how did that help shape your career?
Although I enjoyed doing talk (and still do when I get the opportunity) my primary focus was always play by play. I knew that to get a shot at doing games in New York, I would need to establish a reputation and recognition in the market to get someone to take a chance on me since I had very little professional play by play experience. Thankfully, that’s what happened. I also feel that doing a talk show created a familiarity and a sort of intimacy with my listeners that was a natural outgrowth to having several hours on the air five nights a week. That’s one of the best things about radio, and what sets it apart from other mediums.
3. Is there a call you have made that is your favorite?
For the purpose of this topic I will eliminate TV calls. Television (with exceptions of course), is less likely to produce memorable calls because you are not describing as much as you are punctuating, narrating or embellishing. Radio is where the energy flows in real time, when you have to be precise, accurate, and descriptive. Throw in some raw passion and emotion and you’re in business. That’s why the Matteau! Matteau! Matteau! call seems to have resonated with so many people. I didn’t think at the time that it would become my favorite, and I discuss my reason for this in the book, but it certainly is up there for me, and I’m quite proud of how it’s endured. I talk about some other favorites in the book as well.
4. What’s the biggest misstep you have made in the booth?
Easily, it was in Atlanta during an Islanders telecast in November, 2010. We were having a host of technical problems and when we were supposed to be in commercial, it turned out we weren’t and my mike was hot. I said some things I shouldn’t have, which were partially misconstrued because they referred to our technical fiasco rather than the game, but if I wasn’t lazy and reached for the talkback button which would have muted my mike, nothing would have gone out over the air. This is explained in the book, as well. True confessions.
5. Having grown up around these teams, is it sometimes hard to let your emotions mix with your calling of a game?
Nope. In fact, I feed off of that. I don’t know what it would feel like for me to call games for an “out of market” team because I have been blessed to spend my entire career working in my hometown. Sometimes, you have to keep those emotions in check, especially during playoff games, or most recently for me, Johan Santana’s no hitter last season, but if that blend isn’t there, I would feel as though something’s missing. Frankly, emotion for me is the fuel for a broadcast, not vice-versa. Some may feel the game produces the emotion, but I guess I’m different.
6. Other than Mets and Islanders, what is the event you enjoyed calling the most?
Well, June 14, 1994 was kind of fun….That was the night when the Rangers won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 54 years. The Matteau game on May 27, 1994 was 1A, I suppose. There are two firsts…..February 22, 1975….Queens College (I was a student there at the time) played Immaculata College in the first women’s intercollegiate game in Madison Square Garden history. It was the first game I ever broadcast on a real (rather than college) radio station, WNYC, where someone could actually hear my voice. At Queens, you could only hear us on campus. I don’t know, however, that I ever had as big a thrill in broadcasting, as I did on January 24, 1985 when I called my first NHL game….the Rangers against the Detroit Red Wings at Madison Square Garden. That was the culmination of a lifelong dream, and when I sat in that seat, filling in for my idol and mentor Marv Albert, I felt as though I was having an out of body experience.
7. Are there events you would still like to call in your career?
Yes. The one where I get to proclaim that the New York Mets are world champions. That’s one of the advantages of radio. On television, the networks completely take over the baseball post season, so local TV is done, except for pre and post game shows. In hockey, local TV just gets the first round. Big whoop.
8. Which players have been the best to interview and why?
Those that stay away from cliches, or those who tell you something about themselves. There are plenty of them; the late Gary Carter was always a favorite of mine, but I prefer to get someone in a “long form” format, rather than a quick chat between periods or on a post game show. I love the challenge of trying to get them to open up. That’s what I miss the most about doing talk radio.
9. Which ballpark and arena do you enjoy working in the most and why?
Madison Square Garden has the history. I grew up there. Even with the recent transformation, they kept the iconic ceiling intact, so it still feels like home. There’s only one Garden, and I’m still thrilled whenever I walk in there. When the Nassau Coliseum is packed, with it’s low ceiling, the noise is invigorating. Even though it’s a dump, I’m going to miss it. I spend some time talking in the book about my favorite ballparks. Obviously, Citi Field doesn’t have much history behind it, but it’s so clean and beautiful that it puts me in a great frame of mind to work every day. I can’t wait to hear that place during a post season game. It will be hard to match Shea, though. That place literally shook when the crowd got going.
10. If you were starting in the business today, what do you think you would have to do differently than when you started?
From the sound of things, pay less attention to grammar and diction. Those things were really important when I broke in, and I’m not sure when or why we’ve gotten away from it, but when I hear some people butcher the language (even a simple three letter word such as a-s-k seems to be a challenge from time to time) I shake my head and lament the fact that we can and should do better. Broadcasting is far more conversational than it was, and I think that makes for a better, more comfortable listen, but English is a beautiful language, and I wish it could be embraced and protected in the broadcast community the way it once was.