Honoring Grateful Broadcasters

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

The Mets are about to honor and thank of handful of their longtime stalwarts with induction to their Hall of Fame on Saturday, June 3rd, five new members who are about to be immortalized with bronze plaques, with only two of them having made their lasting impressions as players.

Joining Al Leiter and Howard Johnson into this prestigious collection of Mets legends will be Howie Rose and Gary Cohen, the team’s longtime broadcasters, plus longtime Mets PR Executive Jay Horwitz.

As the decades-long voices of the Mets, Rose and Cohen have been the fans’ personal conduit to the club, two lifelong fans of the team, and from the day they met, as close as brothers.

Players come and go, but it’s those voices that describe the action, day in and day out, where fans come to regard them almost as family members.

And you get to know them almost as well as you know your family members. Who among you, Mets fans, who doesn’t know, and share, Rose’s love for Seinfeld, the Honeymooners, and everything else New Yorkers grew up with in the Mets’ early years.

His signature call to end Mets wins, “Put it in the books,” has become baseball lexicon.

Cohen’s simple but effective home run call, “It’s outta here!” has also become a signature.

Rose was born in the Bronx, and his father first passed down his love for baseball bringing him to Yankees games. But as the story goes, and which Rose has voiced from time to time, his family moved to Bayside, and when the Mets came into existence, he felt almost as if the team was created just for him.

Blessed with an uncanny memory, Rose has become an untitled Mets historian, able to recall just about any memorable moment – and many of the unmemorable ones as well – with remarkable accuracy.

“Howie is the greatest repository of Mets history and fandom that there is,” said Cohen, in an exclusive interview with Steve Serby in the New York Post recently. “There’s no greater representative of the Mets fan base and history of everything Mets than Howie Rose.”

And as you can imagine, Rose was equally laudatory of his broadcast partner.

“Because you can’t broadcast a game with any more proficiency than (Cohen) does and that goes for anybody in baseball, and probably anybody who’s ever done it, certainly from a technical standpoint.”

Cohen has become one of the most highly-regarded baseball broadcasters and is now in his 18th season teaming up with fellow broadcasters and former Mets legends Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez, arguably the best triumvirate of broadcasters in the entire sport.

Younger Mets fans might not know that the original Mets broadcast team was always a three-man booth, and they bounced between radio and TV throughout the game.

Lindsey Nelson, Bob Murphy, and Ralph Kiner – all Hall of Famers in their own right – called Mets games together for the first 17 years of the team’s existence. They would alternate between the TV and radio booths usually in three inning shifts. First, two men would occupy the TV booth for say, the first six innings while the third man would call the game on radio by himself for the first three innings. Then the radio guy would join the TV duo after three innings while one of the TV guys would go to the radio booth, often it was Murphy, to finish out the last six innings there.

It might sound confusing now, but it made sense then, and it worked.

Nelson was a longtime veteran announcer, a pro’s pro. Murphy got his start calling Orioles and Red Sox games, for many years under the tutelage of veteran broadcaster Curt Gowdy. Kiner was the great Pirates slugger who had retired, tried a year as a minor league GM, but then felt more comfortable calling games to stay in baseball.

Nelson and Murphy are both recipients of the prestigious Ford C. Frick Award, presented each summer during the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies up in Cooperstown. Nelson was honored in 1988, Murphy in 1994. Kiner is a Hall of Famer based on his prowess with the bat, elected by the BBWAA in 1975.

All three were inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 1984.

Murphy came up with a novel way of celebrating Mets victories by summing up the details with a “happy recap.” It’s one of the reasons Rose looked to find his way of doing the same with his “Put it in the books” declaration, which also served as the “sounder” in his bobblehead that was given out to the first 15,000 fans on May 31st.

After Nelson left the Mets broadcast team in 1978, the club went through a series of other partners for Murphy and Kiner, trying to find the right mix, and some of them worked, some of them, well, the chemistry wasn’t always there. Among those joining the broadcast teams at various junctures were: Steve Albert, World Series hero Art Shamsky, Bob Goldsholl, Steve LaMar, Tim McCarver, Steve Zabriskie, World Series hero Bud Harrelson, Gary Thorne, Fran Healy, World Series hero Rusty Staub, Todd Kalas, and then one and only Tom Seaver (who did TV from 2002-05).

But along came a young Mets fan named Gary Cohen in 1989, who got his “apprenticeships,” so to speak, in the minors calling games for clubs such as the Spartanburg Spinners, Durham Bulls, and Pawtucket Red Sox (as well as college basketball games and even some football and hockey). Cohen was teamed with Murphy, who had been relegated to radio exclusively since 1982.

And after getting his broadcast chops with the long-ago Sports Phone service in the mid ‘70s, and then doing updates on WCBS-AM, a young Howie Rose earned his stake on the Mets pregame show on WFAN. Starting in 1994, he became a fixture in the radio booth, along with Murphy and Cohen.

When Murphy retired after the 2003 season, it was Rose and Cohen in the radio booth, and who were joined by Ed Coleman doing pregame. Beginning in 2006, Rose stayed with the radio booth, while Cohen went exclusively to the TV booth, now accompanied by Darling and Hernandez.

And now on June 3rd, Rose and Cohen will get their day in the sun, and in bronze, along with fellow inductees Leiter, Johnson, and Horwitz.

When asked what is their legacy – getting back to the Post piece by Serby – Cohen stated, “When people think about what Howie and I do, what I want is for them to feel as though we have been their representative. Their delegate. Their ombudsman.”

Rose had a similar response. “I would like to think the fans see me as one them.”

And here is a prediction guaranteed to come true. Both Gary Cohen, and Howie Rose, will one day each be presented with the Ford C. Frick Award in Cooperstown. Both not in the same year, of course, as only one per year is inducted, but their time will come. You can “put it in the books!”

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