Schwartz: New Book Captures What It’s Like To Be At Historical Sporting Events

Eric Mirlis' 'I Was There!' Features A Who's Who Of Journalists Taking Strolls Down Memory Lane

By Peter Schwartz
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We all have our favorite sports moments that we’ve seen in person.

It may have been a baseball game with a dramatic walk-off home run, a football game with a winning field goal in the final seconds, a basketball buzzer beater, or an overtime goal at a hockey game. The moment could have been a record-breaking hit, touchdown, 3-point shot or goal. It may have been the debut of a rookie player, a jersey retirement, or even the first or final game at a venue.

I’m lucky that I’ve been able to attend an unthinkable amount of games in my life, both as a fan and as a member of the media. I’ve seen my fair share of memorable moments and so have so many of the top sports journalists in the country. The favorite games and moments from some of the top names are featured in a wonderful new book from Sports Publishing titled “I Was There,” written by longtime major network producer Eric Mirlis.

Journalists get to see a lot of games and it can get a bit tedious, but among those countless events are some special moments that never go away.

“I think every member of the media takes it for granted to an extent,” said Mirlis, a former media relations employee for the Islanders. “I think, though, that the marquee events are never taken for granted.”

"I Was There!" book cover. (Photo: Eric Mirlis)

“I Was There!” book cover. (Photo: Eric Mirlis)

The book features a who’s who of the sports media detailing their favorite moments.

Rangers radio voice Kenny Albert, who also works for NBC and FOX, lists the Rangers’ Stanley Cup-clinching win in 1994 and Aaron Boone’s walk-off home run in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS that sent the Yankees to the World Series among his favorites. FOX broadcaster and former WFAN host/anchor/reporter Kevin Burkhardt has former Mets pitcher Johan Santana’s no-hitter from 2012 on his list. The favorites of CBS Sports Radio’s Scott Ferrall include the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and the 1987 NCAA men’s basketball championship game between Syracuse and Indiana.

There have been many other great moments seen by the likes of Mike Breen, Joe Buck, Dick Stockton, Jim Nantz, E.J. Hradek, and Bob Costas. Those games or events hold a special place in the journalists’ hearts.

“The reason everyone picked each moment was just as important as what the moment was,” Mirlis said. “That leads to people talking about games they attended as kids or with family members.”

Mirlis has covered, worked, or just attended many memorable sporting events in his life, including the Athens Olympics for NBC. He was doing stats for Knicks telecasts on MSG Network when John Starks dunked over Michael Jordan and when Jordan scored 55 against the Knicks at the Garden.

But his favorite memory will always be David Volek’s overtime goal in Game 7 against the Penguins in 1993, a victory that sent the Islanders into the Wales Conference Finals. He was at the Igloo as a member of the team’s public relations staff.

“As a life-long Islander fan and former member of the PR department there, my favorite is very personal and will probably never change,” Mirlis said. “I don’t have to explain what that night meant for Islander fans or the organization, so that night is always going to have a special place for me.”

The Islanders provided some memorable moments for me as well, including on the final night of the 1990 regular season. They beat the Flyers at Nassau Coliseum, but needed some help to get into the playoffs.  The sellout crowd watched on the video board as Uwe Krupp scored in overtime to give the Sabres a win over the Penguins that sent the Islanders into a first-round round meeting with the Rangers.

My other favorites include Game 6 of the 1996 World Series as the Yankees won their first title in 18 years, the Larry Johnson four-point play during the Knicks’ 1999 playoff run, and the Jets beating the Packers in the 2002 regular season finale to win the AFC East.

There are so many great moments chronicled by some of sports journalisms biggest names in “I Was There.” It’s a great read and will make you want to compile your own list of memorable sports games or moments.

Don’t forget to follow Pete on Twitter @pschwartzcbsfan.  You can also follow Eric Mirlis @themirl and @SportsPubBooks

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