By James H. Burns
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We’re spectacularly lucky in New York, as Mets fans, in terms of broadcasting.
Nowhere in baseball are there such first-class announcing teams on both radio and television. And nowhere in the major leagues are the anchors of those presentations also lifelong fans of the clubs they cover.
Howie Rose and Gary Cohen have been going to Mets games since they were kids in the 1960s. Separately, but fused by their fandom, Rose and Cohen would ride the subway to Shea, sitting in those lovely, rarefied climes of the stadium’s upper deck.
Long before they ever met, Rose and Cohen could well have heard each other cheering, as they roared along with the crowd.
Friday night, when the two in their booths–separated by only a few feet (and a soundproofed wall), and aligned now, forever in time–exploded with their descriptions of the Mets’ first no-hitter in team history…
How could this be? I’m a grown man. Truth be told, pretty nearly at least a couple of generations grown. These were happy tears, of course. Yet, they burned–their surprising heat somehow ultimately reminding me of all those happy weekend afternoons at Shea, when I was a boy….
I’m old enough to have seen Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Jon Matlack, Doc Gooden and Ron Darling…
In truth, I think I always suspected that the team’s first no-no would be thoroughly unexpected, thrown by an unheralded fourth- or fifth-starter, or perhaps someone just recently traded for in an otherwise virtually anonymous swap.
In retrospect, I shouldn’t be surprised that Johan Santana achieved the honor, because the best game I ever saw in person was the final Saturday at Shea, in 2008; a game the Mets had to win to stay in the playoff hunt.
Santana, on short rest and with a sore arm, pitched flawlessly with grace. A maestro of the ballpark.
When the Mets first acquired Johan, I was pleased to learn (from a Minnesota Twins beat writer) that for some reason Santana sometimes wrote, “Merry Christmas,” under the bill of his cap. (On other occasions, Santana draws smiley faces or balloons there.)
Such whimsy can be rewarding, and as we were all reminded Friday night in Flushing, make every day seem like a gift…
Radio, as WFAN and other local sportscasts consistently prove, still has the ability to connect across demographics. It can draw all of us together across the Tri-State and now, with computers and cell-phone apps, anywhere around the world.
Friday night, after the victory, Gary Cohen joined Howie Rose for an unusual appearance on WFAN’s postgame show. Between the two, they’ve hosted at least a couple of thousand such programs.
(Cohen was on WFAN for nearly two decades before moving to TV, while Rose also spent several years as one of the Mets telecasters.)
It was delightful hearing these top baseball men, celebrating the special victory of a team they love.
(And important to note, as they did, that the no-hit bid was saved in the seventh inning by a sensational left-field catch by Queens native Mike Baxter!)
During the games, Rose and Cohen–along with their individual partners–are the best of professionals, the furthest from one-sided “homer”-type commentators that one can imagine.
But there’s also a certain grace in knowing that in a very distinct part of their persona, Rose and Cohen are still in the stands, along with their audience.
It’s grand to know, after all, that a team you’ve loved can still elicit such joy in your heart.
(James H. (Jim) Burns, a writer/actor living in Long Island, has written for such magazines as Gentleman’s Quarterly, Esquire, Twilight Zone and Heavy Metal. More recently, Jim has made several contributions to Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, become active in radio, and written Op-Eds or features for Newsday, The Village Voice, and The New York Times.)
Mets fans, how many times have you listened to the calls from Howie and Gary? Sound off in the comments below…