Legendary Sportscaster Who Was Voice Of Knicks, Called Don Larsen's Perfect Game Died Saturday At Age 96

By Ernie Palladino
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Long before the Home Run Derby became a staple of All-Star weekend, there was the TV show.

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That was back in the 1960s, when the game’s big boppers would compete in front of a Saturday morning viewing audience. Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Harmon Killebrew, Hank Aaron, Frank Howard — they were all there, a pair each week, and every kid in America made sure he’d sit in front of that black-and-white TV and watch the raw power of the game’s great home run hitters.

The voice at the beginning of each show belonged to Bob Wolff. It was his gig, really, and he knew that people liked the inherent drama of the long ball.

Bob Wolff (credit: Getty Images)

But he also knew that some of us were just as interested in the people holding the bats. That’s why interviews took up a chunk of every show.

And that’s the lesson Wolff taught us all through his incredible, 80-year broadcasting career. What makes people tick was more important than the accomplishments themselves.

He knew. And when he took his leave Saturday at age 96, the planet lost one of the truly good people.

This typist came to know Bob in the 1970s when he hosted a weekly luncheon in Westchester County, where a panel of local high school coaches would choose the Athlete of the Week. At that point, Bob had already served as the radio voice behind Don Larsen’s perfect game, the 1958 overtime NFL championship game that became known as “The Greatest Game Ever Played” and about a billion other things.

And yet, this man whose resume was stacked from earth to the moon with landmark events received such satisfaction in honoring the young male and female scholar-athletes of the county.

He did that in one form or another for 40 years.

And in all that time, he never showed an ounce of pretension. Even as he built his career, already having served as the voice of the Washington Senators, and then for 25 years with the Knicks, he offered a humble, friendly greeting to all who gathered in the restaurant’s back room. There were some prickly characters among those coaches and some ambitious ones among the reporters charged with covering the luncheon. But he treated everyone the same  — with class and dignity.

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It’s just the way he carried himself in everyday life. His son, Rick, who hosts a show Sunday mornings on WFAN, once related a story of how Bob would handle the various religious missionaries who knocked on his door. You know, the ones most of us turn away with a snarl and a slam.

Bob would invite them in and let them talk about their beliefs as his children listened. They were people, too, ultimately not much different than anyone else.

And when one of those people did something great, Bob silently rooted for him.

This reporter once had occasion to call him about his call of Larsen’s perfecto, the only one in World Series history.

His voice immediately grew animated.

“I remember standing up in that last inning,” he said. “With every pitch Larsen threw, I could feel myself moving. Ball. O-o-o-o, just missed. Strike! Got him!”

And then, Dale Mitchell’s climactic check swing to end it.

Bob’s call: “Larsen is ready. Gets the sign. Two strikes, ball one. Here comes the pitch. Strike 3! A no-hitter, a perfect game for Don Larsen!”

“I was rooting for him,” Bob said decades later.

Of course he was.

We lost a good one Saturday.

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