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Bill Mazer: Still Amazin'

Bill Mazer, 90, known as the host of

Bill Mazer, 90, known as the host of the first sports talk radio show in history that launched in March of 1964 on WNBC, talks about his life in broadcasting and his family at his Scarsdale home. (June 15, 2011) (Credit: Craig Ruttle)

I spent two hours Wednesday at Bill Mazer's home in Scarsdale talking to him about his colorful career and life, which began in Ukraine before his family fled while he was an infant.

He said his father had shot a man who was harassing his mother, and the Bolsheviks were after him.

Here is a story I wrote about the visit, primarily focused on the start of New York sports talk radio in 1964.

Mazer, 90, lives with his daughter, Beverly. He has three children, two grandchildren - one of whom is in the armed forced and stationed in Afghanistan - and two great-grandchildren. His wife of more than 50 years, Dora (Dutch), died in 1996.

Here is a bunch of stuff I could not fit into the story due to the fact newspaper pages have limited, clearly defined dimensions:

On his famous memory for sports trivia:

"Stan Isaacs [of Newsday] said to me, 'What the hell is so great about having a good memory?' I said, 'I don’t know. I have no idea.' He said, 'All I have to do is look in my encyclopedia.' He said, 'I know you use a book.' I said, 'No, this is mine.' (He pointed to his head)

"I went to Yeshiva for high school. To be in Yeshiva and say your prayers as we did and use a [prayer book] you would have been laughed at. I never thought I had a good or bad memory. It never dawned on me until I came to New York [in 1964]."

On his moving to Buffalo after World War II:

"I had met a guy in Quadraline [in the South Pacific], Marty Glickman. I told him I remembered walking seven miles, because I wouldn’t ride on a Saturday, to see him in a high school football game. I said, 'I just started in radio as an announcer.' He said, 'When you come out come and see me.' So I did. He was nice and all. I just couldn’t connect.

"On Monday he called and said, 'Would you go to Buffalo?' I said, 'I’ll go anywhere to get a job. I’m married to a beautiful girl.' Trust me, I’m not bragging, she was beautiful. She wanted to know if I’d ever get a job.

"So I went up to Buffalo. Marty said, 'If you’re any good you’ll be back in a year.' One year, two years, three. I went there in 1948. I was there until 1964."

On writers accusing Derek Jeter of not being good copy:

"You know how the newspapers hate and love Jeter? I sit and I laugh. I met Jeter once. No introduction. I was walking through the dressing room and there he was. I said, 'Jeter! Hi!' I said, 'Class of ’41 at Michigan.' He said, 'Did you go to Michigan?' I said, 'I sure did.' He said, 'When were you there?'

"I said, 'I’ll tell you who I was there with and you’ll know.' I said, 'Tom Harmon and I were classmates.' He said, 'You and Harmon were classmates?'

"I read the papers and some of these guys hate [Jeter]. He won’t give you a good story. I say, what do you mean give you a story? You get a story. He doesn’t give it to you."

On Art Rust Jr., who died last year:

"Art Rust didn’t start doing that type of show until two years after I did. I don’t care what he wants to say."

On his first day at 30 Rock in 1964:

"All I remember is this: I grew up in New York City as a kid. I walked into NBC and here were all the announcers that I had listened to as a kid. It was like going into the Hall of Fame."

On what he told his first caller, who asked him who was better, Mays or Mantle:

"I said for me to make a judgment on that on my first day here isn’t quite fair because I hope you don’t tell anybody this: I’ve never seen the two of them play in person. After I’ve been here for a week ask me."

On his first impressions of Francesa and Russo at WFAN:

"I was working at the sports station and the program manager and I were pretty good friends and he said, 'What do you think of the two kids I have working together?' I said, 'They're OK.' As a matter of fact I listened to them one day and I thought Francesa was a high school basketball coach. Very knowledgeable.

"Now of course years later he has the aplomb. I watch him occasionally. He’s OK."

On his personal touch with callers:

"I got a call one day from a woman. She said, 'At dinner every day I’m like a maid they hired for the day. My son and my husband talk about sports and I’m not even in the room.' I said, 'That’s an easy thing to fix. At dinner at the appropriate moment you ask them whether they think the safety blitz St. Louis is going to run at the Giants is going to have an effect on them.'

"She said, 'What is that?' I said, 'What do you care? Just ask them.'"

On how Sports Extra started:

"I told WOR, let’s do a weekend sports show. At the same time I got a call from the program manager at Channel 5.

"He said, 'We're thinking of doing a weekend sports show.' I said, 'Geez, I just talked to WOR about it. They won’t do it.' He said, 'What do you think?' I said, 'I’m not impartial but I think it’s a winner.' That’s how that show began. I never realized it would have not only the numbers but the effectiveness."

On his first baseball game at Ebbets Field in 1928:

"My cousin Red from Canada was staying at our house. We were in the synagogue and he said, 'This is going to take all day, c’mon, I want to take you somewhere.' He took me to the baseball game, on Yom Kippur! I remember Dazzy Vance pitching."

On how he stays healthy:

"I walk like a 90-year-old man, but I believe in Tai Chi, breathing. Most of the time I’m sitting on my ass in my room watching television, which I swore I’d never do."

Tags: Amazin'

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