Flash turns 46 years old today. Before he joined the YES Network as an analyst for Yankee games and as a commentator on the Post Game shows, Flaherty was a big league catcher for fourteen seasons with five different teams. Born in the Big Apple, he ended that playing career in his hometown, with three seasons as Jorge Posada’s backup from 2003 until 2005. During lulls in the action, when he is in the booth for Yankee games, viewers often hear Michael Kay or Kenny Singleton tease Flaherty about the lucrative contract he signed with Tampa Bay, back in 1998. He pocketed about $12 million of Devil Ray money during his five season stay for catching about 90 games per year and averaging .252. He hit just .226 during his 134-game career in pinstripes but he’s doing a much better job for New York in his broadcasting role.
In 2011, Flaherty became an owner of a professional baseball team, when he founded the Rockland Boulders, a member of the unaffiliated Canadian-American League. The team is based in Rockland County, NY.
Like Flaherty, this Yankee was born in New York City and celebrates his birthday on this date. He did a bit better than John did while playing in New York and now has a plaque in Cooperstown. Also born on October 21st is this former Yankee pitcher who flirted with World Series history in 1947.
|TBD (5 yrs)||471||1802||1673||157||422||82||1||35||196||3||86||250||.252||.289||.365||.654|
|NYY (3 yrs)||134||389||359||37||81||22||0||12||41||0||15||70||.226||.261||.387||.648|
|DET (3 yrs)||193||594||546||59||130||35||1||15||67||1||27||83||.238||.277||.388||.665|
|BOS (2 yrs)||48||100||91||6||16||4||0||0||4||0||5||13||.176||.224||.220||.444|
|SDP (2 yrs)||201||755||703||60||200||33||1||18||87||6||42||98||.284||.324||.411||.736|
Can you imagine a rookie coming out of the Yankee farm system today and starting 31 regular-season games in right field, 22 in center, 41 at short and 38 more at third base? Then imagine this same 22-year-old kid is able to hit .297 despite all the switching from position to position, wins the Rookie of the Year Award and even hits .286 with two home runs in his very first World Series. I’ve just described Tony Kubek’s very impressive rookie season for the 1957 Yankees. It is no wonder that this native of Milwaukee, who was born on this date in 1935, became one of Casey Stengel’s favorite players. Stengel, after all, was Baseball’s master platooner. In Kubek, he had a very smart, extremely tough kid who had a shotgun for an arm and a very good bat. The only thing he couldn’t do was hit a lot of home runs. Since Stengel wanted outfielders who could hit with power, he gave up playing Tony in the outfield and decided to make him the Yankees’ next shortstop.
That’s where Kubek and Bobby Richardson became the best Yankee double-play combination in my lifetime until Robinson Cano was introduced to Derek Jeter. Kubek was a three-time All Star and played a total of nine seasons and seven World Series in a Yankee uniform before a bad back hastened his entry into the broadcast booth, where he became one of baseball’s all-time great television analysts. Kubek was the Ford C Frick Award recipient in 2009, putting him the Baseball Hall of Fame for his broadcasting ability.
Before Dewayne Staats became the first official television voice of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1998, he had served a four year spot as MSG-TV’s lead Yankee play-by-play announcer, teaming with the great Tony Kubek in the booth. The Missouri native got that job in 1990, in the middle of the Stump Merrill era and left after the strike-shortened 1994 season, right before the Yankees went on their impressive run of postseason play. He and Kubek were replaced by MSG with Dave Cohen and Jim Kaat.
Staats big league play-by-play career had started in 1977, when he got his first gig with the Houston Astros, his favorite boyhood team. After four years there, he did play-by-play for the Cubs for four more years before landing his Bronx Bomber assignment with MSG. The fact that Staats was behind the microphone during a time when the Yankees were struggling to win, limited his personal Yankee highlights reel. His most famous moment in the role was when he called Jim Abbott’s 1993 no-hit game, though in 2011, he did get to call Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit because it came against Tampa.
Compare a tape of a Kubek/Staats Yankee broadcast with one from today’s crew and you’ll feel like you’re comparing a silent movie with a talk-radio show. The former Yankee shortstop won his Ford C. Frick award for expert analysis and unlike Tim McCarver, Kubek’s goal was to provide it with as few words as possible. Ditto for Staats. In fact. a 1992 New York Times’ article comparing the Yankee and Met booth crews labeled Kubek and Staats the “Dragnet” team because they “gave just the facts” during a game, with a bare minimum of chattiness or cheerleading. Of course as bad as the early Yankee teams they covered were, there was not a whole lot to cheer about.
When Staats left the Yankees he joined ESPN for a couple years before getting hired by the Rays. Dave Cohen replaced Staats in the Yankee booth and Jim Kaat took over for Kubek, who retired at the same time. Staats shares his birthday with this Yankee pitcher, this Yankee pitcher and this Yankee coach.
In my humble opinion, Curt Gowdy had the greatest voice in sports broadcasting history. I realize he became famous during the fifteen seasons he spent as the voice of the Red Sox, but he got his start in the business as a Yankee radio announcer in 1949. where he worked for two years learning the craft from the master of them all, Mel Allen.
Before that, Gowdy had aspired to be a a fighter pilot during WWII but a herniated disc in his back aborted that plan. He went back to his native Cheyenne where he got a job as a sportswriter for the local newspaper and also started announcing high school football games. He was then hired by a radio station in Oklahoma City where he got to announce Oklahoma State basketball and University of Oklahoma football games. But it was Gowdy’s offseason job as a minor league baseball announcer that earned him a spot in a nationwide audition for a chance to work with Allen and the Yankees. He later told Curt Smith, author of a book called “Voices of the Game” that Mel Allen was the guy who helped him really learn how to announce a baseball game. He credits the Yankee broadcasting legend with teaching him “timing, organization and even how to do a commercial.” Gowdy said he thought he was a young hot shot in a baseball booth until he worked with Allen who made him appreciate how much hard work and effort was required to excel in that profession.
One thing Gowdy had that Allen didn’t need to teach him him was ambition. He could have remained Allen’s apprentice for a long time but he wanted to be a big league team’s featured voice so he jumped at the chance the Red Sox offered him in 1950 and remained in that job for the next decade and a half. Those of you old enough to remember Gowdy in his prime as the Peabody Award winning voice of many of the most memorable US sporting events that took place during the late sixties and seventies, know the rest of the story. He died in 2006 at the age of 86.
You can listen to Gowdy talk about his days in the Yankee radio booth in this treasure of an interview he did for the Archive of American Television in May of 2000.
The phrase “You either love him or you hate him” may just have been coined for today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. I love the guy. In fact, the one thing I regret about being able to watch every Yankee game in high def on a big screen is that I no longer listen to them on the radio unless I happen to be in the car when they’re playing. That means I don’t get to listen to John Sterling do his stuff, often enough.
I admit, he’s a lot more fun to listen to when the Yankees are winning but if I’m forced to “listen” instead of “watch” the Bronx Bombers play a game, I appreciate the fact that Sterling and his booth partner, Suzyn Waldman keep me entertained with their broadcast styles and idiosyncrasies.
Sterling is a native New Yorker (born July 4, 1938). He got his start as a game announcer in Baltimore, doing Bullets basketball and Colts football games. He came back to New York with WMCA, where he did Nets and Islander games and then migrated to Atlanta and commentated for the Hawks and Braves. He joined the Yankee radio booth in 1989 and has a Gehrig-like streak going of not missing a Yankee game during the past 23-plus seasons he’s been on the job.
What I find real hard to understand is the level of animosity that exists among Sterling haters and detractors. There are actually blogs and web sites devoted to criticizing and making fun of Sterling’s gaffes and calls. Some guy named Phil Mushnick who writes for the NY Post seems to have dedicated his column’s editorial mission to trying to convince whoever happens to read it that Sterling should be fired. Talk about a waste of newsprint!
As far as I’m concerned, baseball is and always will be a game. Games are supposed to be fun. Yankee games are one of the great joys in my life and Sterling’s great broadcasting voice, signature calls and his unique schtick make those games even more enjoyable. Many may roll their eyes and make believe they think its corny but I know the majority of Yankee fans absolutely love to hear Sterling shout, “Inning over. Ballgame over. The Yankees win! Thuuuuuuuuuuuuuh Yankees win!”
Yes, the same Russ Hodges who made the famous call of Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round the World,” was once the number 2 man in the Yankee broadcast booth behind Mel Allen. Back in the forties, the Yankees and the New York Giants did radio broadcasts of only their home games and since the two teams were never scheduled to play at home at the same time, the clubs shared announcers. In 1949, both teams started broadcasting road games as well and ended the practice of sharing play-by-play personalities. Allen stuck with the Yankees and Hodges the Giants, which is why on October 3, 1951, it was Hodges who was in the Polo Grounds radio booth screaming those famous words out over the air waves; “The Giants win the pennant” The Giants win the pennant!” Hodges remained the voice of the Giants for 21 years until his death in 1971. He was inducted into Cooperstown as the 1980 winner of the Ford Frick Award. Hodges was actually one of two eventual Frick Award winners to make the live call on Thomson’s historic blast. The other was the late, great Ernie Harwell who was doing the television play-by-play of that legendary game.
The only member of the Yankee all-time roster to be born on June 18th is this former reliever.
Somebody once said that if you ask Tim McCarver what time it is, he will respond by telling you how a watch works. The ex NL All Star catcher turned sportscaster/analyst certainly likes to talk and at times can be a bit numbing with his explanatory soliloquies, but I’ve always liked the guy. I should say “almost always” because I was not too fond of him 48 years ago in the top of the tenth inning in Game 5 of the 1964 World Series when his three-run home run off Pete Mikkelsen gave the Cardinals a 3 games to 2 lead in that Fall Classic.
This native of Memphis was only 17 years old when he caught in his first big league game in 1959 for the Cards. He nearly had signed with the Yankees instead. The great Yankee catcher, Bill Dickey had been following McCarver’s high school career closely and would visit the youngster’s home and woo his parents with a cooler filled with fresh catfish caught in nearby Arkansas. When it came signing time, Dickey offered McCarver a $68,000 bonus and the Cardinals offered him $75,000. McCarver later admitted the only reason he had not signed with New York was because the Yankees already had Yogi Berra and Elston Howard behind the plate and were also wooing Jake Gibbs.
During the next decade he was the rock behind the plate for those great St Louis teams that appeared in three World Series, winning two of them. He would end up spending 21 years as a big league catcher retiring in 1980 and then immediately joining NBC as a back-up color commentator on Game of the Week broadcasts. He quickly advanced up the broadcasting career ladder until he was recognized as the number one baseball analyst on television, winning three Emmy’s for his work in that capacity.
He joined the Yankee broadcasting booth in 1999 and covered the Bronx Bombers for the MSG Network through the 2001 season. He fell in love with Derek Jeter (though he once called him “Jerek Deter” on the air) and the Yankee teams he covered went to three straight World Series winning two of them.
This former Yankee reliever from the 1970s was also born on this date.