Howie Rose 'invigorated' by Mets' move from WFAN to WOR

Mets radio broadcaster Howie Rose will make the Mets radio broadcaster Howie Rose will make the move with the team from WFAN to WOR. Photo Credit: Book Revue

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Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept.

Put it in the books: Howie Rose will be back calling Mets games on radio this season, moving with the team from WFAN to WOR.

That fact, made official Thursday after months of speculation, should give comfort to fans discombobulated since last fall by word that the Mets would be leaving their radio home since 1987 -- to be replaced by the Yankees, of all people.

So should the fact that Rose himself on Monday sought to downplay the momentousness of the switch, to talk up the plans Clear Channel Media and Entertainment has for its new property and to put it all in historical perspective.

Rose recalled listening to the Mets on WABC in 1962 and '63, "Then somebody told me, 'Well, now you've got to go from 770 to 1050 .' So I expended all of that energy and risked carpal tunnel by twisting the dial all the way to the right, and somehow landed in the right spot."

In other words: chillax. "This in and of itself is nothing earth-shattering or groundbreaking," he said.

To illustrate the point, Rose correctly listed all eight call-letter changes in Mets history off the top of his head and noted that most of those times, the announcers moved with the team, as he will do with partner Josh Lewin.

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And as John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman will do with the Yankees to WFAN, a decision announced Friday.

Still, Rose appreciates and understands that this particular change has hit a nerve for many Mets fans, given that an entire generation has grown up with them on the FAN.

"The thing I was blown away by is how connected they seem to have been to that little jingle at the end of each half-inning," he said, referring to the familiar "Let's go Mets, F-A-N!"

Rose said the excitement surrounding the teams of the late 1980s made for a symbiotic relationship with the FAN.

"The success of the radio station was umbilically connected to the Mets," he said. "I'm not sure FAN would have succeeded the way it did if the Mets had not been as good as they were."

Yet the Mets never did win a World Series on WFAN. As Rose noted, they were on country music stations -- WJRZ in 1969 and WHN in 1986 -- both times they did win.

Country music is not represented among Clear Channel's five FM stations in New York, but those channels do offer a broad, diverse demographic reach, one the company intends to leverage to promote and market its Mets coverage.

Rose called the plans "invigorating. It's really, really exciting. I can't wait to get going, because these people are so anxious to put their stamp on it."

It helps that WOR itself is an "iconic" station, as Rose described it, with a 50,000-watt signal and a history that dates to the early 1920s.

But it will take getting used to to hear him on a channel other than WFAN, where he worked in some capacity from Day One after making the transition from WHN in '87.

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That history, as well as his bona fides as a Mets fan, have endeared him to most listeners, who immediately made it clear via social media that they demanded he make the move to WOR.

"It's obviously very heartwarming and very flattering," he said of the fans' support. "It's nice to know I've made a connection over all these years. I think Mets fans know that given my background, we're rather kindred spirits."

Rose is believed to have signed a longer-term deal than Lewin, but the bottom line is that despite the seismic shift in New York baseball radio this season, all four booth announcers will be back.

"John's been doing the Yankees longer than I've been doing the Mets full-time," Rose said. "I just laugh when people get all over John , because here he is 20-some years of doing what he's doing and somebody's got to like it, right? In some cases, it's a familiarity thing, but I'd like to think as a professional they appreciate the work, never mind the comfort level of the same voices."

Rose turned 60 last week but has shown no signs of slowing down, what with calling both the Mets on radio and Islanders games for MSG Plus.

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"Right now, I feel like I can go on forever," he said. "It would be presumptuous of me to think that's my call. I'm just the hired help. But I have every intention of working until I can no longer physically do it or until such time that it's evident that maybe I can't hit the fastball anymore."

For the time being, establishing a new tradition a short ride up the dial should keep him busy.

"I know I'm going to work my [expletive] off to create an identification between the Mets and WOR," Rose said.

Some of that will come in the form of new programming and marketing. But he stressed, "The quickest way to that level of success is the team winning. Let's hope that happens in short order."

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