“It hurts,” Ron Darling said. “I can’t even tell you how much it hurts.”
But SNY’s announcers and producer tried nonetheless as Opening Day neared to put into words what life will be like without Bill Webb, who died at 70 on March 7 after nearly four decades directing Mets games.
Darling, Keith Hernandez, Gary Cohen and producer Gregg Picker recalled him not only as one of the most influential directors in baseball history, but as a personality as difficult to ignore as he will be to replace.
“It’s very weird; it’s very surreal,” said Picker, who worked beside Webb in the SNY production truck from the time the network premiered in 2006. “He was a gigantic presence. His personality was just so large.”
Said Hernandez: “He was a dominant personality in that truck.”
Dan Barr, who worked with Webb and directed many games as he battled cancer over the past two seasons, will succeed him and is widely respected. But Webb’s memory will loom large.
He was a memorable character in addition to an innovator best known for using quick cuts and tight close-ups to build anticipation.
Darling said one of the many things he wrote in remembrance of Webb to his family was that “the broadcast will never be the same again. I mean that. That doesn’t mean that it’s not going to be as good or better. It just means Webby had such a big stamp on this broadcast from everything that we did that things are definitely going to change.”
That being said, Webb worked with so many on the production team that, as Darling put it, “in a strange way Webby is immortal as far as his great talent is concerned.”
Said Hernandez” “I’ll miss his wisecracks in the middle of broadcasts, his little one-liners jabbing at us.”
Webb worked in a variety roles in his career, among them as Fox’s lead director for national games, including the World Series. But he was associated more than anything else with the Mets.
“It’s already been completely different getting to spring training, not seeing him by the truck and holding court,” Cohen said. “Bill’s stature towers over everybody else in sports broadcasting, not just the work he did for us but the way he revolutionized the way the game is shot.
“That plus the fact that he was such a dominant personality, so fiercely loyal and so demanding and so unique, it’s an enormous void that no one will ever be able to fill.”
Picker said the two had developed a chemistry that often enabled them to communicate in the truck without so much as exchanging a word.
“There was a great personal connection, and we had a lot of fun,” Pickers said. “So I will really miss that.”
Darling marveled at Webb’s tough-love approach, in which he “could rip you apart, but he could also put you together . . . I just think life as we knew it as a traveling band of gypsies has changed, and it’s sad. It was way too early.”