Rarely in the six-year history of SportsWatch has a column generated as much response from readers as my visit with Bill Mazer last week.
People my age and younger mostly remember Mazer for his work on Channel 5, both as a sports anchor on the nightly news and as co-host of "Sports Extra."
But many readers in their 60s clearly and fondly recalled the pioneering sports talk show he hosted beginning on March 30, 1964.
Interestingly, it appears the majority of his callers were teenagers. Older radio listeners probably thought the notion of putting live phone calls on the air was a little scary - and nutty.
One of many readers to email stories about Mazer was Marty Lieberman of Plainview. Here's what he wrote (shared with his permission):
The absolute last person I expected to read about when I opened my Newsday this morning was Bill Mazer.
In 1964, I was 16 years old. Every afternoon after school, my next door neighbor and friend would call Bill to chat about sports. As I recall, just about every day. My friend called more than I and came to call himself on the phone, the "high school ball player." We lived in the Bronx and he played basketball for Bronx Science. Not a basketball factory but...:)
One day, on the phone, Bill invited us to come down to see him after a show at "30 Rock". Dutifully, we trudged downtown (not so easy taking a bus and subway) and waited in the massive lobby by a special elevator. Bill soon joined us and bought us Cokes in the coffee shop in the lobby. I have no idea what we spoke about but I clearly remember sitting there with our Cokes. For a time, it was an "adolescent highlight."
Later came Art Rust Jr, Steve Malzberg, Pete Franklin, etc. But in 1964, it was Bill Mazer. And he spent many years on the air (Channel 5), as you know.
Not many know of his origins in NY. I'm guessing even you're too young :) to remember his start on the radio. He was literally a pioneer in the sports talk genre. I was very surprised (and glad) he is "still with us" although honestly I didn't recognize his picture. After all, he is 90! And his trademark "toupee" has been abandoned.
Marty Lieberman, Plainview, NY