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Youth baseball taught Mario Cuomo

Former Governor Mario Cuomo hosted a weekly syndicated

Former Governor Mario Cuomo hosted a weekly syndicated radio talk show program. The show was produced by the SW Network based in midtown Manhattan. Photo Credit: New York Newsday / Melina A. Mara

It's not every day the Governor of New York calls a 26-year-old high school sports reporter at a satellite office in Kew Gardens, Queens . . . and leaves a message on the answering machine.

But so it was in the summer of 1987, when I left for lunch and returned to discover Mario Cuomo was looking for me. So I called back and, sure enough, he answered himself.

The reason Cuomo, who died Thursday, was eager to chat was that the subject was baseball in general and in particular Joe Austin, his old youth coach in Jamaica, Queens, who then was 83 and still on the (unpaid) job. (He died in 1998.)

Cuomo called Austin "the most important man in my life other than my father."

"His whole life with us was a series of homilies," Cuomo said. "He taught us how stupid discrimination was. We had blacks on our team. He didn't care what your last name was.

"Now I give these long speeches about the politics of inclusion. Well, he taught us about that before we knew what politics were."

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