(image courtesy No Mas)
Earlier today when the deadline-dealing New York Mets finally managed to land the big bat that eluded them Wednesday night, chances are you learned about the transaction via any number of platforms that were either available in 1975. Back in the bad old days, of course, persons like myself were often found blowing off family functions, shitty dates or Freedy Johnson record release parties to pump quarter after quarter into a disease-bearing payphone in the hopes of learning whether or not Terry Blocker was ever gonna get up off the ground.
(OK, I never actually attended a Freedy Johnson record release party. But I’m sure someone did and cut out of the room at the first available opportunity.)
On Friday, Newsday’s Neil Best interviewed a number of Sports Phone fixtures, amongst them Mets radio voice Howie Rose (“For me it was like anchoring the ‘CBS Evening News’…when you’re 21 and want more than anything to be on the air and someone says, ‘I heard you,’ that is the same sort of tonic a comedian must get when he gets on stage and hears a roar”), Devils announcer Steve Cangialosi (“I was a 20-year-old kid, and I probably knew more about Biff Pocoroba than any man should,”), and most awkwardly, Mr. Center Stage himself, Michael Kay :
The service was big business, but for the young (mostly) men in the offices, there was plenty of time for fun, too. P.J. Clarke’s was downstairs. So was Michael’s Pub, where Woody Allen appeared regularly on the clarinet. Runyon’s was nearby, too.Ken Samelson, a longtime staffer who later helped edit the Baseball Encyclopedia, recalled colleague Bob Grochowski — a/k/a Bobby G — dumping a bottle of Champagne on him during a raucous night at P.J. Clarke’s after the Mets won the ’86 World Series.
“Fordham didn’t have frats, so as close as we got to a frat is we’d go to Sports Phone and watch games and watch other things that maybe were unmentionable when you were waiting for the West Coast games to end,” John Giannone said.
Kay, 54, recalled once bringing sisters to the office on a double date with Giannone. “We made out with them at Sports Phone at like one in the morning,” he said. “We had the codes to get in. We didn’t have apartments or anything, so that’s what we did.”
Charlie DeNatale recalled Kay as a novice whom the veterans would send out for coffee. “Nobody wanted to put him on the air because he had a really awkward sounding voice,” DeNatale said.