Last Thursday, Fox Sports issued a press release announcing the retirement of veteran play-by-play announcer Dick Stockton who spent 27 years there. Stockton grew up in Kew Gardens Hills and graduated from Forest Hills High School in 1960. He called contests for 55 years for NBC, CBS, Turner and Fox.
When I heard the news about Stockton, I thought of another celebrity who grew up in central Queens, the late comic Rodney Dangerfield. While it wouldn’t be right to say Stockton never got respect it is fair to say he never received the adulation he deserved.
Stockton did call one of the most famous moments in baseball history, Red Sox catcher Carlton Fisk’s 12th inning home run down the left field line in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. “If it stays fair,” was all Stockton said as the ball was sailing out of Fenway Park. Yet that call didn’t catapult his career the way Al Michaels’ career went into the stratosphere after he said, “Do you believe in miracles?” when the U.S. men’s hockey team shocked the Russians in 1980.
Although he could handle the broadcasting chores for any sport, Stockton was never the top announcer at any network, and that might account for why he has been overlooked when lists of the greatest announcers are compiled. He was CBS’s top NBA voice when playoff games were shown on tape delay at 11:30 p.m. in the early 1980s.
The use of catchphrases such as Brent Musburger’s “You are looking live!,” Marv Albert’s “Yes!,” and Jim Nantz’s “Hello friends!” was eschewed by Stockton. Unlike Kevin Harlan, Gus Johnson and recently retired Mike Emrick, who all needlessly convey excitement when it’s not warranted, Stockton was always economical with his words and even-keeled.
It was somewhat in keeping with Stockton’s low profile that his retirement was quickly obscured by reports of CBS Sports’ signature voice, Jim Nantz, agreeing to stay with the Tiffany Network for another decade. Nantz is a tremendous talent but that news was as shocking as learning it’s cold in North Dakota in January. It would only be right if Stockton, who never won an Emmy Award, were to receive a Lifetime Achievement one. The Sports Video Group, which curates the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame, should induct Stockton in its Class of 2021. He deserves these honors not just on account of a meritorious career but because he has served as a mentor to many, including fellow Forest Hills High alum Ian Eagle.
See the extended version of Sports Beat every week at qchron.com.
This is the last week for John Jastremski at WFAN. Jastremski, who was considered a rising star at the radio station, is leaving to join the sports website/media outlet The Ringer. Jastremski’s departure is not a good sign for the economics of terrestrial radio.
One of the interesting storylines of spring training is when veteran players sign minor league contracts in the hopes of being able to prolong their big league careers. Former Mets outfielder and first baseman Jay Bruce was able to accomplish that goal after signing a minor league deal with the Yankees. He played well last month in Tampa and the Yankees happily added him to their roster after it became clear their first baseman, Luke Voit, would miss two months of the season with a torn meniscus in his knee.
The Mets bullpen has been atrocious the last few seasons and so it wasn’t surprising team general manager Zack Scott would seek to bolster it by bringing in veterans on minor league deals. One such player was Tommy Hunter who was the best reliever in the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen last summer. Hunter pitched well for the Mets in Port St. Lucie but was told he would not be coming to Flushing and thus demanded his release last Thursday. I am perplexed as to why both the Mets organization and the media basically ignored his good work.
Life and style
The CW is rebooting the 1970s ABC series “Kung Fu.” It starts its run on Wednesday, at 8 p.m., April 7. Unlike the original, which took place in the 19th-Century Old West and starred the late David Carradine, this “Kung Fu” is set in contemporary San Francisco and features a mostly Asian-American cast with Olivia Liang playing the hero, Nicky Chen. As was the case with TV urban action series of yesteryear such as “Kojak” and “Mike Hammer,” there are as many humorous one-liners as there is physical action. This smart series couldn’t have come at a better time given that the well-documented violence which too many members of the Asian-American community have experienced over the past year.
Bayside native Jordan Belfort, who was portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the 2013 film “The Wolf of Wall Street” and served time in a federal penitentiary for insider trading, is working on a documentary on how passionate video game fans were able to drive up the price of GameStop stock when Wall Street big boys were shorting it. The documentary will air on Discovery’s new streaming service, Discovery+.