Out of Left Field
The Passing of A
Marty Glickman "Absolutely the greatest announcer ever heard."
...Jack Kerouac in 'On the Road'
By STAN ISAACS
If you grew up a sports fan in New York after World War II, Marty Glickman was a part of your life. When Glickman died last week at 83, it woke up the echoes of Glickman on the radio for 55 years.
Glickman announced college basketball in the heyday of college basketball in New York before the sport swept the country. He invented the geography of basketball, focusing on the ball as it moved from man to man.
People recalled listening to Glickman and his trademark phrase of "swish" for a basketball shot that went in without touching the rim or the backboard. His "Good like Nedicks" call for a basket which referred to an early sponsor, a purveyor of orange juice and hot dogs, was echoed by kids on playgrounds all over the city. "Swish" and "Good like Nedicks" were for an earlier generation what Glickman's protégé Marv Albert's "Yes' on television was for succeeding generations.
Glickman went on to become the radio voice of the Knicks for 21 years, the football Giants for 23 years, Yonkers Raceway for 12 years and the Jets for 11 years until he retired from regular work in December 1992. He once estimated he broadcast more than 1,000 football games, 3,000 basketball games, 2,100 track meets, 15,000 harness races, and 2,000 baseball recreations. He may have done every sport but auto racing.
He made a point of saying he also did four marbles championships. He did so because he never forgot where he came from. His career stemmed from his days as a high school football star at Madison High School in Brooklyn and he was always a big booster of schoolboy sports. Even when he was working Knicks games he called high school football games on television. And upon his death his family asked that any contributions in his name be made to the PSAL (Public School Athletic League of New York).
The New York papers were full of reminiscences of Glickman last week because he was a classy gent whom just about everybody liked. He was respected for his work and for being a nice man.
Glickman did Giants football games in the era when pro football games were blacked out on television in the home city. So it was to Glickman on radio that fans tuned to for Giants games when pro football burst into prominence in the country. Many fans who traveled outside of the city to pick up Giants telecasts from out-of-town stations would turn down the TV sound so they could hear Glickman's descriptions on radio.
Glickman was a radio guy. His friends came to lament that television later would so dominate the landscape that Glickman became a lesser eminence than some of the popinjays of the tube who didn't have the talent or the breadth of the old master.
His signature call in football came on a field goal when he would say, "High enough, deep enough, it's good." His wife Marge, a former George White's Scandals dancer, once pointed out to him that the "high enough, deep enough, it's gooooood," call was "pretty sexy." The Glickmans were married for 60 years. He said "I was away so much that when we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary, she said, "This should be our 25th."
Glickman helped a legion of broadcasters, including Marv Albert, Bob Costas, Dick Stockton and Len Berman, who followed him at Syracuse. He became a voice coach to announcers at NBC, HBO and the Madison Square Garden Network. He prized accuracy and freedom from cliches. He spoke in crisp, authoritative tones with a voice that Bill Wallace said in the New York Times "had the clarity of a bell and the authority of a bank."
Glickman starred in football at Syracuse as the fastest running back in the country. Before his sophomore year he earned a place on the 4 by 100 relay team for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. The day before the relay, however, the blustery assistant coach, Dean Cromwell from the University of Southern California, dropped Glickman and Sam Stoller, the only Jews on the U.S. track squad, with a trumped-up explanation that he heard the Germans were saving their best sprinters for the relay.
Glickman, 18, objected. He pointed out that the best German finish in the 100-meter sprint had been fifth so there was no reason to be afraid of the Germans in the sprint relay. Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalfe replaced Glickman and Stoller. The Americans won so easily, there was no doubt they could have won just as well with Glickman and Stoller.
Cromwell kept two of his USC runners, Frank Wyckoff and Foy Draper, on the squad. Glickman came to believe that anti-semitism influenced Crowmell, who was known to utter anti-semitic remarks, and joined the America First Committee sympathetic to Germany. Glickman felt that U.S. Olympic head Avery Brundage, who discounted any claims of anti-semitism, may have influenced the decision, so Adolph Hitler would not be embarassed by seeing two Jews accepting gold medals on the relay victory stand. Wyckoff agreed that anti-semitism played a part in the decision to displace the Jews.
I collaborated with Glickman on his autobiography, "The Fastest Kid on the Block" which is available from Syracuse University Press. Sometimes he would come out to my house and before our recording sessions, he, ever the athlete, would swim 40 laps in my small pool.
He told me that his father was the fastest runner in his school in Iasi, Romania. His father loved to tell the story of how he beat the mayor's son in a race for boys. His father said, "I won the race, but the medal .they gave it to the mayor's son."
And Marty Glickman said, "My father and I, we didn't get our medals."
In later years Glickman would say, "There's an irony here. If I had run and won the medal with three other guys, I'd have been just another runner who had won a relay medal. How many Olympic 4 by 100 relay runners can anybody name? But every four years or so before the Olympics the 1936 incident is brought up and my name has been a part--however negative--of the Olympics.
"The truth is, of course, that I would much rather have run," Glickman said. "I'd much rather have the gold medal to show my grandchildren. I am, though, more than satisfied that my place in sports history, however minor, rests on my work as a sports broadcaster."
An exclamation point to that is this passage in Jack Kerouac's cult novel, "On the Road," in which Kerouac is listening to a basketball game on the radio. He wrote, "Man, have you dug that mad Marty Glickman announcing a basketball game-up-to-midcourt-bounce-fake-set-shot, swish, two points. Absolutely the greatest announcer ever heard."
© 2001 by Stan Isaacs. Photo of Marty Glickman from americansportscasters.com
You can buy a copy of "The Fastest Kid on the Block: The Marty Glickman Story," written by Glickman with our columnist, Stan Isaacs, through Amazon.com, the online bookseller. Hardcover: $34.95; Soft cover: $17.95.
You can comment on this column or contact Stan Isaacs with an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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