Waking up every day to do something that has inspired you since you were a child is not something many people can say about their lives. Howie Rose, the Islanders and Mets play-by-play voice, is one of the lucky few.
In the summer of 1961, Rose fell in love with baseball. Just a few miles from his childhood home in the Bronx stood Yankee Stadium. Though, Rose was not a casual or periodic visitor to the historic ballpark. His father and extended family were huge Yankee fans that spent countless summer afternoons and evenings rallying around their favorite team.
“I just fell in love with everything about baseball, from the look of the field to the smell of the ballpark to the crispness of the uniforms,” Rose said. Much to his father’s ado, Rose explained, “The next year, when the Mets came into existence, here I am at the age of eight with my narcissistic way of thinking the Mets were created just for me… I became a die-hard Mets fan from literally the very first game they ever played.”
|Howie Rose sitting in the booth at Citi Field prior to a Mets game in the summer of 2011. |
Rose was infatuated with baseball throughout his youth, but it wasn’t until he turned 12 that Rose took an interest in hockey. He became a fan of the New York Rangers in 1967, as they were a Stanley Cup contender for the first time in five years. In that one season, Rose not only fell in love with hockey, but with the voice that brought it all to life on the radio: legendary play-by-play sportscaster Marv Albert.
That summer, Rose unknowingly made a decision that jumpstarted his career - he and his friends started a fan club for Albert.
“I literally called the radio station, with my high-pitched adolescent voice and said to the switchboard operator, ‘Is there maybe some way that I could speak to Marv Albert?’” Rose said. “The next thing I hear, bing bang boom, ‘Hello,’ and it’s Marv on the other end… He was very receptive to the idea in a very gracious, understated way.”
Closing out his eighth-grade year, Rose established his sportscasting dream upon filling out a high school questionnaire.
“One of the questions was, ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’” Rose said. “So I thought to myself, ‘Let’s get it in writing right now. I want to be a sportscaster.’ And frankly, from that moment on, because I had declared it in print, I committed every waking minute to pursuing that goal.”
Rose and Albert’s relationship grew beyond the scope of fandom. Albert became a true mentor for the aspiring sportscaster, whose earliest pursuit of broadcasting focused solely on hockey. At the age of 16, Rose sat in his seats at Madison Square Garden, where he held season tickets, and spoke into his recorder throughout the entire game. Afterwards, he sent his tapes to Albert, who listened and critiqued his work.
(Marv Albert) was a tremendous mentor. He has been in every sense of the word. What’s really important for a mentor and really for the benefit of the person he’s mentoring is to be honest. Marv’s critiques were very detailed and very specific. He was always encouraging. - Howie Rose
“(Marv Albert) was a tremendous mentor,” Rose said. “He has been in every sense of the word. What’s really important for a mentor and really for the benefit of the person he’s mentoring is to be honest. Marv’s critiques were very detailed and very specific. He was always encouraging. He felt that I had enough raw ability to pursue this, but he would listen to my tapes and make very cogent and pointed observations about what I was doing well and what I could do better.”
Rose continued to pursue his dream well into college, beginning his freshman year at Queens College (1972-73) as a fully credentialed member of the media for the newest expansion team in the National Hockey League, the Islanders.
“I worked the entire game, doing the game into my tape recorder, going downstairs and doing the interviews,” Rose said. “I got to know the players and I got to know the coaches and I really felt a closeness to the franchise, to become the TV play-by-play voice would be a very proud accomplishment.”
But he still had more than 20 years before that would be the case.
He went on to become the sports director and program director at Queens College’s radio station before inking his first entry-level position in the broadcasting world in 1975, working for Albert’s statistician, “The Bullet” Bob Meyer, at SportsPhone.
Two years later, Rose began working for WHN Radio, writing copy for the on-air talent. Just a few months elapsed before Rose was promoted to the morning sports anchor with his very own show.
The career he imagined was just beginning.
Rose would go on to fill in for his mentor, doing play-by-play for the Rangers during the 1984-85 season. In 1987, Rose began a talk show on WFAN. He then added the Mets pre- and postgame shows as well as some Mets play-by-play to his workload.
In the 10 years that followed, Rose truly cut his teeth in the industry, culminating in the Rangers 1994 Stanley Cup victory.
“The night the Rangers won the Cup was the confluence of a half-dozen different dreams,” Rose said. “As a kid I dreamed of broadcasting in the NHL and I dreamed of the Rangers winning the Cup and I dreamed of the Rangers winning the Cup in the Garden and I dreamed that I’d be a broadcaster for the Rangers some day and I dreamed that maybe I’d actually be doing the game when they won the Cup. All of those dreams were realized that night.”
One year later, Rose would be asked to become the Sportschannel television play-by-play voice of the Islanders, an opportunity he couldn’t resist.
“When the opportunity to do the Islanders came along, I said, ‘Oh my God, how lucky can you get?’ ” Rose said. “I’m a Long Islander. I live 20 minutes from the Coliseum tops and the thought of being the Islanders play-by-play man was beyond my wildest imagination because even though I had been so largely identified with the Rangers as a broadcaster, a season ticket holder and a fan, I always tell people it’s not my fault I was born before and fell in love with the game before the Islanders came along.”
Later that winter, Rose was asked to join the Mets as their full-time television play-by-play announcer for Sportschannel, which paired with the Islanders gig, had him working and traveling year-round.
While he loves both jobs equally, Rose said his positions with the Islanders and the Mets couldn’t be more different.
“Nothing is like radio because you have a blank canvas and you just paint away,” Rose said. “I have to navigate the listener through all the nuances of the game and describe, describe, describe. You are taking a blank canvas in the listener’s mind and describing a vivid, detailed picture.”
Rose added, “Television is a completely different animal, a totally polar opposite… I love the independence of saying whatever I want on the radio or presenting the game however I choose to. On television, I enjoy being part of an ensemble. It’s very satisfying to have a great telecast and know that everybody has a role in it.”
Jim Dadonna, Rose’s producer for all Islanders games broadcast on MSG, said that he is a crucial piece of their broadcast, but that his passion and love for the game come across in all that he does.
“He’s just so good at what he does,” Dadonna said. “He has fun and he likes to have a good time, but he’s very professional when it comes to doing his job. He’s always prepared. He knows all there is to know about the Islanders, but he also knows everything there is to know about the opposing team.”
Working with Rose, helps Dadonna feel completely confident heading in to each night’s broadcast.
“As a producer, Howie is very easy to work with in the sense that anything you throw at him, he can just run with,” Dadonna said. “Some play-by-play guys need things more scripted or need to know what’s going to happen. We do that in our shows as well, but if something happens at the last minute, there’s a change or something doesn’t go exactly as planned, it doesn’t phase him one bit. He can just run with it. He can take any situation and make it sound like gold.”
Fifty years after his first taste of baseball and realizing his love for sports, Rose is still as inspired as he’s ever been.
“I’m quite introspective by nature, so I’m very respectful of the process,” Rose said. “I’m very respectful of where my roots were, being that seven-year-old wide-eyed kid who was as interested in what the announcers were saying and what the players were doing and how difficult it is to get to this level.”
He added, “I’m very proud of what I do. I love what I do to pieces. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else… but what drives me is the deep, deep appreciation that I have for broadcasting and how difficult it is to achieve what I’ve achieved.”
A legend in the making…
Every morning, Rose wakes up having achieved that seven-year-old’s dream. Talk about inspiring.