Morris 'Bill' Mazer (1920-2013)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Morris 'Bill' Mazer (1920-2013)

Bill Mazer from his days on WKBW in Buffalo, circa 1954

I am diminished.

One of the most listenable "sports talk" radio personalities I've ever had to pleasure of tuning into, passed away today at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut, ten days shy of his 93rd birthday.

Bill Mazer was, in fact, "the father of New York sports talk radio," in 1964 launching a "late drive" call-in show over WNBC (660 am, now WFAN) that single-handedly moved me off AM Rock 'n' Roll1 and kept my car radio dial on the same station for the past 48 years.

And if I was at a friend's place in Manhattan listening to his program, I'd try like crazy to call him... never to correct him, but to add something to a subject on which he was discoursing.

To my eternal frustration, I was never able to get through to Mazer!

It wasn't 'til he moved to WNYW (née WNEW-TV) when news anchor Johnny Roland... who'd earlier nicknamed him "The Amazin'" for his encyclopedic recall of sports arcana... tried to stump him with a question that I'd submitted, that I ever got close.

(Roland botched the form of the question and had to give him the answer, so I can't claim to have actually "Stumped The Amazin'!")

It's difficult to find a "sports talk" host today... Dan Patrick might come close... with the ineffable sunny disposition and patience with his callers2 as that of Bill Maser.

He was endlessly entertaining and I shall continue to miss3 his delightful presence on the airwaves and the way he signed off every program:

"Good night my friends, it's been a pleasure."

No, Bill, the pleasure was all ours!

Notes
  1. Genuine Rock 'n' Roll had migrated to FM by that time, and I didn't own a car radio with that capability 'til the late '70s.
  2. Compared, say, to the insufferably ego-centric and boorish Mike Francesca.
  3. Mazer retired for good in August 2009.

Comments

1. John Roland said...

Sorry I botched the question Dean. But hey, not to many people can say they stumped Bill. He truly was Amazin'. It was an honor to sit by his side for 20 years. He always told me he wanted to "die behind a microphone." He came close.

Words to remember, John: "Thou shall not sight read anything of Speir's longer than four words!"

Like to know what that hump Raissman had against him.
Dean

2. Gordie Howe said...

Hi Dean---

I actually stumped him in my youth – my brother suffered the same experience as you – Johnny Roland botched the question.

Mazer was amazing!

Will be missed.

Regards,
#9

John must've been good at other things....
Dean

3. Marty said...

Mazer was a gentleman, respectful of all his callers, even youngsters. His knowledge of sports was incredible. I remember when the Knicks drafted a point guard out of Southern Illinois by the name of Walt Frazier. Mazer declared that the Knicks would be a 30% better team with Frazier bringing up the ball. The rest is history. I also recall a competitive radio show with Art Rust, Jr. but his personality was somewhat abrasive. I also read in today's Newsday that Mazer's first radio job was in Buffalo, a job Marty Glickman helped him get.

That Buffalo station was WKBW, a 50,000 watt clear channel station that, once you got away from the lesser powered NYC station, you could listen to it all the way down the Atlantic Coast, particularly "the Sound of the Hound," the great George Lorenz.

Mazer always acknowledged Glickman for his help.
Dean

4. John Roland said...

OK, so I screwed up twice in my forty year career in broadcasting. So sue me.

Now, now John... don't go all Tony Randall on us.
Dean

5. John Roland said...

I wish it had been only twice!

Miss you Dean, as well as my favorite village in the world. Thank Goodness for your blog.

You're too kind... you can always come back and visit, doncha know?!
Dean

6. Bruce Tria said...

Bill Mazer was great. Interestingly enough, you never read about his time on WOR, New York when his nightly program originated at the Steer Palace in NYC. It was there that I first heard that friendly sounding, smooth as glass personality. Broadcasting students should listen to his old airchecks and learn how radio should sound.

That is a bit of esoteria! Don't recall that at all.

I do, however, remember his daily strip show, "Reach for the Stars," from Merv Griffin Productions on daytime NBC for 13 weeks in 1967. The game show format were not a good match for "the Amazin'," as Vin Scully himself discovered two years later.
Dean

7. Hampton West said...

I heard of his passing on the radio, missed the obit.

Did he do a Sunday night show called "Sports Extra?" Recall he was doing weekly TV hockey games, CBS?

Absolutely! Mazer and Lee Leonard, who'd been with Mazer on NBC in the mid-'60s when it went to a "talk format," started "Sports Extra" on then WNEW, Channel 5... it is thought to be the first sports wrap-up show on television.

And yes, he did hockey for CBS as well.
Dean

8. Bruce Tria said...

Ah, Vin Scully, the best play-by-play announcer doing baseball. Maybe John Sterling should listen to his airchecks to see how it's done. And I say that as a Yankee fan.

I cannot, will not, listen to someone like Sterling or Ken Harrelson
Dean

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