Longtime radio sports announcer Howie Rose, who is the current Mets play-by-play man for WCBS 880-AM, makes the call to do some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.
Q: What are your thoughts on the 60-game MLB season?
A: It will be with the most trepidation I’ve ever approached an Opening Day, to be sure. When we get to there, when I’m sitting in the booth — even if there’s no one in the stands, but I can look out on a beautiful green baseball field and see players and see the Mets and know that it counts — my adrenaline’s gonna go sky high, it’ll be through the roof. I’m just going to take the leap of faith that the measures that they take and the protocols that are in place will enable us to get to the finish line of this season without too many speed bumps. But there certainly figure to be some, and I hope they don’t have any tragic consequences.
Q: Describe this Mets team.
A: With a DH in the National League, they’ve got a really deep lineup. The bullpen has a lot of questions, and if you answer a few of them in the affirmative, you’ve got a pretty good back end there. If they can figure things out without Noah Syndergaard, then I like their chances to go a long way.
Q: What do you think of Pete Alonso?
A: I’m amazed how someone that young and that inexperienced at the major league level can be so attuned to the sensibilities of being a prominent athlete in New York. … Social media being what it is now provides the opportunity for players to reach out and become part of the community in ways that they never were able to before, and Pete has mastered that. He is the face of the franchise — along with Jacob deGrom. But I think what Pete Alonso has done is unprecedented, maybe in New York history for a young player.
Q: Yoenis Cespedes?
A: If all he’s got to do is swing the bat, let’s face it, he’s motivated to get a contract for next year. Can he turn it on going from first to third without breaking down again? That remains to be seen.
Q: Can Jeff McNeil win a batting title?
A: He absolutely can.
Q: How often are you reminded about your “Matteau, Matteau, Matteau!” call in Game 7 of the Rangers’ 1994 conference finals victory over the Devils?
A: I would say, when people recognize me, 25-35 percent of the time that will come up.
Q: How do you feel about that?
A: Incredibly flattered. You always, I think, in a private moment, would admit that you’d like to leave an imprint in whatever endeavor you pursue professionally, and if that’s mine, I’m pretty proud of it.
Q: What was your reaction when Sal Messina wondered on air whether it might have been Esa Tikkanen’s goal?
A: I literally was afraid that it was gonna be Tikkanen’s goal. So I was relieved when they called it Matteau’s. But then when I heard the call back on the postgame show, I had never heard myself that out of control. And when I walked out of the Garden that night, I was a little disappointed. I said, “Man, this is a once-in-a-lifetime moment, and I think I sounded like a hyena.” I feel a lot better about it now than I did that night.
Q: Describe the night you were on the ice when Mark Messier lofted the 1994 Stanley Cup.
A: I was fighting back tears. That night was the culmination of 28 years of being a Ranger fan and then becoming a broadcaster and hoping they’d win the Cup, and hoping I could be a Ranger broadcaster some day. … I called what proved to be the Stanley Cup-winning goal. You know about that sign “Now I Can Die in Peace.” Well, I understand it.
Q: What were your emotions when the ’69 Mets won the World Series?
A: As a person who considers himself reasonably articulate, virtually indescribable. It was a gift. It was beyond anything I’d imagine happening that soon. It was the greatest ride I’ve ever been on.
Q: What were your emotions when the 1986 Mets won it all?
A: ’86 was a relief. ’69 was pure unadulterated joy. There’s no better age to be when your team wins it all than 15. You could put school on a shelf for a couple of weeks and hopefully get back on track. … Your pursuit of the opposite sex, if so inclined, is not as fervent necessarily or as well-developed as it would be when you’re a little older.
Q: What was it like watching Mookie Wilson’s roller through Bill Buckner’s legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series?
A: I was in the auxiliary press area down the right field line. I was at CBS Radio. They would roll tape back in the newsroom, and I would just be on the phone letting ’em know what was going on until the game ended, and then I would go 3-2-1, do a 30-second voicer and head downstairs and do all the interviews. … I wished they would have saved that thing ’cause I don’t know, I mighta yelled “Holy s–t, I can’t f—–g believe what just f—–g happened!”
Q: Describe the Mike Piazza post-9/11 home run.
A: A few moments after the home run, I think I was able to put in perspective in somewhat prescient fashion that this was gonna endure in Mets or New York baseball history for a long time. And I’m kind of proud of that, because you don’t always recognize those things in the moment.
Q: What did you think of Roger Clemens throwing the sawed-off bat toward Piazza in Game 2 of the 2000 World Series.
A: Utterly bizarre. He thought it was the ball? I had better excuses to teachers when I didn’t do my homework.
Q: Describe Fred and Jeff Wilpon.
A: When I met Fred Wilpon in 1980, I told him that my goal was to someday broadcast for the New York Mets. He and his family allowed that dream to come true and I am forever indebted.
Q: What do you think of Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez as potential Mets owners?
A: Intriguing. I have a feeling that if that ever happens, things will rarely be dull in Metsville. If they do buy the team, do I have to adjust my favorite actress and entertainer answers?
Q: Tom Seaver?
A: As a player, he taught me how to comport oneself on the field, regardless of the situation. As a broadcast partner of mine he once called a balk before the umpire did! Pretty astute. I was privileged to spend a few hours at his vineyard a few years ago and it was unforgettable. I think of him constantly and my thoughts are with Tom [who has dementia], Nancy and their family.
Q: Does Gil Hodges belong in the Hall of Fame?
A: More than anything, he represents everything good about the game of baseball. A true role model. His omission from the Hall of Fame is a significant oversight, which needs to be corrected.
Q: Describe the young Dwight Gooden.
A: I thought we’d uncovered the greatest pitching gem that had ever been found.
Q: The young Darryl Strawberry.
A: Prodigious. Everything he did was big. He was Reggie [Jackson] after Reggie. Not as braggadocio as Reggie, but he was the same kind of lightning rod.
Q: The rise and fall of Matt Harvey.
A: Mercurial and sad.
Q: How nerve-wracking was calling the ninth inning of Johan Santana’s 2012 no-hitter, the first in Mets history?
A: Extremely. My broadcast parter than night was Jim Duquette, working his first game on the air! He never said a word in the ninth inning. As tense as it was, Johan quickly recorded the first two outs, which helped. The last at bat by David Freese felt like it took about an hour-and-a-half.
Q: Describe the Mets winning the 2015 pennant.
A: The most emotional call I have ever made. When those words, “The Mets win the pennant!” came out of my mouth, I found myself in a vicious battle to maintain my composure. After about 30 seconds, you can actually hear my voice crack just a bit. Those were words I literally dreamt of saying as a Mets broadcaster when I was a kid.
Q: Bobby Valentine, and his dugout mustache.
A: Always a step ahead, an inning ahead, or an at-bat ahead. As far as the mustache, one of the most entertaining things I’ve ever seen at a sporting event. I give him all the credit in the world for having the guts to do it.
Q: Bobby Bonilla.
A: Rich man.
Q: What was it like watching Carlos Beltran taking strike three in Game 7 to end the 2006 NLCS against the Cardinals?
A: Bitterly, bitterly painful. He’s taken an unfair beating about that because that was one helluva pitch, and Adam Wainwright deserves most of the credit.
Q: The Endy Chavez catch robbing Scott Rolen of a go-ahead homer in the sixth inning of that game?
A: Thought he won the game for the Mets right there.
Q: Pete Rose versus Bud Harrelson in the 1973 NL playoffs?
A: Buddy was just playing rope-a-dope. My heart goes out to him [Alzheimer’s], too.
Q: David Wright and Jose Reyes?
A: You can’t find a better person than David. The Mets have never had a player as deeply involved in the community who brought more joy to individuals’ lives upon meeting him than David. That’s before you talk about his wonderful playing career. It’s sad that injuries took the toll that they did. I’m not sure that the Mets have ever had a more exciting player than Jose. In his prime, he was a difference-maker who could beat you in multiple ways. I wish those two could have won more together than they ultimately did.
Q: Rusty Staub?
A: A hero in every sense of the word, because we tend to use that term irresponsibly with regard to athletes or ballplayers. But what Rusty did, to better the lives of so many people in this city with his charitable work, has gone above and beyond anything you would expect even the most charitable player to do. He was a wonderful player on the field, and an even better person off of it.
Q: The Islanders’ first Stanley Cup in 1980?
A: I was just so euphorically thrilled to see the Stanley Cup in person being won by a New York team. Long Island was such a special place then because it probably was the closest that we’ve come in the New York market to replicating what Brooklyn was when the Dodgers were winning.
Q: Watching Super Bowl III in your living room with your dad?
A: I could probably make a strong case for Joe Namath being my absolute all-time sports idol. What boy our age didn’t wish he was either Joe Namath or Walt Frazier, right?
Q: The 1986 Super Bowl XXI Giants?
A: I was pissed off when both teams moved to New Jersey, so I kind of understood where, at the time, Mayor Koch was coming from. But in retrospect, they really should have had a parade.
Q: What were your emotions when Bucky Dent hit the home run in that one-game 1978 playoff with the Red Sox?
A: My father passed away [Alzheimer’s] in early June [that year], and he was such a big Yankee fan, and that was the year that they fell behind the Red Sox by 14 ¹/₂ games, and then come back and win the whole thing, and I’m convinced that he had something to do with that. I was just so happy for him; he wasn’t around to see it. He wasn’t around to see me accomplish anything, which really embitters me to this day, but that’s the way it goes, I guess.
Q: If you could broadcast any event in history, what would it be?
A: I think having never experienced the magnitude of Babe Ruth, I would love to have called his 60th home run. I think, as macabre as this might sound, I would love to have been broadcasting that game on Dec. 7, 1941, when news came through that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. I would love to have been part of a broadcast that was prominent in history.
Q: How might you have broadcast the Bobby Thomson’s 1951 Shot Heard ’Round the World off Ralph Branca if you were working for the Giants?
A: I guess, if we consider the information that we now have at our disposal, there’s a good chance that when the ball landed in those lower left field seats of the Polo Grounds, I probably would have been yelling “Thomson! Thomson! Thomson!”
Q: What are your thoughts on Roger Maris.
A: 1961, first year I was a fan, Maris and [Mickey] Mantle, the home run chase. I took to Maris a little bit more because he was left-handed [batter], I was left-handed, but Mickey Mantle was larger than life. I played Little League at age 10, 11, 12 in Bayside, Queens, and although all of us had perfectly healthy knees, we all ran with this little bit of a limp the way Mantle did.
Q: The Emile Francis Rangers.
A: That was a team that dictated my moods as a teenager.
Q: What was it like having Marv Albert critique your early tapes over the phone?
A: You can’t pay Harvard or Yale or any Ivy League school for the level of education that I got as a broadcaster from those conversations with Marv.
Q: Where did you sit at the Garden when you would do play-by-play into your tape recorder?
A: 429 G11, last row of the building. This was 1970-71, my first season ticket. Marv literally had to walk by my seat on his way to the booth to do a game, and he would give me a copy of that night’s media notes so I had some background information and I could kind of sound like I knew what I was talking about.
Q: Describe late Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy.
A: Legend … beloved. He always found a way, even in the darkest times, to make you feel good about the Mets. And I’m not at all ashamed to say that I have endeavored to do the same thing. And, when people are nice enough to say that I am to this generation what Murph was to theirs, I hope that’s what they mean.
Q: Lindsey Nelson.
A: Jackets. When the game was on the line, he could capture the drama, and I’ve tried to emulate that too.
Q: Being a guest on “Kiner’s Korner.”
A: It was so pure. It was so organic. It was the last game of the season. And so Ralph introduces me, and I said, “Hey Ralph, I thought you had to get a few hits or pitch a shutout to be on ‘Kiner’s Korner.’ ” And Ralph gets this little kind of Cheshire cat’s grin at the corner of his mouth. He says, “Yeah, come to think of it, you’re the worst guest we’ve ever had.”
Submit questions on your favorite New York teams to be answered in an upcoming mailbag
Q: Gary Cohen.
A: As close to perfection doing baseball on the radio as is possible.
Q: Ron Darling.
A: He’s brilliant, but perceptive, and an unfailing ability to find something that most of us can’t, or don’t.
Q: Keith Hernandez.
A: Unfiltered and unparalleled.
Q: Wayne Randazzo.
A: On the fast track.
Q: Your father’s favorite, Mel Allen.
A: Mel was a guy when I fell in love with baseball I would walk around imitating.
Q: When the 1962 Mets were born, you rooted for both them and the Yankees?
A. Gary Cohen can’t believe it, that some of my friends and I were Met fans, but we didn’t hate the Yankees — they never played each other. Until 1969, one was no threat to the other, we could only dream of a Subway Series.
Q: Three dinner guests?
A: John Lennon, [Winston] Churchill, [Richard] Nixon.
Q: Favorite movies?
A: “The Graduate,” “Annie Hall,” “Animal House.”
Q: Favorite actor?
A: Foghorn Leghorn. A vastly underrated performer.
Q: Favorite actress?
A: Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Q: Favorite singer/entertainer?
A: The Beatles.
Q: Favorite meal?
A: Sushi is the new pizza.
Q: Why did you decide to join Twitter earlier this year?
A: I was always asked, “When are you gonna go on Twitter, when are you gonna go on Twitter?” And I said, “Well, you know what? I guess a global pandemic oughta do they trick.” The day that I officially went on Twitter and tweeted for the first time, was April 11. Would you believe that April 11, 1962, was the day that the Mets played their very first game?