July 27, 1995 in Sports

Waldman Critical Of Historic Debut 1st Woman To Announce Game On National TV Has Regrets

Mary Schmitt Kansas City Star
 
Tags:profile

The first thing Suzyn Waldman did when she arrived in Kansas City early Tuesday morning was throw herself on the bed in her hotel room and cry. For an hour.

Waldman, a reporter for radio station WFAN in New York, made history Monday night by becoming the first woman announcer on a nationally televised baseball game. She was less than pleased with her debut.

“I thought it was fine as far as it went,” she said Wednesday before the Royals’ game against the Yankees at Kauffman Stadium. “But now I’d like to do the whole thing over and do it right.”

Teamed with former major-league players Bobby Murcer and Steve Busby for The Baseball Network’s telecast of the Texas Rangers’ game at New York, which was shown here, the normally gregarious Waldman found herself too cautious and too quiet.

“I had this conversation going on in my head throughout the whole ballgame: ‘Should I say this or should I not say this?”’ she said. “By the time one side won out, it was too late. I didn’t want to say anything wrong.”

So she held back early on. But a funny thing happened after a rain delay in the sixth. The little voice that was telling her to speak up won out on the subject of Yankees pitcher Sterling Hitchcock.

“I could see a difference in his arm angle,” she said. “For a second, I thought, ‘Who are you to say this to Steve Busby, who was a great pitcher and had a couple of no-hitters?’ But I knew I was right. I’d seen every start this kid ever made. And I decided to make my point.”

Waldman was more forceful for the remainder of the broadcast, but with three announcers in the booth, she didn’t have a lot of chances.

After the broadcast, Waldman, admittedly her own worst critic, tried to squash her frustration as network executives and players offered their congratulations on her debut. She gritted her teeth through the postgame interviews and the team’s flight to Kansas City. But once she was alone in her hotel room, the tears came as the impact of the situation hit her.

“I wasn’t scared until the red light (on the television camera) went on,” she said. “I thought I was ready. But when that red light went on, my whole body started to shake. I thought I could perform through that. I was surprized I got that nervous.”

When she talked about “performing,” she wasn’t kidding. Waldman, 48, is a former Broadway actress and singer who once auditioned to replace Patti Lupone for the lead in “Evita.”

Her love of music goes back a long way, but her love of baseball goes back even further. She remembers attending Red Sox games at Fenway Park with her grandfather when she was 3-1/2.

“I remember holding my grandfather’s hand, walking up that tunnel into the sunshine in that little jewelry box,” she said of Fenway Park. “It was my favorite place on earth.”

Of course, women sports reporters were unheard of at that point, so Waldman pursued singing all the way to Broadway, where she co-starred in Man of La Mancha with Richard Kiley. When she toured with the show, she’d take in as many ball games as she could and often managed to get in free by volunteering to sing the national anthem.

At one such game in Minnesota, some of the Twins officials who had seen the play offered to give her a private tour of the ballpark. All of a sudden, she found herself in the dugout of her beloved Red Sox, the Twins’ opponents that day. She struck up a baseball conversation with slugger Jim Rice, not known as much of a talker. NBC broadcaster and ex-Dodger Wes Parker took note of Rice’s response.

“If you can get that man to talk to you that way, you should think about doing this for a living,” Parker told her.

That was 1979, and she did. Continuing her acting career to support herself, she started taking journalism classes and auditioned for WFAN. When the all-sports station went on the air on July 1, 1987, hers was the first voice over the airwaves. She has been a reporter there ever since, covering the Yankees, Knicks and St. John’s basketball.

In fact, former Knick Doc Rivers was one of the first to call and congratulate Waldman after Monday’s show. Yankees star Wade Boggs was another.

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