Bill Mazer was a giant of sports broadcasting – and then his career kept going. Long after he was a sports maven in Buffalo and Milwaukee and New York, Mazer, as an octo-genarian, launched into a second career as radio general talk-show host.
We knew each other from the days when he described Cookie Gilchrist’s rushes and Henry Aaron’s home runs. Now, instead of recalling the great sports details (some would call them trivia), Mazer worked first for WEVD in New York and then for WVOX in suburban Westchester.
Mazer, who died Wednesday at 92, was thoroughly admirable in his new life as he chatted about politics and medicine and education and anything else. I remember one time he had me waiting on the next line to babble about some sports theme while he finished up with somebody – as I recall, a brain surgeon. I was extremely impressed.
Bill’s intelligence and curiosity had kicked in. He was able to guide the doctor into explaining the profession, and new developments in medicine. Bill did not need to assert his own memories of who pitched what game of what World Series. He asked wise questions and – believe me, not all interviewers are even adequate at this – he listened to the answers, and he responded to the twists and turns of conversation.
He had his opinions. Once I launched sideways into a tirade about a political theme (no point going over it here) and I could tell he was quite unhappy with me. Still, he politely let me talk, and he politely offered his version, and we finished the chat civilly. (I don’t think he called me for a while, and that was fine, too.)
It was not easy for Bill in his later years. He missed his wife, Dora, known as Dutch, who passed in 1996. She was a beautiful and serene lady who accompanied him to a lot of events, was a force in his life. Yet he continued to grow, with his actor son Arnie Mazer booking guests and running interference for him.
Bill Mazer – like Bob Wolff, Roger Angell and Ray Robinson, ongoing nonagenarian giants and friends of mine – was a marvel. He became a role model for any of us who might want to re-invent ourselves. In the very long run, Bill Mazer was amazing.
* * *
For an appreciation of Bill Mazer’s career, please see the obituary by Richard Goldstein:
“They may hate the cultural context they now find themselves teaching in, but they love their work. The Achilles’ heel of schoolteachers, one all too easily exploited by politicians, is that they love their students.”
(One of the best reads in the NYT these days is Margaret Renkl, in Nashville. In her latest post, Renkl describes the dedicated core of “born teachers” – the majority, she submits.)
(From Madeleine Albright in one of her final interviews in February):
“Putin is small and pale,” I wrote, “so cold as to be almost reptilian.” He claimed to understand why the Berlin Wall had to fall but had not expected the whole Soviet Union to collapse. “Putin is embarrassed by what happened to his country and determined to restore its greatness.” – Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, recalling her first meeting with the relatively unknown Vladimir Putin in 2000. – The New York Times, Feb. 23, 2022.