By Mick Holien
The first year I made the trip to North Carolina for the state awards of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association being a newbee winner I had no expectations and really no idea what I was in for.
But it didn’t take long to figure out that not only the top of their craft were in attendance but also a long list of Hall of Famers in many sports rubbed shoulders during the three-day yearly affair.
And qualifying to attend was always a treat whether I made the trip or just was invited.
While folks like Joe Garagiolo, Jim Nance and Marty Brennaman were in attendance one other man drew my interest for most of the entire time.
But first of all who are these other folks.
Jim Nance of course is an several Emmy winner who anchors the PGA for CBS Sports and is the venerable voice of the Masters and other major events.
Since 1974 Brennaman has been the no-holds bared radio voice of the Cincinnati Reds and after a less than spectacular major league career Garagiola was been a longtime announcer and television host.
But while I’ll get around to talking about those folks, it is Bob Wolff that I counted my lucky stars who took me under his wing that first year. I think it was 1988.
He was sitting in the lobby of an old Holiday Inn in Salisbury with his wife Jane when he looked at my name tag and asked if it was my first convention and awards dinner.
I replied I was new to the electronic side and really was especially a novice to women’s basketball play-by-play.
For three days I sat with him during meals, including one in the luxury lounge at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and workshops and in the days prior to electronic info gathering had no idea I was talking to one of the most prominent men in the business.
Wolff, who died last summer at the age of 96, started his career in 1939 and broadcast a broad variety of sports in parts of eight decades.
But his manner left no impression of how famous he was – or that he broadcast Don Larson’s perfect game in 1956-or when he couldn’t get to the game he was known to improvise like describing what he saw on television.
One would have never known he was on the staff of Madison Square Garden for more than 50 years and count the NFL championship game between the Giants and the Colts as a pinnacle of his career.
His obit was featured on the front page of the New York Times and I count my conversations with Bob Wolff as one of the most prominent and enjoyable of my career.
During the convention time that I spent with him a reporter’s handbook was always in hand as he constantly scribbled notes to his assignment of the day, maybe to be slightly interrupted by the social side of the business.
But like with most old timers who often traveled with teams they were assigned to, the unprinted stories were often the most intriguing of the conversation.
Since I have come to know Larson and written about him several times, I was particularly interested in the World Series perfecto and his impressions of that fateful day.
When he was in Baltimore Larson roomed with one of my bowling buddies – Jim Dyck – who made the last out for the old St. Louis Browns, but oh that’s right that’s another story about Mr. Perfect and how he hates to be called that.
Just say’ n