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    6.9 Earthquake Could Not Stop Trailblazing Sportscaster Suzyn Waldman

    Suzyn Waldman with renowned radio announcer John Sterling in the broadcast booth at London Stadium for the two-game London Series, Yankees v Red Sox, June 29-30.

    “Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential.”

    Former President Barack Obama (1961–)

    When the 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake rocked Northern California in 1989, many baseball fans at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park—there for the “Bay Bridge World Series”—left the area as fast as they could, or at least as soon as they found out that the game was not going to happen that evening. Broadcaster Suzyn Waldman, then of WFAN, could have done the same. After all, she was sitting at one of the highest points in the Park, within an auxiliary press box soaring way above home plate.

    Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

    Instead of leaving the Park, Waldman clutched one of just two working phones in the press box and kept on working—alone. She later interviewed as many people as she could, keeping the Bay Area and the nation informed of the quake’s aftermath as she experienced it from the Stick. During breaks, she would grab the second live phone line to call the family members of fellow media members, to inform them that their loved ones were okay.

    In fact, many of her literally shaken colleagues from other cities had either headed out of the Park or first to the minibars in an attempt to quell their nerves.

    Waldman was scared as well, but driven to do her job at a time when it mattered beyond sports. “I remember every minute of that day,” she recently told the San Francisco Bay Times while covering a New York Yankees-Giants game at Oracle Park. “I love this city (San Francisco) and stayed here for days after the earthquake.”

    The intrepid journalist used her World Series press pass to get through San Francisco fire and police lines, again providing informative coverage for radio listeners nationwide. But she did much more than that. She helped to hand out coffee to grateful and overtaxed firefighters and police, with the assistance of David “Smoke” Stewart, then a pitcher with the Oakland Athletics. Stewart managed to haul around a generator to heat the coveted coffee and to power other tasks.

    (from top) Justice Sonia Sotomayor with Suzyn Waldman; The 2009 World Series Champion Yankee team visited the White House in April, 2010; Suzyn Waldman with Hall of Fame relief pitcher Mariano Rivera; Suzyn at home with Gatsby and Margo.

    Strolling down Maiden Lane during this time, Waldman encountered the owner of a café. The owner’s mood was as shattered as the broken dishware surrounding her. Waldman helped her to pick up the pieces, and assisted numerous other San Franciscans during the difficult week.

    With her thick Boston accent, Waldman became one of the most unexpected and then-unsung heroes of Loma Prieta.

    Pioneering Journalist

    Fast forward to 2019, and Waldman is now in her 33rd season either covering or broadcasting the New York Yankees. She is in her 15th season as the Yankees’ radio color commentator, having become the first woman to hold a full-time position as a Major League broadcaster.

    She has spent more than three decades overcoming all of the obstacles that go along with being a female sports broadcaster and has risen to the top of her profession. In 2006, she became a permanent part of the “Women in Baseball” exhibit at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and in 2009, her World Series Game 6 scorecard was added to the Hall of Fame’s collection, commemorating her being the first female broadcaster to call World Series game action.

    Two years before the Loma Prieta quake struck, Waldman became the first voice heard on WFAN-AM in New York, the first all-sports radio station in the country. She was a mainstay on that station for almost 15 years, creating the job of the radio beat reporter, covering both the Yankees and the New York Knicks. Her news-breaking reports, exclusive interviews and always original and controversial opinions won her countless journalism awards.

    While she still remains virtually unknown to San Franciscans who are unfamiliar with Yankees games, Waldman was honored with the International Radio Award for her live and emotional reporting from the upper deck of Candlestick during the 1989 earthquake. She also received the 1996 N.Y. Sportscaster of the Year Award from the National Sportscasters & Sportswriters and the 1999 Star Award for radio from the American Women in Radio and TV.

    A Number of Media Firsts

    Waldman became a popular talk show host at WFAN and co-hosted the coveted midday slot until leaving WFAN in 2002 to join the YES Network. The word “first” invariably precedes the name of Suzyn Waldman in every facet of her television and radio career. The first woman to work on a nationally-televised baseball broadcast, Waldman added another first, being the first woman to provide play-by-play for a Major League team, when she started broadcasting New York Yankees games for WPIX, MSG Network and WNYW/FOX5 in the mid 1990s.

    The first woman ever to host an NBA pre-and post-game show, she worked in that capacity for the Knicks on WFAN, provided play-by-play for the WNBA on Lifetime TV and was an analyst on St. John’s basketball games for MSG and WFAN.She has been honored by countless organizations, including the Thurman Munson Foundation, the March of Dimes, B’nai B’rith, the Jimmy Fund of Boston and the U.S. Federal Women’s Program. In 2006, she received the first Women’s Global Health Award from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at the United Nations.

    Suzyn Waldman conducting the “Suzyn’s Star” interview of WFAN after a game won by the Yankees

    Overcoming Cancer

    The Women’s Global Health Award followed her 1996 breast cancer diagnosis. Later falsely diagnosed as being cancer free, she wound up suing Mount Sinai Hospital and two of its pathologists for the misdiagnosis. She won the case. Even as she underwent chemotherapy, she continued to work at WFAN. We are happy to report that her cancer now has been in remission for several years.

    It can then be said that a 6.9 earthquake and cancer failed to defeat Waldman. Death threats could be added to the list. Yes, some listeners have sent her threatening messages over the years, seemingly because they could not handle a woman being in her position. As she told People magazine, “Imagine wanting to kill someone for talking baseball. But you can’t let people stop you.”

    Waldman remains a tireless motivational speaker at schools and cancer centers around the country, encouraging young women to pursue their dreams despite any pitfalls that they may encounter. An animal lover with two beloved German shepherds (Gatsby and Margo), she additionally helps out numerous pet charities, such as Paws Crossed Animal Rescue and the SPCA.

    She Sings, Too!

    When the Giants hosted the Yankees for the first time since 2007 for a series of games in San Francisco, Suzyn Waldman was onored by the City of San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

    A native Bostonian with a degree in economics from Simmons College, Waldman spent 15 years on the Broadway musical stage and performed in countless night clubs around the world. She is proudest of her two years starring opposite Richard Kiley in Man of La Mancha.

    She performs the National Anthem at many Yankee home games and did so at the 1986 ALCS Championship Game 7 at Fenway Park. She really belts it out! You can see her do so here: https://bit.ly/2y1mJ6s

    And you can also see this life-long LGBTQ ally in person soon, when she travels with the Yankees next month to Oakland for a series of games against the A’s. Look for her with Sterling (we have to toss in a Sterling-esque “Theeeee Yankees win!” https://bit.ly/30nMJpf ) in the visiting team’s press box from August 20–22.

    Pro tip: If the Yankees win, Waldman will head down to the field to interview one of the team’s star players, so wait for that if you would like to be in the direct presence of not only a hero of Loma Prieta, but also one of the greatest sportscasters of all time.

    For more information about the upcoming mentioned games—which should be phenomenal given that both the A’s and the Yankees are enjoying very successful seasons—go to: https://atmlb.com/2JOXbi4

     


    Vote for Suzyn Waldman!

    Sportscaster Suzyn Waldman last month was nominated for a coveted spot in the Radio Hall of Fame. Few women have been nominated over the years, with still fewer actually making it into this prestigious Hall of Fame. You can check out the past inductees at https://bit.ly/2Yq6gYl

    Better yet, please cast your vote! The competition this year is steep, with other talented nominees vying for the honor. When all is said and done, however, we cannot imagine a more deserving Radio Hall of Fame member than Waldman. You can help to make this happen.

    To cast your vote, please go to https://bit.ly/2GnPoXA .In addition to online voting instructions, there you will also find information on how to text your vote. Important: Voting ends on July 28, so don’t delay.

    The 2019 Radio Hall of Fame inductees will be announced on August 5. They will then be honored in the fall at the 31st Annual Induction Ceremony.