Mike Ortiz: What made you want to start broadcast journalism?
Bob Costas: Why the announcers who brought those games to me I grew up in a golden era of sports broadcasting in the late sixties when television was emerging but radio was still very important and the great broadcasters cut their teeth in radio where powers of description and storytelling were so important. So I listened to many of the greatest sports broadcasters who were on National broadcasts and in and around the New York area and they fascinated me almost as much as the players and the game, so that sparked my interest.
Mike Ortiz:What made you choose Syracuse?
Bob Costas: Well I had heard even in the late sixties that Syracuse had developed a reputation of the new house school and through some of its alumni, I knew that Marty Glickman that was the original voice of the Knicks and played sports at Syracuse and started his broadcasting career there I knew that his successor Marv Albert was a Syracuse product and that Dick Stockton who already was established, Andy Musser who did Philadelphia Sports and some CBS stuff and he had gone to Syracuse, I didn’t realize at that time that Ted Koppel the Night Line host, Night Line didn’t exist then but that he had been a Syracuse Grad, since I went there, there had been many others that followed like Sean McDonough and Mike Tirico and Glen Birmingham came out around the same time I did so know it has a pretty strong reputation as kind of the cradle of sports broadcasters and that was the reason it’s reputation.
Mike Ortiz: How did you get a job as the Syracuse Blazers announcer?
Bob Costas: Well I was a Senior at Syracuse University and there announcer that went to school with me that was older than me got a job in Cincinnati just before the season was going to begin and he recommended me as his successor and they didn’t have that much time to be choosey A they only had a week and B they were only paying 30 dollars a game so they were going to be looking for a young guy and a local guy and I kind of finessed my way into the job and I really didn’t have much experience broadcasting hockey but I kind of faked it in the early stages until I got the hang of it
Mike Ortiz: How did you get your job in NBC studios in 1979?
Bob Costas: Well I had gone from Syracuse to St. Louis and I was doing primarily radio work in St. Louis and then I started in the late 70s some regional telecasts of basketball and football games for CBS and some people in NBC took note of me there and offered me a fulltime job in late 1979
Mike Ortiz: Is it true that Don Ohlmeyer the one that gave you the job said that you looked like you were 14 years old?
Bob Costas: Yeah I was 27 and he asked me how old I was and I said 27 and he said you look more like your 14 and he said how much older do you think you would look if you grew a beard, and I said oh 5 years at least and he was really excited and he said it was a great idea, 5 years really? And I said yeah because that’s how long it would take to grow one. So that idea went out the window and I just had to live with the baby face.
Mike Ortiz: Describe the emotions that you had during the Sandberg game?
Bob Costas: Well I knew it was a great game more than that it was an individual game that kind of captured some much of what people loved about baseball in general and what they loved about the Cubs at Wrigley field in particular playing their primary rival the Cardinals, you have a classic setting, it happened to be 1984 but it could’ve been 1954 for the way it all played out on that Saturday afternoon it had heroics on both sides and then Sandberg not only hitting the 2 home runs but they were last pitch home runs both of them that tied it one tied it in the 9th and the other tied it in the 10th and they were both off Bruce Sutter who then was the most invincible relief pitcher in the National League and the game was Nationally televised and the Cubs were surprisingly on their way to winning a division championship. Sandberg was emerging as a big star and that was the game that kind of marked him as the front runner for the M.V.P. award that year. So all these elements came together it wasn’t just that it was an exciting game. If it had been an 11-10 game that was played somewhere else with two different teams, it wouldn’t have had the same effect because of the history of the rivalry, the setting of Wrigley field, a Saturday afternoon, all of the elements kind of came together. My primary emotion was not only is this very exciting but this is what I dreamt of doing my entire life, and hear I’ am doing it on National television.
Mike Ortiz: Do you think that was one of your most memorable broadcasts?
Bob Costas: Yeah people still talk about it. It was almost 30 years ago and they still talk about it so I guess it must have been.
Mike Ortiz: In the 1988 World Series you said that the Dodgers had possibly the worst hitting line up in World Series history. After the game Tom Lasorda sarcastically suggested that you should be named the 1988 M.V.P. would you agree with him?
Bob Costas: Well I think Tommy was good naturally using anything he could to try to inspire his team, because they were big underdogs and with Kirk Gibson hurt, the only at bat that he took in that series was a pinch hit homer in game 1. And then Mike Marshall who was probably their second biggest offensive threat went out with an injury the game or two after that. So the lineup that they sent out onto the field before game 4 which is when I made my comment I think had fewer home runs total in their entire lineup then Jose Canseco or Mark McGwire had individually for their opponent the Oakland A’s. So this was a very weak, weak hitting lineup that the Dodgers sent out there. But I made it clear that the Dodgers pitching was very good and they were already ahead 2 games to 1 and that they had an excellence chance to win the series anyway. I wasn’t saying that they had no chance to win the World Series, I was just saying that if they did they would do it with one of the weakest hitting line ups ever to take the field in a World Series game and that was a fair and accurate statement and Tommy knew it was a fair and accurate statement but it was in his best interest to try and pump his team up by making them feel like the whole world was against them including me which would help to unify them even more. So he knew what I was doing I was doing my job I knew what he was doing he was doing his job no hard feelings.
Mike Ortiz: Do you think that comment that you made helped the Dodgers win the World Series?
Bob Costas: I doubt it I doubt it but if it makes a good story for Tommy then its ok with me.
Mike Ortiz: Now you have announced several different games and events throughout your career, but what would you say would’ve been you most memorable call?
Bob Costas: I don’t know if that was my best call but probably the most memorable call was of Michael Jordan’s championship winning shot against Utah in 1998 in game 6 because not only was it a classic but to come from a point down to a point ahead to win the Championship. But everybody thought that was the final moment of his career they didn’t think that he would come back again. So it was one of the great exits or at least it seemed to be in the history of sports. So that’s probably, I think it was a good call but I don’t know if it was my best call but probably the one that people remember the most, because of the significance of the play.
Mike Ortiz: What was your most memorable game that you called?
Bob Costas: Well that one would be way up there the Sandberg game would be up there, the recent debut of Steven Strasburg would be up there, I called an extra innings game 7 of the world series in 1997 when Florida came from behind and beat Cleveland, so that would certainly rank up there. But, there’s probably some that I’m forgetting, there’s a list, a short list.
Mike Ortiz: What was your best moment as a broadcast journalist?
Bob Costas: I guess that’s really for other people to judge. I very much enjoyed when I had a chance to interview or interact with people who were big stars when I was a kid. So when I sat down with Ted Williams or Joe DiMaggio or Stan Williams or Mickey Mantle or Hank Aaron or Willie Mayes. That had special meaning to me. Muhammad Ali, the Jim Brown’s, the Bill Russell’s, people like that. The people that were big stars’ when I was a kid, those things meant a lot to me.
Mike Ortiz: The best advice that someone has given you…
Bob Costas: Well everyone gives you the advice to just be yourself and that’s good advice but it’s difficult to do right off the bat because before you can really be yourself to be calm and at ease you have to master the craft. There are so many things to think about that the average viewer doesn’t really appreciate when you’re doing the call of a game, things to keep track of, things you have to juggle, keep straight, various parts of the craft that you have to master. Only after you master those nuts and bolts that you can become relaxed enough to really be yourself and develop your own style to have things come a bit more spontaneously. So it’s great advice to be yourself but very few people can just sit right down and be themselves especially if it’s their job to be the host of the play by play broadcast, maybe if it’s your job to be the color man like the John Madden or Terry Bradshaw, maybe you can just sit down and be yourself closer then right away. But when it’s your job to orchestrate the entire broadcast, there’s a whole lot of stuff that you have to master before the full measure of your personality comes out.