New York Giants Football and WNEW

by Nat Asch

Nat Asch

Certain moments sear the mind with the brilliant light of revelation; often a sharply etched insight into our common human frailties…

We trusted our New York Giants football team spotter, (Mal Kirpich, who flew his own plane, a small, single engine Cessna) to get us to Pittsburg in time to set up for the broadcast of the Giants-Pittsburg Steelers game on WNEW Radio. Although we had always left a day before a game, we decided, on this specific weekend in 1964, to leave early Sunday morning on the day of the game from Westchester’s N.Y. airport. On the plane that sunny fall morning, Marty Glickman, Kyle Rote, Kirpich and me, Nat Asch, broadcast producer.

Mal Kirpich, Marty Glickman, Nat Asch, Kyle Rote, All DeRogatis
Mal Kirpich, Marty Glickman, Nat Asch, Kyle Rote, All DeRogatis

Early in the flight Kirpich receives word that a violent storm is gathering over the Pocono Mountains. Embarrassed and contrite, he turns to us and says he cannot, indeed will not chance flying through the storm and, despite our entreaties which included threats of bodily harm, lands in Allentown, well short of Pittsburg.

Racing madly in a rented Buick driven by Rote over the Pennsylvania turnpike, we reach Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field near the end of the first half. It’s the first time in more than twenty years that Glickman and I are not on time for a broadcast. Glickman rushes to the broadcast location while I run to the visiting locker room to set up engineering for the post game interviews. On entering I’m shocked by the sight of the Giants quarterback, Y.A. Tittle, sitting on a rubbing table, ashen gray and suddenly old, his helmet by his side and blood dripping from cuts on his face and head. The picture, taken earlier, of Y.A. sprawled on the turf of Forbes field, blood streaming down his face, appeared in virtually every newspaper and on every television sports show in the country the next day.

Tittle, a proud, vain, almost totally bald man, refused to have pictures of him taken without a hat. In fact, up till that moment and already knowing Y.A. for some time, I had never seen him without something covering his head. He had been “run over” and “sacked” by the Steeler’s extremely large and ferocious defensive end, John Baker.

As the former (and last) Sports Director for WHN-WMGM in NYC—I had replaced Budd Greenspan of Olympic films fame at that legendary sports station—I produced the broadcasts of the N.Y. Football Giants starting in 1950. The Giants had played their home games in New York’s Polo Grounds (subsequently torn down and replaced with stunningly boring apartment buildings.)

When Walter O’Malley, the majority owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers moved the Dodgers to Los Angeles in 1957, WMGM allowed all of its broadcast rights to the Giants, the NY Knicks, the NY Rangers as well as the rights to broadcast all of the college basketball games from Madison Square Garden to expire.

Marty Glickman
Marty Glickman

Giants on WNEW
The football Giants had moved from the Polo Grounds to play their games in Yankee Stadium and, in 1959, John Van Buren Sullivan, the inspired and inspiring General Manager of WNEW RADIO acquired the Giants radio broadcast rights. Sullivan asked the former Olympian and Hall of Fame broadcaster, Marty Glickman, who had provided the play by play for the Giant games to continue and asked me to co-produce the broadcasts with WNEW’s sports director, Joe Hasel, who also became “color” commentator that first season.

Thus began an extraordinary run of one of the most exciting “marriages” between a radio station and a professional football team in the history of radio. (I am convinced that WNEW was a major force in the Giant games becoming “the place to be on Sunday in New York,” creating a national sea change socio-economically wherein the National Football League’s impact became the equal of Major League baseball, almost invariably referred to as “America’s National Pastime.)

                                         Rote Joins Glickman

Kyle Rote-SMU-1950 Life Magazine cover

While Glickman remained the constant “voice” of the Giants, a parade of exceptional “color” men worked at his side. Sullivan had hired one of America’s finest athletes and football players, Kyle Rote, to do sports news on the station. Rote, an All-American at Southern Methodist University (his performance in a game against Notre Dame remains a standard for college players to this day) had the misfortune to follow an overwhelmingly popular Texas football player at SMU, Doak Walker, and therefore never attained what should have been his rightful NFL level of celebrated super-stardom. However, his extraordinary accomplishments inside the league itself as a player’s representative—he founded the players union and was its first president— caused his fellow players to hold him in awe. In fact, Rote’s impact on his fellow professionals was so extraordinary that many of them named their sons Kyle.

Kyle Rote #44
Kyle Rote #44

Rote, a former punishing running back wound up playing the offensive end position brilliantly for the Giants despite tearing up the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in training camp during his rookie season. (The image of Rote rehabilitating his knee which required that he run the steps of Yankee Stadium from field level to the top level hour after hour, was actually exhausting to watch and will remain forever in my mind.) Rote played with quarterbacks Charley Conerly, Y.A. Tittle, Fran Tarkenton, Ralph Guglielmi, Milt Plum, Earl Morrall, Lee Grosscup and some others of lesser note.

                                       “DeRO” in the Booth

After he retired as a player in 1961, and barely able to walk for a long time, he became an assistant coach under Allie Sherman, the Giants head coach. It was then that Rote became WNEW’s “color man” on the Giant broadcasts. At the same time, Sullivan, a fiercely loyal Giants football fan who paced the back of the press box’s broadcast location during home games, hired the Giants’ retired former all-pro defensive left tackle, Al

Al Derogatis

DeRogatis, to share “color” responsibilities with Rote. DeRo” as he was known, was so astute at analyzing the success or failure of a specific play and so accurate in predicting what was about to occur on the next play that New York’s football audience began to turn off the sound of the television broadcast and turn on WNEW’s radio broadcast. I “helped” by creating an ad which said, “Watch Giants football on Channel 2. LISTEN to WNEW RADIO. Have we ever lied to you?” At that point, CBS Sports officially complained to the NFL that we were “killing” the Giants TV telecast in the tri-state area which featured Frank Gifford and Pat Summerall. DeRogatis was subsequently offered a “deal he couldn’t refuse” by NBC Sports television and left WNEW’s broadcasts in 1966. The “color” position was subsequently shared by among others, former quarterback Charlie Conerly, Columbia University’s Gene Rossides, and former Giants defensive halfback Dick Lynch.

Jack Sullivan became the president of Metromedia’s radio division in 1966 and offered me the program director’s job in starting up WNEW-FM with George Duncan in 1967. I continued to produce the radio broadcasts of the Giants games which were simulcast on FM until 1969 when I was named vice president and general manager of KMET in Los Angeles. The years that I spent at WNEW RADIO were the best years of my life.

                                                                                                                  Nat Asch

 

8 thoughts on “New York Giants Football and WNEW”

  1. If I recall correctly (and I may not at this advanced age), the Giants games with Glickman on WNEW began in 1961, same year Allie Sherman became head coach. I can vaguely recall Mel Allen at least one season on Giants games on WMGM c. 1960. Rote and Gifford were still active as wide receivers/half backs in ’61 while Marty, Al and Joe Hassel were in the booth. Chip Cippola took Hassel’s place at some point while Rote didn’t join up until later. Meanwhile on the TV side, Chris Schenkel worked with Johnny Lujack, later on with Gifford on Ch. 2. I always preferred listening to the Giants on radio, even the televised road games. With Marty and Al the broadcast had the same dynamic of a championship tennis match, Marty calling the live action Al returning the volley after the whistle. After DiRo left for NBC, the broadcasts never really had the same dual forces of energy. Nobody ever was able to replace him, not Rote, not Lynch. And only now has there been a play by play voice with as much energy as Glickman: Bob Papa. Not Marv, certainly not Jim Gordon.

  2. Grew up listening to WNEW 1130. Especially to the Giants! What enthusiasm the station generated for the Giants through the good and the bad years. Nothing like Marty Glickman today but I do enjoy Bob Papa’s radio play by play.
    Wish we could listen to some of those jingles again. That first Super Bowl with Gordon and Lynch were good.
    Thanks for bringing back such good memories. GO GIANTS!

    1. Hello, You can hear some of those jingles by clicking on AUDIO/JINGLES,PROMOS,THEMES. thanks for visitng.

  3. As a kid I used to love to hear Marty, DeRo and Joe Hassel doing the Giant games. Since I lived too close to NYC, I only had the benefit of listening to Marty doing the games on radio. What a treat! Yes, I would turn off the sound on the TV and listen to Marty’s call. I still remember when he did the 1962 championship game against the Pack. His description of the winds swirling around the field at Yankee Stadium was certainly disheartening to us Giant fans, since the Giants lived and died with the passing arm of Y.A. Tittle. On that cold, windy December day, they died. Great memories.

  4. I remember fondly meeting Nat Asch several times in the late 1960s, when he and Bill “Rosco” Mercer accepted an invitation to visit our school, Manhattan Community College. My earliest memory of Giants football was listening to Les Keiter do the play by play on WCBS (late 1950s). Did they not have the rights before WNEW? I could be wrong about this as well, but I vaguely remember that there was a strike, and that the Giants-Packers championship game (1962?) never made it to air via WNEW. The NYC market did get the national radio feed which I think was on WNBC. Good thing. Home Giant games were blacked out in NYC. Which indeed made WNEW the place to be Sunday fall afternoons .

  5. Glickman and Derogatis perfect fit. No egos getting in the way. Two classy guys with no egos. Articulate. Perfect phrasing. Didn’t use technical terms to impress. Never talked down to listeners. Lord knows they knew football but made it simple for the fans. There has never been a better radio play-by-team on radio or TV. Many years ago while talking football with an oldtimer who was unquestionably a truly great high school coach in Southington,CT., he said, “They can come up with new offensive and defensive formations with fancy names…but football on every level was blocking and tackling.

    Jim Senich

  6. Glickman and DeRogatis were in a class by themselves. No egos. Never once did one try and “top” the other. Articulate. Never shouted. They let the game come to them. What a joy listening to their coverage of Giants games.
    Thanks for the memories, gentlemen.
    Jim Senich

  7. Thanks to the NFL’s home game blackout policy of the 60s, as a youth I discovered by necessity the experience of listening to the Giants games on the radio. After Sunday School would end, I would rush to the car and breathlessly retune the radio to WNEW to catch the pregame coverage and I’d stick with them throughout the day. Marty and Al would detail the action at majestic Yankee Stadium while my brother and I would toss the football outdoors on a crisp, fall Sunday afternoon. Because of radio, WNEW-1130, Giants football was a moveable feast.

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