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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Bill Mazer Took My Call

You can read a thorough appraisal of the late Bill Mazer’s life here. You can read the man himself reflect on a career that he wouldn’t have argued over if you called it Amazin’ here. And if you grew up a sports fan in the New York Metropolitan Area between the 1960s and the 1990s, you can tune in your own memories of a broadcasting icon of the highest order, a gentleman who has left us at age 92.

Right here, though, you get my Bill Mazer story. It isn’t long. That, according to Bill, was its charm.

It’s a weeknight late in the 1972 season. The Mets have either won or lost. I’m going to guess they won. Let’s say they won. I’ve been listening to the game on WHN 1050 and now I’m staying tuned for Mets Wrap-Up with Bill Mazer. Bill asks listeners to call in with their Met concerns and questions. I have one that’s been bugging me for months.

Whatever became of Buzz Capra?

Buzz was a righthander on whom I fixated during the 1972 season, same as I fixated on Ray Sadecki in 1970. What the Mets needed, I was convinced, was more Buzz Capra. I’m guessing the critical mass of seeing the name Buzz Capra on some combination of a rookie card (shared with Jon Matlack and Leroy Stanton, the latter already thrown in with Nolan Ryan to obtain the services of Jim Fregosi, oy), a Baseball Digest preseason roster and a quarter-page of the Official Yearbook had me buzzing for Buzz. His name was Buzz, for crissake. What more reason did I need to fixate?

Buzz made the team. Yogi Berra gave him six starts and had him relieve eight times. Mostly you didn’t see a lot of Buzz Capra. His final appearance came July 7. I had never gotten the memo as to why he no longer pitched among us.

So I did what a person in these parts did when the library was closed and before there was an Internet. I called Bill Mazer. He answered. It went more or less like this (more than less):

“Hello, you’re on the air.”
“Hello. I was wondering why the Mets farmed out Buzz Capra.”

Note use of proper lingo on my part. I didn’t read Baseball Digest every month for my health.

“He needed more seasoning.”
“Oh. OK. Thank you.”
“Is that it?
“Yes. Thank you.”

After I hung up, Bill told the rest of his audience, “I wish all my calls could be as easy as that young man’s.”

This happened 41 years ago. I’m going out on a limb and guessing Bill probably forgot about it by the next commercial break. I’m still dining out on it.

Here’s to those who have earned the right to behave like big shots but conduct themselves as human beings. And here’s to those who know their stuff. Bill really did. With a little more seasoning under his belt, Buzz contributed to the 1973 pennant drive, saving the game in Pittsburgh that kicked off the winning streak that vaulted the Mets into first place. A year later, fully seasoned, Buzz Capra led the National League in earned run average. True, he did so for the Braves, but that wasn’t Bill Mazer’s doing.

Please enjoy a little of Bill’s Mets work from one of their greatest days.

12 comments to Bill Mazer Took My Call

  • Kenny S.

    Great story, Greg. About this same time John Sterling did a nightly call-in show on WMCA. He would never allow young callers on his show, and if one happened to get through, he would ask, “Did your daddy call for you?” and then hang up on them. By contrast, Bill was always a class act and a joy to listen to. He did a great job on those postgame Met shows (thanks for that clip!) and also did play by play for both the Islanders and Nets on WHN. In earlier years, he worked NFL and NHL games on CBS along with Knicks and Rangers games on Channel 9.

  • Dave

    RIP to a great sports fan/announcer/commentator/teacher. Bill Mazer educated his listeners, and what always impressed me about him, in addition to his impeccable knowledge, was his interest in all sports, not just the big-time money making sports. He was as passionate about track and field or swimming as he was about baseball or basketball, he just had enormous respect for all athletic skills, as opposed to the blockhead idol worshippers like the Bruce Becks of the world. I remember getting a book he wrote about all kinds of sports as a birthday present when I was 10-ish, wish I still had it.

  • Penacious H

    An historical loss for Mets radio and NY sports reporting in general.

    On a positive note, it informs us that Mets baseball DOES happen in places other than 660 on your dial (oh, and 101.9 fm).

    Mazer just mentioned that the second game was “necessary as any vestigial organ…” Even back then, the locution of Mets broadcasters was top notch.

    Excuse me, I gotta try and find my old transistor radio… Lets Go Mets!

  • StorkFan

    My favorite Mazer story was a hockey one. He was doing Ranger games on WOR-TV. One night in Chicago, while doing the play by play, Mazer ragged on Black Hawks (it was two words back then) management for trading away the young Phil Esposito to Boston. After the game, Mazer was supposed to interview the star of the game on air, but the Black Hawks wouldn’t let Bobby Hull out for an interview because of Mazer’s ranting. So Mazer proceeded to interview himself, taking on the roles of both himself and Hull.

  • Dennis

    One of the best. Always loved watching “Sports Extra” on Sunday nights with him and Lee Leonard. RIP Mr. Mazer.

  • ljcmets

    “The second game was as necessary as any vestigial organ.”
    Ha!

    Never knew of Mazer until late 70′s when we got cable in Albany and were able to watch “Sports Extra.” I remember really enjoying hearing commentary, particularly about the Mets, and not just the scores and highlights. The little bit about Seaver in the radio clip you posted is typical of this. Hard to remember, but Mets fans outside NYC then lived in a kind of vaccum; no internet, very little cable, and it was even hard to find the NYC dailies, and when you did they were usually an early edition. I loved the Mets but felt I was starved for information. (Although we did have local radio
    coverage picked up from WHN, they never extended it through the wrap-up beyond Lindsey, Ralph and Bob).

    We lived in Buffalo from late 50′s to early 60′s. When my Dad first saw him on cable, he said, “Hey, that’s the guy I knew from Buffalo.” Turns out they were friends of a sort in Buffalo because my father also went to Michigan and was also a sports editor of the Michigan Daily, albeit a decade or so later, so they bonded over that. I think they might have been in a bowling league together (everyone in Buffalo’s in a bowling league). I was too young to remember anything about this, but in addition to enjoying Bill’s broadcasts, even though I never met him and he and my Dad lost touch, it felt like listening to a friend in a way.

  • March'62

    I was more of a Warner Wolf fan for my evening sports wrapup but I LOVED Sports Extra on Sunday nights with Mazer and Leonard (pre-Dockery). Mazer was never about bells and whistles (“Lets go to the videotape”). He was your favorite uncle telling you what happened in sports. He always seemed like a true gentleman. Although I never liked his “He shoots that puck and scores that goal” line that he always used when showing hockey highlights, he was a good listen and he is sorely missed from my Sunday nights.

  • Ray

    Good lord I remember that postgame. In the thousands of books I’ve read, millions of minutes of tv and radio I’ve heard and gagillions of gigs of bandwidth I’ve consumed, Mazer that day was the first and only to ever use the word “persiflage.” I use his “enough of this persiflage- I’m runnin’ wild” remark at least once a year. What a life, and what a loss.

  • Wish my encounter was half so sweet. But I was a broken man when Mazer found me.

  • gary

    I used to call Bill at least twice a week. I was known on his show as the Juan Marichal fan. My best story of Bill was 1964 the year he was announcing Knicks games. As a 14 year old myself and my friends would hang around after Knicks games waiting for autographs Mazer came out with his wife and everyone waved and said hello. He was about 50 feet away when I called out telling him I was the Marichal fan. He turned , walked back to me to shake my hand and say hello in front of all my friends. To this day almost 50 years later it is as clear as if it happened yesterday. A true gentleman he will be greatly missed

  • […] three years of splitting his time between Flushing and Tidewater, Capra — whose most memorable Met moment involved Pedro Borbon taking a big, juicy bite out of […]