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.