Bob Wolff: An Appreciation – Hall of Fame Chats Court Side at the Garden, Amazing Chinese Dinners with Jane and Fran

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By John Cirillo

The voice on the other end of the telephone could have easily been that of a college student who secured that gem of a sports internship, or a recent graduate who landed the first job on the air. It was gleeful with youthful exuberance and genuine delight.

But it was Bob Wolff, 96-years-young, a golden voice in its golden years, saying: “I have some exciting news to share!”

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Indefatigable Mr. Wolff called championships in all four majors

“Tell me Bob, tell me,” I excitedly replied.

He told me: “The Yankees called and they asked me to call this year’s Old Timers Day game. We have to think about how to handle maybe my last broadcast.”

The always humble Mr. Wolff had a few months earlier enlisted me as his publicist, seemingly wanting to put one last exclamation point on a storied, 78 year career.

This was to be his swansong, a last hurrah. Sadly, it wasn’t. The day before the game I learned that Bob had just gotten out of the hospital after a bout with pneumonia, leaving him too weak to make the trek to the Stadium. Rain on a parade.

There was also major news of yet another major award, but we will share that at another time.

Babe and Bob

Bob and the Babe

My old friend of 33 years passed away on Saturday night, leaving an unparalleled legacy and trunks full of memories behind.

It was August in the summer of 1984 when the Garden and Knicks brass – Sonny Werblin, Jack Krumpe, Dave DeBusschere, and Jim Trecker – on the recommendation of legendary sports writers Phil Pepe and Leonard Lewin, hired a young PR man from Yonkers Raceway to head the Knicks publicity department.

A few months later, the publicist sat court side for his first pre-season game at the Garden, amazed at the speed of Bernard King and the fast-pace of the N.B.A. game, live and in living color.

JOHNNY AND BERNARD MUNSON

The author with Bernard King, three decades later at the Munson Dinner

Seated next to him was Bob Wolff, at the time doing the radio pre- and post-game shows. The PR man’s mind flashed back to the black and white television his living room in Brooklyn in the late sixties; he could envision the Voice of the Knicks and color commentator Cal Ramsey calling the games during the team’s glory days.

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Memorable duo: Wolff and Ramsey

The publicist and famous broadcaster sat side by side for all the home games for three straight years. Those were cherished times. And as it was for countless others who crossed paths with Bob Wolff, a strong friendship, a lasting bond, developed.

There were these amazingly delicious monthly Chinese dinners at our regular haunts on Central Avenue with Bob and Jane, John and Fran, listening to the old war stories, sharing memories of iconic broadcasts and of the family, all deliciously amazing for the kid from Brooklyn. Tasty culinary treats, but even tastier tales from yesterday.

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Cameras roll on Bob with love of his life Jane at side

Fast forward 30 years later, 2015, when we had a brainchild for Fairfield University Athletics, creating the Leader of the Herd Award with Athletic Director Gene Doris to honor media members for long and distinguished service.

In year three, after honoring Jim O’Connell and Hoops Weiss in year one, and Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery in the second year, we scrolled down the list of Curt Gowdy Award recipients in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Then, it hit me like a ton of bricks – BOB WOLFF! (I know, it shouldn’t have taken that long)!

On AD Doris’ cue, I put in the call to Bob. “How’s my old friend?” I asked. And then: “Fairfield would like to honor you.”

You could virtually see the look of delight on Mr. Wolff’s face over the telephone. “I am honored,” he said. “I’m in. Give me the details, when and where?”

BOB WOLFF AND GENE DORIS

Doris presents Wolff with well-deserved hardware, assist goes to grand daughter

And so at was, on November 10, 2015, the inimitable Mr. Wolff was honored alongside ESPN’s Jackie McMullan and college basketball analyst Len Elmore. It was a night for the ages.

We reunited with Bob and beautiful wife Jane, took photos with Hall of Famers OC, Jackie, and Bob Ryan. Garf was there, and Brian McIntyre, too. Bob so willingly made a donation for a table so that his kids and grand kids could share the moment. He didn’t have to. Young Fairfield sports information staffer Ivey Speight turned the tables and got to interview the legend. And then Bob said: “This is one of the greatest nights of my life.” And he meant it! (Here’s a link to the video of the  evening Bob was honored: https://johnnycigarsports247.wordpress.com/2015/11/13/a-video-tribute-fairfields-leaders-of-the-herd-come-to-life/).

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Hall of Fame duo: Bob and Jim O’Connell

He came prepared with his customary Manilla folder in tow. “We’re in for a long speech,” I thought looking at the dossier. And it was, but summing up 75 years of broadcasting, of course, needed some detail. The storyteller Wolff told amazing stories.

JACKIE, OC, WOLFF, RYAN

The four HOF Horsemen: MacMullan, OC, Wolff, Bob Ryan

Of course, Bob Wolff was truly an amazing man. As I told his son Rick upon his passing: He was a tremendous broadcaster, but an even better person.

Bob Wolff made this planet a better place, and it was a privilege to call him “friend.” Rest easy Bob, and thank you!

BOB WOLFF, BOB HEUSSLER, BOB RYAN, BOB BERCHEM

Couldn’t resist assembling this photo of four Bobs! R to L: WFAN’s Bob Heussler, legendary Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan, Mr. Wolff, and Fairfield alum Bob Berchem

John Cirillo, a Brooklyn native where he grew up as a Knicks fan, and longtime Chappaqua resident was Knicks public relations man during the mid-eighties when he worked closely with Bob Wolff, and continued that association with the legendary sportscaster until his passing last Saturday. 

Sportscaster Bob Wolff Dies at Age 96; Hall of Fame Broadcaster Called Championships of All Four Major Team Sports, Voice of the Knicks in Both Championship Seasons
 
New York, July 16—Hall of Fame sports broadcaster Bob Wolff has passed away at age 96.
Mr. Wolff died peacefully of natural causes last night (Saturday, July 15) at approximately 10:00 p.m. at his home in Nyack, New York, according to his son, Rick Wolff.
Born on November 29, 1920, in New York City, Wolff is credited as the only sportscaster to call the play-by-play of championships in all four major professional team sports – the NFL’s championship, baseball’s World Series, basketball NBA Finals and hockey’s Stanley Cup. He interviewed Babe Ruth, was the original voice of the Washington Senators in 1947, and for decades called the play-by-play for both the New York Knicks and New York Rangers.
Wolff was cited by the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest consecutive on the air streak for a broadcaster, 78 years in a row, dating back to 1939 on WDNC Radio, when he was a student at Duke University. Earlier this year, Mr. Wolff extended the streak on News 12 Long Island with sports commentary and WHUD Radio in Westchester as the host of the Con Edison Scholastic Sports Award program.
Wolff was the Voice of the New York Knicks for both championship seasons in 1969-70 and 1972-73, called the only Perfect Game in World Series history when the Yankees’ Don Larsen retired all 27 Brooklyn Dodgers batters that he faced in 1956; and was behind the mic for the “greatest football game ever played,” the Colts overtime victory over the Giants in the N.F.L. Championship in 1958.
Wolff is enshrined in the broadcast wing of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the National Sportscasters-Sportswriters Hall of Fame, the Madison Square Garden Walk of Fame, and in July 2008 was voted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame with the Curt Gowdy Award, joining Curt as the only two sportscasters to be in both the basketball and the baseball halls. Wolff has also been honored by selection to the Hall of Fame of his collegiate fraternity at Duke University- Sigma Nu.
Wolff called Rose Bowls, Sugar Bowls, Gator Bowls, and during his long association with Madison Square Garden Network, college basketball tournaments, The Holiday Festival for 29 years, the National Invitation Tournament for 25 years, the Millrose Games for 32 years, Virginia Slims tennis, women’s college and pro sports, Golden Gloves, college hockey, boxing, bowling, golf, gymnastics, youth football, surfing, horse show jumping, the National Horse Show for 32 years, and the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show for 33 years.
He began an illustrious career that has spanned NINE decades on CBS Radio’s WDNC in Durham, North Carolina, in 1939 – when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President, Spencer Tracy was best actor and LaGuardia Airport first opened.
 
He is survived by Jane Wolff, his wife of 72 years, three adult children – sons Dr. Robert Wolff and Rick Wolff, and daughter Margy Clark, nine grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
Here’s a radio audio link to a WHUD broadcast: http://www.whud.com/con-edison-athlete-of-the-week/.

 

Rest in Peace Bob Wolff: Remarkable Sportscaster, Even Better Human Being

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By John Cirillo

Hall of Fame sports broadcaster Bob Wolff has passed away at age 96.
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Indefatigable Mr. Wolff called championships in all four major pro team sports

Mr. Wolff died peacefully of natural causes last night (Saturday, July 15) at approximately 10:00 p.m. at his home in Nyack, New York, according to his son, Rick Wolff.

Born on November 29, 1920, in New York City, Wolff is credited as the only sportscaster to call the play-by-play of championships in all four major professional team sports – the NFL’s championship, baseball’s World Series, basketball NBA Finals and hockey’s Stanley Cup. He interviewed Babe Ruth, was the original voice of the Washington Senators in 1947, and for decades called the play-by-play for both the New York Knicks and New York Rangers.

Wolff was cited by the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest consecutive on the air streak for a broadcaster, 78 years in a row, dating back to 1939 on WDNC Radio, when he was a student at Duke University. Earlier this year, Mr. Wolff extended the streak on News 12 Long Island with sports commentary and WHUD Radio in Westchester as the host of the Con Edison Scholastic Sports Award program.

Wolff was the Voice of the New York Knicks for both championship seasons in 1969-70 and 1972-73, called the only Perfect Game in World Series history when the Yankees’ Don Larsen retired all 27 Brooklyn Dodgers batters that he faced in 1956; and was behind the mic for the “greatest football game ever played,” the Colts overtime victory over the Giants in the N.F.L. Championship in 1958.
Wolff is enshrined in the broadcast wing of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the National Sportscasters-Sportswriters Hall of Fame, the Madison Square Garden Walk of Fame, and in July 2008 was voted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame with the Curt Gowdy Award, joining Curt as the only two sportscasters to be in both the basketball and the baseball halls. Wolff has also been honored by selection to the Hall of Fame of his collegiate fraternity at Duke University- Sigma Nu.
Wolff called Rose Bowls, Sugar Bowls, Gator Bowls, and during his long association with Madison Square Garden Network, college basketball tournaments, The Holiday Festival for 29 years, the National Invitation Tournament for 25 years, the Millrose Games for 32 years, Virginia Slims tennis, women’s college and pro sports, Golden Gloves, college hockey, boxing, bowling, golf, gymnastics, youth football, surfing, horse show jumping, the National Horse Show for 32 years, and the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show for 33 years.
He began an illustrious career that has spanned NINE decades on CBS Radio’s WDNC in Durham, North Carolina, in 1939 – when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President, Spencer Tracy was best actor and LaGuardia Airport first opened.
 
He is survived by Jane Wolff, his wife of 72 years, three adult children – sons Dr. Robert Wolff and Rick Wolff, and daughter Margy Clark, nine grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
Here’s a radio audio link to a WHUD broadcast: http://www.whud.com/con-edison-athlete-of-the-week/.
Full bio:
Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Wolff has proven that high quality work and unmatched longevity are the key components to a legendary career in sports casting. Wolff is in the broadcast wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame, the National Sportscasters-Sportswriters Hall of Fame, the Madison Square Garden Walk of Fame and in July 2008 was voted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame with the Curt Gowdy Award, joining Curt as the only two sportscasters to be in both the basketball and the baseball halls. Wolff has also been honored by selection to the Hall of Fame of his collegiate fraternity- Sigma Nu.
On March 21, 2012, Wolff was presented with a Guinness World Record certificate for attaining the longest career as a sports broadcaster. Beginning with his work on CBS Radio, WDNC in Durham, North Carolina, in 1939 while going to Duke University, the Phi Beta Kappa graduate’s career on the airwaves reached an astounding78 years in 2017, working in his ninth decade. In 1946 he added TV to his schedule as Washington D.C.’s first telecaster on DuMont’s WTTG. His television assignments have included play-by-play on all the major networks. Wolff is the world’s longest-running TV and radio sportscaster and continued to add to the record this year.
Wolff holds the distinction of being the first and only broadcaster to handle play-by-play championship calls in all four major professional sports; the World Series, the NFL Championship, the NBA Championship and the Stanley Cup hockey finals. He called two of the greatest sports events in Yankee Stadium history – the Don Larsen perfect World Series game and the Colts overtime NFL Championship win over the New York Giants called “the greatest football game ever played.”
He was the television play-by-player for the New York Knicks two championships. In 1965, he called the Boston Celtics championship victory for the NBA crown against the Los Angeles Lakers for a national TV audience. In 1965 on January 1st he called Michigan’s football victory in the Rose Bowl on the West Coast on NBC, then flew to New York and telecast Michigan’s basketball loss to St. John’s at Madison Square Garden on January 2nd in Coach Joe Lapchick’s retiring year.
Wolff continued a full schedule of activity in today’s competitive New York marketplace with his award-winning commentaries and his coverage of major sports events, in his 28th year at News 12 Long Island. For 59 years was seen and heard on Madison Square Garden programming. His 50th year at the Garden was saluted with a special – Bob Wolff’s Golden Garden Anniversary. In 2010, Bob added conversations with sports celebrities as a Steiner Sports feature segment on the YES Network Memories shows.
On the New York scene, in 2007, Wolff was inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame. Wolff’s also in the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball Hall of Fame where he served as League Commissioner for five years and in New York State’s Westchester and Rockland Counties Hall of Fame. On Long Island, he won the Press Club Outstanding Journalist Award in 2001. His resume includes a TV Ace Award and Emmy Awards for his on-camera work. His Emmy nominations also continue to mount.
Wolff’s versatility is impressive. In addition to his laurels with professional sports, on the amateur side, his broadcast credits include Rose Bowls, Sugar Bowls, Gator Bowls, college basketball tournaments, The Holiday Festival for 29 years, the National Invitation Tournament for 25 years, the Millrose Games for 32 years, Virginia Slims tennis, women’s college and pro sports, Golden Gloves, college hockey, boxing, bowling, golf, gymnastics, youth football, surfing, horse show jumping, the National Horse Show for 32 years, and the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show for 33 years which he helped popularize with his off-beat brand of humor, commentary and songs.
Wolff became a broadcasting legend during his 15 years in Washington, D.C. He was the pioneer television voice of the Washington Senators beginning in 1947, and in addition to calling the games, also handled the team’s pre-game and post-game TV and radio shows, plus a nightly TV sports show and radio show. Wolff was the first NBA basketball team telecaster when he called play-by-play for the Red Auerbach-coached Washington Capitols in their inaugural 1946-1947 season in the BAA, the predecessor of the NBA. In 1947, he telecast the first sponsored sports show on the DuMont TV network between Washington and New York.
The voice of baseball in the nation’s capital excelled regionally and nationally. His first network TV exposure was on DuMont, and he soon became a headliner on Mutual’s football Game-of-the-Week and bowl games, plus their baseball Game-of-the-Day. He had football assignments on NBC, CBS, and ABC television, as well as basketball and special events for NBC, USA and ABC. In 1951, he was selected for the first college football TV Game-of-the-Week series and, in 1953, was on the first professional football TV Game-of-the-Week.
Beginning in 1954, Wolff began a remarkable 36-year run as TV play-by-play caller at Madison Square Garden, telecasting more Garden events than any other sportscaster, including long-running tenures- 27 years with the Knicks and 20 years with the Rangers. In 1960, he teamed with Canadian hockey TV great Foster Hewitt to call hockey’s first-ever pay-per-view game, Toronto against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. His numerous TV Garden highlights also included the live call of the first sports telecast on the Madison Square Garden Network, a hockey game between the Minnesota North Stars and the New York Rangers on October 15, 1969.
Wolff’s distinguished career as a baseball broadcaster continued to draw plaudits. In 1956, after drawing praise for his broadcast of the Baseball All-Star Game from Washington aired nationwide on Mutual, Wolff was selected to be a World Series broadcaster. After calling the Don Larsen perfect game, the only one in World Series history, a baseball classic, when the World Series shifted from Mutual to NBC, Wolff was selected again to handle play-by-play in 1958 and 1961. Wolff then left his position as broadcaster of the Minnesota Twins where he spent the ’61 season and also served as the weekend sports host of the ABC-TV network for three years before accepting a contract with NBC-TV in 1962 as their Baseball Game-of-the-Week play-caller. Four years later when ABC-TV took over the broadcast contract, Wolff returned briefly to their baseball booth before deciding to make a change in his broadcasting schedule which would permit more opportunities for him and his wife to watch and enjoy their youngsters in action, fulfilling achievements of their own.
On June 6th, 2009, Wolff was honored in a home-plate ceremony at the Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. when team President Stan Kasten unveiled a plaque naming the home TV booth ‘The Bob Wolff Suite’. A video of Bob’s work was played on the giant screen with a narration about Bob’s baseball accomplishments.
The on-the-go sportscaster for many years had averaged over 250 play-by-plays, plus pre- and post-game shows and nightly sportscasts, per year. In addition to network shows, he was the television play-by-play voice for eight teams in five different sports – Knicks, Rangers, Washington Senators, Minnesota Twins, Baltimore Colts, Washington Redskins, Cleveland Browns, and soccer’s Tampa Bay Rowdies, plus thousands of other sports programs.
Wolff reduced his hectic travel itinerary by contracting to do play-by-play of the complete home schedule of the Knicks, Rangers and other Madison Square Garden sports events, along with baseball specials, features and commentaries on their rapidly-growing cable network.
When News 12 Long Island began its operation, Wolff solidified his home base activities by becoming their Sports Director and Sports Anchor. He quickly drew attention to his work by winning recognition as State Sportscaster of the Year six times. Simultaneously he continued to telecast special events for Madison Square Garden plus baseball specials and received the National PowerAde Award for Best Sportscaster for his “Bob Wolff’s Baseball Scrapbook” shows on the MSG Network. Currently at News 12, Wolff continues as Senior Sports Commentator covering major sports events on camera, running the Scholar-Athlete Program and telecasting sports specials, features and his weekly Point-of-View pieces.
Wolff has also continued his love of educational pursuits. He’s been a college professor at both Pace and St. John’s University, and is proud of the number of his students who have gone on to major assignments in the communications field. In Westchester County, NY, Wolff continues to moderate and air on WHUD the Con Edison weekly Scholar Athlete program for his 38th year and the same on News 12 Long Island for their Scholar Athlete weekly program now in its 28th year.
Wolff has written four books and his articles have been published in numerous publications including The New York Times and Sports Illustrated. His latest book, Bob Wolff’s Complete Guide to Sportscasting, is now available in paperback edition.
In 2008 Wolff received national acclaim for his play-by-play and commentary on two ESPN specials. His call on Don Larsen’s perfect World Series game and other comments were featured on “Yankee Stadium – Baseball Cathedral” and his play-by-play and on-camera work with Mike Tirico played a major role in “The Greatest Football Game Ever Played”, the broadcast of the Colt-Giant, 1958 NFL championship game which set the stage for the tremendous growth of pro football. Wolff also appeared in a two-hour special on Japan television based on Yankee memories including his Don Larsen call.
On June 22nd, 2009, Wolff was inducted into the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame. That year he also served as the on-field public address announcer for the National Baseball Hall of Fame Inaugural Classic Game at Cooperstown, and was also on the mike at the new Yankee Stadium for their Old-Timers Game, continuing a long tradition of fifteen years at this prestigious annual event.
Bob and his wife Jane celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary on May 5, 2017. They have three children and nine grandchildren and five great grandchildren. They view their family as their greatest blessing.
Dr. Robert Wolff a former pitching star at Princeton, is a noted pediatric neurologist; Rick Wolff, a former draft choice as a Harvard second baseman, is vice president and executive editor of Grand Central Publishing, and a broadcaster; and daughter Margy Clark, an Alfred University graduate, also an accomplished athlete, is a school nurse at the University of Hartford Magnet School. Each is married with three children.
 

Fast Freshmen in Saturday’s Sheppard Pace Eliminations at Yonkers Raceway

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By John Cirillo
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Toured the track with the Chief

My first Lawrence B. Sheppard Pace as Yonkers Raceway’s new, wet-behind-the-ears PR man in 1981 was a memorable one for many  reasons. For one, it was my fledgling press conference, held outdoors in what was known back then as the Empire Terrace Gardens. The amazing Herve Filion, who recently passed away, was ultimately the winner with Icarus Lobell, flying high to a length and a quarter win. And most memorable is that on that day, I met the immortal Art Rooney, the Pittsburgh Steelers founder and Rooney family patriarch. After the presser, “The Chief” walked the facility with our great staff photographer Mike Cipriani and yours truly, sharing cigars with the maintenance workers, electricians, and many staffers, while talking football and racing. Pinch yourself kid, it’s real.
And so the Sheppard just upon mention of the race itself evokes fond memories. This year’s renewal is worth, and the stakes for two-year-old colts and geldings kicks of the stakes-laden summer calendar at Yonkers  on Saturday night, July 15, with three $25,000 elimination races to be contested this Saturday night, July 8, to decide the eight finalists.
The first two finishers in each elimination and the two fastest third-place finishers will return for the finale.
The Sheppard is named for the man behind breeding behemoth Hanover Shoe Farms, and the three eliminations are slated as races four, five and six on the card.
A number of precocious freshman will battle it out in the elimination heats.
In the second division Wild Bill, with trainer Ray Schnittker driving from post five, won his debut in a sizzling 1:53.1 in Pennsylvania All Stars event (Pocono) this past Sunday night. The son of Somebeachsomewhere looks to his give his trainer/driver a second consecutive Sheppard victory, having won last year’s edition with Summer Side.
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Ray Schnittker won last year’s Sheppard behind Summer Side, drives Wild Bill and Lucky Leonard in Saturday’s elimination races

Invading from Ottawa is Kwik Talkin’, steered by “Air” Jordan Stratton from post two. The son of Well Said who is unbeaten in two career outings.
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“Air” Jordan, pictured steering Fast Eddie, drives fast Kwik Talkin’ in Sheppard elim

Another pair of winners headline the third elim, with Paprike Blue Chip, guided by Corey Callahan from post one, and Lucky Leonard (Schnittker, post seven). Paprike, a Roll with Joe gelding, won a Pocono overnight in 1:54.2, while “Leonard” —another son of Well Said —captured a Pennsylvania All Star event in 1:55.1.
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Brett Miller, who won last year’s Messenger Stakes with Racing Hill, guides America’s Guest in Sheppard

In the first division, America’s Guest, with Brett Miller in the sulky from post three, is the quickest of the freshman entered in the Sheppard, raced-timed in 1:53 in his purse debut at The Meadowlands.
Saturday night’s 12-race card has a first post of 7:10 pm.

Empire City Casino @ Yonkers Raceway to Simulcast “Irish Derby” on July 1; Sunday Matinee Racing Returns July 2

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YONKERS, NYEmpire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway will offer simulcast wagering on the prestigious Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby from The Curragh Racecourse in County Kildare, Ireland, this Saturday morning, July 1.

IRISH DERBY LOGOThe announcement comes fresh off importing world-class thoroughbred races from Britain’s Royal Ascot meeting last week. Mutuel windows will open at 10:00 am (fourth floor only), and is offering wagering on races 3 (post time 10:10 am/ET) through 8 (post time 1:00 pm/ET) from the Curragh, with the Irish Derby going as the seventh race (post time 12:20 pm/ET).

These are the races to be simulcast:

3rd race — Dubai Duty Free Millennium Millionaire Celebration Stakes

4th race — Dubai Duty Free Full Of Surprises Handicap

5th race — Curragh Where Champions Are Made Summer Fillies Handicap

6th race — GAIN Railway Stakes

7th race — Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby

8th race — Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship Irish EBF Handicap.

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Empire City Trotting Club, established in 1899, has iconic history; Irish Derby even more historic, inaugural was in 1866!

Wagering is also available through the Raceway’s ADW portal, Empire City Bets, which features a special promotion involving the Irish Derby and Yonkers’ live races that evening. Please visit www.empirecitybets.com for more information.

About The Curragh: The Curragh is considered to be  Ireland‘s most important Thoroughbred racecourse. It is located on the Curragh plain in County Kildare, which is situated between the towns of Newbridge and Kildare. The word “Curragh” comes from the Irish (Gaeilge) word Cuirreach, which translated means “place of the running horse.” The first recorded race on the plain was contested almost 300 years ago, in 1727, but it was actually used for races even before that. The first Irish Derby was held in 1866, and in 1868 the Curragh was officially declared a horse racing and training facility by an act of parliament… This year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Festival again promises to be one of the highlights of the racing and social calendar taking place over three days from Friday 30th June – Sunday 2nd July at The Curragh.

Yonkers Raceway Sets Four Sunday Matinees: July 2, 16, 23, 30

Yonkers Raceway’s next Sunday matinee is set for this weekend on July 2nd with a 12:30 pm first post. Three afternoon cards are scheduled on July 16th, 23rd and 30th.

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Rubber Duck flew home on matinee card on June 18, takes another quack at it this Sunday for Joe Bongiorno

This Sunday’s card is a 12-race, all-trotting race program, with races three (post time 1:25 pm) through six (2:55 pm) distance affairs at 1 ¼ miles and full fields for the French simulcasting hub.  The $68,000 Open Handicap goes as the third race, with a robust dozen, including the last matinee idol, Rubber Duck (Joe Bongiorno from post 12). Post time for the final race on Sunday is scheduled for 4:55 pm

The “New York, New York Double” returns this Sunday, including Belmont’s 3rd race (post time 2:32 pm) and Yonkers’ 7th race (post time 3:15 pm).

Pudge Rodriguez Tees Off in American Century Championship

This is the second in a series of guest blogs on the participants in the American Century Championship Golf Tournament set for July 14-16 in Lake Tahoe. Diego Isio takes a look at Pudge Rodriguez and baseball’s greatest catchers.

By Diego Isio

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Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez is a 14-time All-Star, 2003 World Series champion, 13-time Gold Glove Award recipient (the most among catchers), and won the AL Most Valuable Player award in 1999. To top it all off, the native of Puerto Rico has caught more games than any other catcher in MLB history with 2,427. These are definitely Hall of Fame credentials.

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And so on July 30, the owner of over 2,800 career hits and 1,300 RBI will be the 18th catcher enshrined in Cooperstown, having been selected by the baseball writers earlier this year.

JACKPOT $104,000 YONKERS WOMAN

“The emotion is very high, obviously, it’s less than a month from the ceremony,” said Rodriguez on a conference call to discuss the American Century Golf tournament in Lake Tahoe July 14-16 in which he will be participating with fellow Hall of Famer John Smoltz, as well as the former All-Star hurlers Trevor Hoffman and Mark Mulder, and a long list of sports stars.

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The American Century Championship is a  54-hole tournament, now in its 28th year, is televised nationally by NBC and NBCSN from July 14-16, featuring a celebrity field of 90-plus sports and entertainment stars competing for $600,000 in prize money. The event, which has raised over $4 million for charity, has been held at picturesque Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course since its inception in 1990. Other prominent names expected in Lake Tahoe include Justin Timberlake, Steph Curry, Aaron Rodgers, John Elway, Travis Kelce, Steve Young, Emmitt Smith, Carson Palmer, Alex Smith, Marshall Faulk, Brian Kelly, Marvin Lewis, Roger Clemens, Jerry Rice, Charles Woodson, Larry the Cable Guy, Alfonso Ribeiro, Blair O’Neal and Paige Spiranac.  (www.americancenturychampionship.com)

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“And it’s great just to be there after five years after retiring from baseball,” added Pudge. “Being able to go into the Hall of Fame as a first-timer and to go in with two good friends of mine, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines, is great.”

Rodriguez grew up idolizing another Hall of Fame backstop, Johnny Bench. Pudge reflected that “my favorite catcher was Johnny Bench. In Puerto Rico we saw a lot of games from the “Big Red Machine” team back in the day. And I like the way he played. Johnny was one of my heroes.”

Now, he joins Bench as the only catchers to enter the Hall of Fame on their first ballot. This also leads to the argument of Pudge being among the best catchers of all-time, in the same breath as Bench, Yogi Berra, Carlton Fisk, Mike Piazza and Bill Dickey, the Yankees seven-time World Champion and 11-time All-Star backstop who was a .313 career hitter in the ‘20’s through ‘40’s.

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It is no question that Rodriguez is arguably one of the two best catchers in the last 20 years, alongside last year’s catching inductee and fellow Hall of Famer Piazza. The former Mets and Dodgers star was best known for his power at the plate and is the all-time home run leader among catchers with 427.  But Pudge has a World Series championship to his credit, and was named to more All-Star games (14 vs. 12). Pudge has also inserted himself in the conversation as one of the best catchers of all time. Among the 18 Hall of Fame catchers, Pudge leads them all in hits (2,844) and runs scored (1,354), is tied for second most All-Star appearances with Bench (14) and behind only Berra (18), and is third in career WAR (68.4), behind Bench and Gary Carter.

Defensively, Rodriguez was second to none. Look no further than his defensive hardware. Pudge collected a record-breaking 13 Gold Glove trophies, shattering his idol Bench’s mark.

In a few weeks, Pudge will be enshrined in Cooperstown forever, and says he will “try to enjoy every single event and just to have fun for the whole week.”

A Look at Trevor Hoffman: Padres Pitcher Gets into Swing of Things in American Century Golf July 14-16

This is the first in a series of four guest blogs on the former baseball stars who will participate in the American Century Golf Championship set for July 14-16 in Lake Tahoe. Josh Benaroya takes a look at Trevor Hoffman and baseball’s greatest relief pitchers.

 By Josh Benaroya

There are just five relief pitchers in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and by 2019 there will likely be seven.

These additions will be the two closers who have recorded the most saves in the history of baseball. Former San Diego Padres star Trevor Hoffman is expected to garner enough votes for Cooperstown when he enters his third year on the HOF ballot in 2018 after he narrowly missed the 75% vote threshold by a mere five votes this past January. The following year, MLB’s greatest closer, the Yankees Mariano Rivera, should soar into Cooperstown his first year on the ballot. It is evident that this two-year stretch is lining up to be an outlier: only five relievers in the HOF demonstrates that the writers undervalue this important role.

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Hoffman gets into swing of things

“I certainly hope to [get voted in next year]…it was incredible just to garner the amount of votes that I did” said Hoffman on a conference call to discuss the American Century Golf tournament in which he will be participating with Pudge Rodriguez, Mark Mulder, John Smoltz and a bevy of sports stars in Lake Tahoe from July 14-16.

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Smoltz will be major player

Hoffman was the first closer to reach both the  500 and 600 save milestones, finishing his 18-year career with 601 saves (#2 all time), seven All Star appearances, a pair of Reliever of the Year awards, and 1,133 strikeouts. His numbers speak for themselves, performing as well as one can in his role as a one-inning specialist.

Hoffman received 67% of the vote in 2016, and just missed entry into the HOF in 2017 with 74%. Naturally, the former Padres closer still longs to reach that magical 75% threshold from the voters.

“To have that validation in your career, to ultimately be enshrined, like Pudge (Rodriguez) and John (Smoltz) have been able to do, would be a dream come true,” added Hoffman as he discussed his participation in the upcoming American Century Golf tournament with the two Hall of Famers.

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Busy July for Pudge: American Century, then Cooperstown

The American Century is a  54-hole tournament, now in its 28th year, is televised nationally by NBC and NBCSN, featuring a celebrity field of 90-plus sports and entertainment stars competing for $600,000 in prize money. The event, which has raised over $4 million for charity, has been held at picturesque Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course since its inception in 1990. Other prominent names at Lake Tahoe include Justin Timberlake, Steph Curry,  Aaron Rodgers, John Elway, Travis Kelce, Steve Young, Emmitt Smith, Carson Palmer, Alex Smith, Marshall Faulk, Brian Kelly, Marvin Lewis, Roger Clemens, Jerry Rice, Charles Woodson, Larry the Cable Guy, Alfonso Ribeiro, Blair O’Neal and Paige Spiranac.  (www.americancenturychampionship.com)

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Mulder tries for Three-Peat!

While history has shown that players who just miss usually wind up making it to Cooperstown the following year, the writers have shown to be strict and diligent in their voting, which has forced even the all-time closers to wait for that moment of induction. It’s a process.

Rollie Fingers (1992), with 341 career saves, was selected in his second year of eligibility, while it took Goose Gossage (2008) with 310 saves nine tries to make it to Cooperstown, despite a seemingly greater degree of difficulty in their role at the time.

The relievers of the past were asked to do more than they are now as both Fingers and Gossage pitched 1,700-1,800 innings, while Rivera and Hoffman pitched less than 1,300 innings in their careers. In addition, Fingers and Gossage both recorded 90 IP a collective 18 times, whereas Hoffman and Rivera combined to record 90 IP just twice.

In his 17-year career, Fingers was an MVP, a Cy Young award winner, a 7-time All Star, 3-time World Series Champion, World Series MVP and a 4-time Reliever of the Year. With almost 1,300 strikeouts and 341 saves, even Fingers was denied entry into the HOF during his first year. Gossage on the other hand, was forced to wait 9 years despite recording 9 All Star appearances, a World Series Championship, a Reliever of the Year award, 1,500 strikeouts and 310 saves.

While Rivera and Hoffman had the benefit of performing as one-inning specialists during their tenures, they redefined the closer role by putting up over 600 saves each while winning multiple Reliever of the Year awards. As was evident with Fingers and Gossage, the drastic difference in postseason success resulted in Fingers having an easier time being voted into the HOF. Similarly, Rivera’s enormous postseason success as a five-time World Champion should grant him induction in his first year on the ballot. If and when that does indeed happen, Hoffman will likely be waiting in Cooperstown to greet him, just as the two met when the Yankees defeated the Padres in the 1998 World Series.

Hoffman did not enjoy the same playoff proliferation as Rivera, but believes that rings or lack thereof should not define his career. “I loved playing in the city of San Diego. We had a fantastic team in ’98, I wish we would have been able to keep [the team together] for a couple more years. But it’s just part of the preparation of going out and trying to do your job. I certainly enjoyed the work and the process…I didn’t play worrying about regrets.”

Now that Hoffman’s relief pitching days are over, he has much more time to golf as he awaits the 2018 HOF ballot. “I definitely didn’t get enough golf time on the circuit, but it’s definitely a nice place to kind of relieve your mind of stress when you can” said Hoffman while discussing the American Century Golf tournament in which he will be participating with Mark Mulder, Pudge Rodriguez and John Smoltz.

 

Fordham Pitcher Jimmy Murphy, Selected by Orioles in MLB Draft, Has Big League Qualities

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John Cirillo is a graduate of Fordham University (FCRH ’78) and has been an adjunct professor in communication and media studies at his alma mater at Rose Hill since 1997.

New York, June 26-Jimmy Murphy has the poise, the maturity beyond his years, what in the olden days we used to call “New York moxie” (look it up), the determination, and oh yeah, the talent to be successful at any profession that he chooses.

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Fordham righty drafted in eighth round

From the 10 minute interview on September 12th last Fall that turned into an hour conversation with him when the Fordham pitcher applied for an internship at our PR firm Cirillo World (and how he doggedly pursued said internship on a teammate’s urging) to serving as our staff photographer to shoot the Michael Kay Show on ESPN NY Radio from Fordham (Kay’s alma mater) to a stellar complete game on May 18 against the Bonnies that kept his Rams in the A-10 playoff hunt, you knew “Thor” was a “keeper.”

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PFKAT: Pitcher formerly known as Thor

Thor? Yes, I dubbed him so on that first day interview because his long, blonde, since-shorn locks somewhat resembled those of Mets hurler Noah Syndergaard.

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Thor cut his locks but was still Samson-like on hill

Murphy immediately passed the Cirillo “eye test.” At first glance, he had that look of seriousness, passion, unafraid and calm as if to say “hey I’m ready for this!” that trainers look for in a racehorse, and employers look for in a young employee.

So much so that after his mound gem in May in Allegany, Cattaraugus County, New York, while celebrating our anniversary,  I told my bride, who had met him when he worked the Yonkers International Trot on a sun-drenched October afternoon, that “Thor is not only going to get drafted, but one day he’ll make it to the major leagues.” What?

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The Murph mows ’em down

And so, it came as no surprise at least in this corner, when the news came down that Jimmy Murphy was selected in the eighth round of the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft with the 248th overall pick by the Baltimore Orioles on June 13th.

“I was trying to go in (to the draft) without expectations because I didn’t want to be bummed out if it didn’t happen,” said Murphy. “But I had a good feeling.”

Funny how the lifelong Yankees fan from South Orange, New Jersey, gets picked by the division rival, huh? He’ll deal with!

The journey on the mound begin in Aberdeen, M.D. with the “Ironbirds” in the NY Penn league very soon on the heels of indoctrination in Sarasota, Florida.

The low-key Murphy was seemingly happier for his family, friends and teammates than for himself. “My dad (Jim) was even more excited than I was,” said the Murph. “It’s been amazing. So many people reached out minutes and then days after. The people around me have been so supportive.”

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Jimmy (left) and teammate David (No Relation) Wright flank Fordham Hall of Famer Bobby Cole (my college roomie) at Christmas soiree in meeting of Rams pitchers.

Murphy battled injuries earlier in his Fordham career, but he persevered. The 5-foot-11 right-hander emerged as a legit prospect with a 6-7 record and tidy 2.59 ERA in his final season with three complete games. He allowed just 76 hits in 93 ²/₃ innings. Murph now launches his career as a professional baseball pitcher.

Thinking, believing that Murphy can one day pitch for the Baltimore Orioles may be considered wishful thinking at best, or a pipe dream to some. Maybe so, but I wouldn’t bet against him. On Sunday (June 25), another Ram, Nick Martinez (drafted in the 18th round in 2007), who was primarily an infielder at Fordham, was the winning pitcher on Old-Timers Day against the Yankees at the Stadium, and is a legit starter for the Texas Rangers.

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Nick Martinez during his Fordham days with fellow Cuban hurler Livon Hernandez

Jimmy Murphy may not be the prototypical, new millennium pitcher. He stands under six feet tall, and his velocity is in the low to mid-90’s. But he has the guile, the determination, the poise that separates the men from the boys. From this corner, lightning strikes again.

Circle Sunday, July 23, on your calendar, that’s the first of nine dates that the Aberdeen Ironbirds will be in the New York area. It’s a 4:00 pm afternoon game in Coney Island against the Brooklyn Cyclones. Dinner at Gargiulo’s, the famed Italian restaurant just a stone’s throw from the ballpark, sounds like a plan.

Aberdeen Ironbirds Brooklyn and Staten Island Schedule:

Sunday, July 23   @Brooklyn    4:00 pm

Monday, July 24   @Brooklyn     7:00 pm

Tuesday, July 25   @Brooklyn     11:30 am

Wednesday, August 2   @Staten Island     7:00pm

Thursday, August 3      @Staten Island      7:00 pm

Friday, August 4           @Staten Island       7:00 pm

Wednesday, August 16  @Brooklyn        7:00 pm

Thursday, August 17        @Brooklyn       7:00 pm

Friday, August 18             @Brooklyn        6:40 pm