Bob Wolff: A Class Act at the Head of the Broadcasting Class

The assumption was that Bob Wolff would go on forever.

That was reasonable enough since at the age of 95 — last February — he still was contributing essays for News 12 Long Island; a mere 78 years after he broke in behind a microphone.

At times one suspected that there really were three Bob Wolff’s rolled up into one sportscaster.

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 01: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Longtime sportscaster Bob Wolff looks on before a game between the New York Yankees and the Seattle Mariners at Yankee Stadium on May 1, 2014 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Mariners defeated the Yankees 4-2. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

An author as well sportscaster, Bob had the knack of knocking off a good book faster than Mats Zuccarello busts over a blue line.

You had to wonder how could one human being be so all over the place handling so many different sports — and doing it expertly — than this native New Yorker who passed away on Saturday in his 96th year?

The answer was that Robert Alfred Wolff was unique in our broadcasting business. He was a Bob Of All Sports And Master of Every One, dating back to 1939 and his collegiate days playing baseball at Duke University.

[Photos: Remembering Bob Wolff]

Bob began broadcasting Duke games on a local CBS station and never stopped working.

The beauty part of his career is that it spanned just about every pastime including the unforgettable New York Giants-Baltimore Colts sudden-death overtime NFL championship game.

Not surprisingly in 2012, the Guinness World Records headlined Wolff for having the longest career of any sportscaster.

The Maven’s path crossed with Bob’s for the first time at the 1956 World Series when I was a young sports columnist for Hearst’s evening flagship daily, the New York Journal-American.

Both Bob and I covered the New York Yankees-Brooklyn Dodgers showdown which ended on a cold afternoon at Ebbets Field when the Bombers dethroned the Brooks.

(Original Caption) Dodger captain PeeWee Reese watches helplessly as Yankee catcher Yogi Berra prepares to catch his pop-up for out number one in the sixth inning of the sixth world World Series game October 9th at Ebbets Field. With junior Gilliam on first, Reese had tried to bunt. The Dodgers, behind Clem Labine, evened the Series at three games a piece by winning, 1-0, on Jackie Robinson’s single with two on in the tenth inning.

As a hockey historian, I later revered Wolff for his work as the Rangers play-by-play man. Basketball people loved him for Knicks calls while he long had been legendary for baseball work as well.

Whatever he did — and so much his best work emanated from Madison Square Garden III as well as the current Garden — it was done at the highest level of excellence.

A joint statement released by the Madison Square Garden Company and MSG Networks declared as follows:

“Bob Wolff was not only one of the seminal figures in American sportscasting, but he was a part of the very fabric of Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks and the New York Rangers for more than six decades.

“In addition to leaving behind an unmatched body of work, his spirit carries on in the hundreds of broadcasters he mentored and the millions of fans he touched. His legacy will live forever.”

Wolff’s ubiquitous, nonpareil work encompassed the ice, the hardwood and, of course, the baseball diamond.

Native New Yorkers such as myself remember Bob’s voice detailing on October 8, 1956 when Don Larsen of the Yankees made World Series history throwing a perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers at Yankee Stadium.

Don Larsen pitches for the New York Yankees in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, on October 8, 1956. Larsen no hit the Dodgers for the only Perfect Game in world series history.

Wolff worked the radio for that memorable match along with my colleague, New York Journal-American columnist Bill Corum.

Some critics claim that the 1961 Yankees ranked equally with Babe Ruth’s 1927 squad. Wolff wasn’t around for the latter but, ironically, he and 1927 ace Waite Hoyt teamed to chronicle the ’61 Bombers for NBC Radio and yet another Bronx title.

Lesser known but no less fascinating was Bob Wolff’s ability to respond to a broadcast S.O.S. and do that oh, so well.

One night at the Garden then Knicks broadcaster Marv Albert was handling an NBA game while doubling with a nightly sports gig at WNBC-TV. Normally, Albert would have enough time after the Knicks game to scoot crosstown.

As luck would have it the Knicks game went into overtime and Albert knew he had to hustle over to Rockefeller Centre for his news stint.

The game remained knotted after the first extra session, leaving Albert no choice but to take off for the newscast. What to do? Who could do it?

Well, somebody had to pinch hit and, naturally, Bob Wolff finished the game.

Not surprisingly most of my encounters with Bob took place around ice rinks just schmoozing about the NHL in general and the Rangers in particular and, of course, his favorite Blueshirts.

“I always liked the way Andy Bathgate played the game,” Woolf once told me during a discussion about the Rangers’ captain and right wing who starred in the late 1950s and 1960s. “Andy seemed to be the perfect stickhandler and the ideal role model for young players.”

Andy Bathgate, New York Rangers (AP Images)

Then again, one could say the same for Bob who was admired — nay, idolized — by a line of broadcasters that went all the way around the block. He managed to be a magnificent mentor and nice guy all piled into one fine human being.

Speaking of walking around the block, one Wintry day a few years ago, I strolled out of the MSG Networks offices at 11 Penn Plaza and crossed Seventh Avenue to do a feature at The World’s Most Famous Arena.

As my producer, Matt Fineman, and I walked our way into The Garden, who should we meet but Bob Wolff of all unlikely people at an unlikely event.

“And,” I asked, just out of curiosity, “Bob what are you doing here today?”

He shot back: “I’m covering the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.”

Like I said, Bob Wolff could do everything.

Better still, he did it best!