After 50 years in New York, Yankees broadcaster Suzyn Waldman still ‘Bleeds Green’ – Boston Herald

For most people associated with the New York Yankees, Boston – Fenway Park, in particular – is enemy territory.

But for Suzyn Waldman, one of baseball’s most iconic voices as a longtime member of the Yankees’ broadcasting team, it’s still home. The Yankees mainstay was born in Newton and graduated from Simmons College with a degree in economics. That the school was a stone’s throw from the cathedral she lovingly described to the New York Times as “a little green jewelry box” in 1993 wasn’t the deciding factor, but it certainly helped.

“I went to Simmons because my mother went to Simmons,” Waldman told the Herald on Sunday. “I was a special student at the New England Conservatory of Music, and I was doing shows at MIT and Harvard, and also, it was across the street from Fenway Park.”

She managed to juggle academics, performing, and a heavy extracurricular schedule: the Red Sox’s. “I just went every day to Fenway Park. I went every day in ‘67, sat in the bleachers,” she said.

Waldman then moved to New York to pursue a career in theater. But in hindsight, the baseball gods were sending her signs that she was headed down a different path.

“First show I did in New York was ‘No, No, Nanette!’ I was in the chorus,” she said. Mention that name around Red Sox fans at your own risk: it’s the musical version of the play Harry Frazee financed with the money he got from selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919.

On Friday evening, baseball’s greatest rivalry was scheduled to meet for the first time this season, and the Celtics and Mavericks were set to play Game 4 in Dallas. Waldman showed up for work with a dark-green sequined top under her blazer. Around her neck hung two necklaces: a Jewish star with lapis lazuli, and a small gold Celtics logo pendant, which had belonged to her grandfather.

Yes, Waldman still bleeds green.

“My dad took me to the basketball games. You knew everybody, like here, when I was a little girl, I knew everyone in the section. The same people were there all the time,” Waldman continued, gesturing towards the baseball diamond. “But in the Boston Garden, it was different. It wasn’t the same kind of fervor at the time. The place was empty, and Red would yell when he coached. And so I got to learn my basketball listening to Red Auerbach coach (Bob) Cousy, (Bill) Sharman, (Bill) Russell, (Tommy) Heinsohn, and (Frank) Ramsey.”

Auerbach was loud and fiery, and in an arena rarely even half-full during the regular season, everyone could hear him coaching his players at full volume. He wouldn’t yell at Russell or Cousy, so if he wanted to get on them about something, he’d shout at players in their vicinity, like Heinsohn.

“I remember him (talking) about the corner: ‘You’re guarded by three, not one, get out of that corner!’” Waldman chuckled. “Red used to say, ‘There’s eight plays, there’s 48 variations on the eight plays.’”

“You’d also notice things like, when Red thought the game was over, when he’d light his cigar, because he thought it was over. I loved to watch that,” she recalled.

The original Boston Garden was a place where a young Waldman felt hopeful about a future that was more diverse and accepting than the present. The world could be a better place, if only it was more like the Celtics, who were breaking down racial barriers.

“You always thought back then, that if the world were the Boston Celtics, with the first Black coach and all-Black starting five, that this is what we thought things could be like,” she said of the historic 1964 squad. “A lot of us who went to those games actually, that’s what we thought. How things could be, it could all be like the Celtics.”

Boston’s basketball team would shape Waldman’s life in a plethora of ways. Legendary Celtics radio man Johnny Most was her idol.

“There’s a lot of Johnny Most in me, because it’s emotion, and it’s radio, and it’s how people felt,” she said. “Red told Johnny, ‘I want you to teach the city of Boston basketball,’ and when you grow up listening to Johnny Most, there’s something that gets inside of you.”

When Waldman was preparing to embark upon her own sportscasting career, she called in a favor.

“The first interview I ever did when I was trying to get ready to do this, Ken Coleman was one of my best friends, and he called up Tommy Heinsohn,” she said. “And I drove to Tommy Heinsohn’s house with a tape recorder! I was talking about when I was a little girl, and he was telling me the greatest stories.”

It’s no longer weird for Waldman to have gone from one side of the Boston-New York rivalry to the other. “It was, but it went away pretty fast, I’ve been in New York over 50 years, and Ted Williams isn’t on that team,” she said.

There is, however, one very big exception.

“The only time it gets me is when I walk back into this place. Because nothing’s changed. It’s all changed, but nothing’s changed,” Waldman said. “The same ramp that I used to walk in with my grandfather, it’s there. So here, it bothers me. Because when I come back into Fenway Park, I’m three, holding my grandfather’s hand, and that doesn’t go away.”

Nor has her affection for the Celtics.

“I keep up with them. If they’re on and I’m home, I’ll watch. I love listening to Sean (Grande),” she said. “The last round, when he was talking about how (the Celtics) play with their food, it was pure Johnny, it really was. It was so emotional, but so right-on, about this team that’s been maligned and all that. What did he say? ‘They’re going to two places where they belong: home, and to the Finals.’ He said it a lot better, but it was perfect.”

However, while parts of Boston still feel like home for Waldman, you’ll never catch her at TD Garden.

“I won’t go to the new Garden. I’ve never been, I won’t go,” she said. “Because I saw my first circus there, I saw President Kennedy speak there. The old one, it’s just, it’s too much, it’s too flooded with memories.

“I’m not great at ‘Bests,” she said. “If someone asks me, what’s the greatest Yankee thing I saw, out of my mouth will be, ‘The look on Derek Jeter’s face when he looked at his mother when he had his 3,000th hit.’ But I can’t remember a great play here and there, because that’s not what gets me. I know it’s part of sports, but that’s not what I remember. You remember the feelings. You remember the feeling of sitting with your father.”

Especially at Fenway.

“I always say everything I’ve ever done in sports is because I grew up in this town and went to Fenway.”

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