“I saw it on the radio” is an expression dear to broadcasters of the pictureless medium because it defines what every radio announcer is trying to do — make the listener see in his mind’s eye what is happening on the ball field.
Ask around — talk to fans, baseball executives and other announcers — and the consensus about the ability of the Cyclones’ radio announcer Warner Fusselle to make the listener see the game on radio sounds like a chorus of Carly Simon’s song, “Nobody Does It Better.”
On Thursday, Aug. 26, Fusselle broadcast his 300th consecutive game for Brooklyn. Not only has he announced the action for every Clones contest, but he is probably the only person to have seen every Cyclones game.
So, all of the Cyclones games are on radio, Fusselle paints a marvelous word picture of all the action, and he never misses a game. This is a great deal for Brooklyn fans, right? Well, as they used to say about the Brooklyn Dodgers catcher Ernie Lombardi running to first, “Not so fast.”
We’ll get to why the Cyclones games on the radio are a mixed blessing, but first let’s talk about the Cyclones announcer.
Fusselle was born in Louisville, Ky., and grew up in Georgia. He has lived for about half his life in New York City — he’s a resident of midtown Manhattan.
He has broadcast minor league baseball over many years, going all the way back to the Spartanburg Phillies games from 1970-1974. Later, he broadcast games of the triple-A Richmond Braves. He has been the radio voice of the Virginia Squires of the American Basketball Association and was the long-time basketball radio voice of the Seton Hall University Pirates. He was the voice of the nationally syndicated “This Week in Baseball” for a time, and he even played a part in the Harvey Keitel thriller “Bad Lieutenant.”
As a young announcer, he wrote to Red Barber for advice and eventually became friendly with the famed announcer of the Brooklyn Dodgers. In fact, Fusselle’s acquaintance with Barber was one of the reasons that the he applied for the current Brooklyn broadcasting position.
As Fusselle explains, “Red told me all these stories about broadcasting in Brooklyn, and when I heard about baseball coming back to Brooklyn, I wanted to see what it would be like to broadcast in Brooklyn, and so I applied for the job.”
After Fusselle was named the Brooklyn announcer, he arranged for a sign to be made that he hangs from the broadcast booth at Keyspan Park and, where possible, from the radio booth at away games. The sign says, “The Catbird Seat” and it shows a picture of an old-time radio microphone.
“Sitting in the catbird seat” was one of the many Southern expressions that Barber used in his broadcasts, one that meant a player was at an advantage, such as Duke Snider at the plate with the bases loaded and a 3-0 count. Eventually, Barber applied the expression to his perch in the broadcast booth, and Fusselle, in honor of Barber, has resurrected the term.
Fusselle was asked about some of his Brooklyn Cyclones highlights he has broadcast while sitting in the new Catbird Seat. What were his most exciting games?
“The two most exciting back-to-back baseball games I have ever seen were the two playoff games here at Keyspan Park against the Staten Island Yankees in 2001,” recalled Fusselle.
Those were the games the Cyclones won before going against Williamsport in the championship series cancelled because of the events of Sept. 11.
How about the excitement generated by a player?
“Ambiorix Concepcion is the most exciting Cyclone that I have seen,” explained the Cyclones announcer about the current Cyclone. “He has all the tools, and not only do I think that he’ll make the majors, but I think he’ll be a star.”
Do all of Fusselle’s predictions come true?
“You never know who will make the majors,” says the broadcaster. “I’ve seen third-string minor league catchers make the big leagues, and I’ve seen guys that everyone thought would make it never get close to the majors.
“I thought a bunch of guys on the first Cyclones team would make the major leagues, and now a lot of them are out of baseball, like [pitcher] Ross Peeples.”
Well, 300 consecutive games is a nice streak. How does Fusselle feel about the achievement?
“Actually, 300 games isn’t that long a streak,” states the voice of the Brooks. “I am proudest that I have never missed a play-by-play broadcast in my career.”
Okay, Brooklyn Cyclones fans have a nationally known and respected announcer doing the games, and you could win a lot of money betting that he’ll show up for work.
So, what’s the problem?
You can be in Cucamonga, Calif. or Brisbane, Australia and pick up the Cyclones games loud and clear-on the Internet. The problem is that you can be trying to listen to the games on the radio on 22nd Street in Coney Island, five blocks from the ballpark, and not hear a word.
Why can’t many fans in Brooklyn hear their team’s games?
The Cyclones games are broadcast on WKRB, a low-power FM station operated by Kingsborough Community College. The station has been with the Cyclones from the start and they have been providing a place for Brooklyn fans to listen to the games. But that place covers a very small area. In the 2002 season, the Cyclones games were simultaneously broadcast both on WKRB and on WSNR, a powerful AM station operated by the Sporting News. Fusselle’s broadcasts on WSNR could be heard all over the New York Metropolitan area.
But for the last two seasons, the radio broadcasts only go out over WKRB, and that is a problem.
Staci Bromberger lives on 22nd Street in Coney Island. She and her father are season ticket holders, and they attend almost every home game and a number of away games as well. When they aren’t at the away games, they attempt to follow the Cyclones on the radio.
“I can get the games in my room because my bedroom faces east, where Kingsborough Community College broadcasts. But my dad can’t get the games in his room, which is in the front of the house, because his room faces the west.”
So at least Staci can hear the games from her room?
Well, not always.
“I can’t get the games on my clock radio. I have to use my boom box,” adds the determined listener. “Sometimes I have to touch the antennae of the boom box to the curtain rod so that I can hear the broadcast. One time, my body position must have been helping to bring in the broadcast, because if I moved from near the bed, I lost the station.”
Mark “The Mayor of Section 14” Lazarus lives near Brooklyn College and also would like to pick up the Cyclones on the radio.
“Everyone doesn’t walk around with a computer. We want to listen in our cars, on the beach, in the backyard,” he said.
“The only sure way to listen to the games in Brooklyn is to sit next to Warner Fusselle in the Catbird Seat.”
Steve Cohen, the Cyclones general manager, says that not having the Cyclones games on a more powerful station is not through lack of effort.
“We talked to from 30 to 40 radio stations to try to work something out this year,” he said. “I would like to listen to the games myself when they are on the road. Wait ’til next year.”
Fusselle’s 320th Cyclones game should be early next season. Fans will be happy to hear it — over the air.
©2004 Community News Group
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