Did Bob Excel in Sports? The Answer May Surprise You…
It is well known that the legendary Bob Costas attended Commack High School South in the Long Island community. He is a celebrated alum. He is a proud Long Islander. With his 28 Emmys and eight National Sportscaster of the Year awards, Costas may be the most-respected broadcaster of his generation. Costas has worked the World Series, Super Bowl, NBA Finals, Olympics, Kentucky Derby, golf, boxing, hockey, and on and on. In December 2018, Costas was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
Costas graduated from Commack well ahead of me. When I was still a Junior in high school, Costas was quickly advancing his career and called a game between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals that became famously referred to as the Sandberg game. In the ninth inning, the Cubs, trailing 9–8, sent Sandberg to the plate who slugged a home run to left field against the Cardinals’ ace closer. The Cardinals responded with two runs to retake the lead in the tenth. Sandberg came up again and shocked the national audience by hitting a second home run with Costas calling out, “Do you believe it?!” Costas’s career continued to escalate and when I was a junior now in College at Columbia, Costas called the 1988 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers led by manager Tommy Lasorda against the Oakland Athletics.
Bob Costas Calls Yankees Double Header
3 decades later, I was excited to learn that Bob Costas alongside Paul O’Neill and David Cone would call game 1 of a double-header between the rivaled Yankees and Red Sox on August 3rd of last year. Costas was filling in for Michael Kay, who was recovering from vocal cord surgery. This was not the first time Costas was called to action for a vocal chord issue. The legendary Vin Scully come down with laryngitis and Costas pinch-hit for him in the 1989 National League Championship Series. Costas was well experienced in baseball play-by-play for MLB Network, NBC, and other stations. This Yankees-Boston doubleheader would be his YES network debut. Costas was the television voice behind many moments in Yankee history. For example, he had the call for Derek Jeter’s final at-bat at Yankee Stadium in 2014.
When I entered Yankee stadium for the doubleheader, I learned that I just missed Bob Costas who was touring around the stadium. I was disappointed to have just missed him. It would have been cool to talk Commack sports with the sportscasting legend whom I have never met personally.
The Boston Yankees Game 1 did not disappoint. The Yankees were leading the AL East and DJ LeMahieu homered twice, singled, and drove in four runs in the first four innings in Game 1, all against Chris Sale. The Yanks would also go on to win both games.
During game 1, Costas, O’Neal, and Cone began discussing the Yankees first-round draft pick Anthony Volpe, a high school shortstop from nearby New Jersey. Volpe passed on Vanderbilt to sign with the Yankees, saying it was the hardest decision of his life. But Anthony was a huge Yankee fan just like his father Michael. I know Michael Volpe to be an extreme Yankee fan because we are lifelong friends. We went to grade school, middle school, and Commack High School together. Michael Volpe is a urologist and we went through the rigors of medical school and surgical training at the same time. I was thrilled when Anthony was selected by the Yankees and went on to sign. I was struck by the coincidence that I was in the position to perform a contract physical on my close friend’s son. And what a coincidence that Costas was chatting about Volpe during his Yankee play by play not knowing his dad went to his very own high school.
I decided to share the info. Sportscasters love facts.
I texted O’Neal:
“Tell Bob Costas hello from me. Small world, we went to the same high school on Long Island. Also… I am lifelong friends with Yankee’s first-round pick this year, Anthony Volpe’s dad. He also attended our high school in Commack…
“Will do! Great story. Will bring it up on the air..”
While watching the game in my office in the Yankee Stadium training room, O’Neal did bring it up as soon as the commercial break was over and told Costas that the Yankee Doctor just texted me and says hello and that the both of you and Anthony Volpe’s dad went to the same high school in Commack.
O’Neal then asked Bob to talk about his high school days.
Bob enjoyed the coincidence and then mentioned that he loved baseball but playing did not work out for him. “I was the last man cut from the baseball team at Commack High School.” Bob was the most knowledgeable person about baseball, both the game itself and its history. But he was not physically gifted. “The baseball coach cut me. He[the coach]was also a math teacher and had pitched in the Pittsburgh Pirates system in the early 1950s, in the minor leagues. And he said to me, ‘You know, I think I’m gonna have to cut you loose, because I don’t think you can hit your weight, and I doubt that you weigh 130.’ Which might have been true at that time in high school, but he then asked, and this is true, he said, ‘Have you ever considered broadcasting?’ “Your future is in the booth, not on the field.’
Costas acknowledged that if he was ever going to get into Yankee Stadium without paying for a ticket, it would be in the broadcast booth. For Costas, that moment at Commack High School started his legendary journey.
Costas’ love for baseball grew even stronger as a broadcaster. For his 40th birthday, then Oakland Athletics manager Tony La Russa allowed Costas to manage the club during a spring training game. Costas delivered the eulogy at Mickey Mantle’s funeral. In eulogizing Mantle, Costas described the Yankee legend as “a fragile hero to whom we had an emotional attachment so strong and lasting that it defied logic”. Costas reportedly carried a 1958 Mickey Mantle baseball card in his wallet. Costas would also deliver the eulogy for Stan Musial after his death in 2013.
Last year in May, the 1970 Commack High School graduate and international sports broadcasting legend was inducted into the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame. I am thrilled to share my youth on Long Island and the same alma mater with Bob which shaped my career in baseball, not as a player or broadcaster, but as a baseball physician.
Long Island STRONG