In the summer of 1994, Marty Glickman finally had a chance to walk, not run, onto the field for a sports event in Berlin's Olympic Stadium. Fifty-eight years earlier he had been denied the chance to compete in the 1936 Olympic Games as a world-class sprinter from Syracuse University, an act he described as "blatant anti-Semitism."
Adolf Hitler, through propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, let it be known he wanted no Jewish athletes competing in the Games. Sadly, the head of the American Olympic Committee at the time, Avery Brundage, compounded that dastardly deed by letting it be known he, too, would frown on the participation of Glickman and Sam Stoller on the U.S. 400-meter team.
The day before the 400, the two were pulled from the team and replaced by Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalf, African American runners Hitler also reviled. Hitler allowed them to participate because they had run in Europe and were wildly popular with the German crowds.
Owens protested, telling coaches he had won his three gold medals and it was only right that his teammates and friends, Glickman and Stoller, a fine University of Michigan runner, have a chance to win, too.
It never happened. Glickman, who died last week at 83 from complications following heart surgery, spoke out against discrimination of any kind for the rest of his life. He went from that terrible disappointment to a groundbreaking career as one of the nation's most renowned sportscasters, including a long stretch as the radio voice of the New York Knicks, Giants and Jets.
The Giants took him to an NFL exhibition game in Berlin in '94 and, as he walked into the box Hitler once occupied, he said he felt "a combination of feelings sitting in the box that was built for a guy who was the cause of so much calamity."
"It was an eerie feeling," he said at the time. "I was conscious not only of Hitler, but the whole entourage of names that we now remember. All those monsters that sat in those seats. Now, it was the viewing box for the Giants' and Chargers' owners."
Glickman did not broadcast that game. He had retired a few years earlier from a play-by-play career that spanned seven decades. He started doing radio work at Syracuse in 1937, had a brief stint in pro football for a Giants farm team in Jersey City, and began doing college basketball doubleheaders at Madison Square Garden in 1945.
A year later, the fledgling Knicks hired him, and three years later he also became the voice of the Giants. He first used the word "key" in basketball because the area of the court reminded him of a keyhole. He offered a crisp, staccato and highly enthusiastic approach to his craft and did his last game in 1992 as the four-year voice of the Jets. He thought he had lost the hop on his fastball and preferred "quitting while I'm ahead" at 75.
I have other great memories of Marty Glickman. Growing up on Long Island as a teenager in the early 1960s, I can vividly recall him doing play-by-play on weekly Saturday morning high school football games sponsored by Hoffman Soda, still the best orange fizz ever to pass these lips.
I met Glickman in the '80s. He was a dapper man, still sprinter lean, with a rakish mustache and a twinkle in his eye. He wondered how his old friend, the late Shirley Povich, was doing and asked me to pass along his regards. I told him I'd been a faithful Hoffman Soda drinker and he laughed and said, "They didn't pay much, but I've still got a lifetime supply."
For years, Glickman nurtured broadcasting talent. Youngsters wanting to follow in his voiceprints wrote or called, and he did what he could. His legacy from Syracuse included Marv Albert and Bob Costas, giants of the current era, and many more in the broadcasting business whose lives he touched.
Even after he left full-time play-by-play, he continued to have an impact. NBC hired him in the early 1990s as a consultant to tutor its younger broadcasters.
One of his prize pupils was Bill Walton, who had overcome a stuttering problem but was still lacking in basic skills (some might say he still does). Glickman had no control of the content, but he did help turn him into a more polished broadcaster.
On Tony Kornheiser's radio show last week, Costas said Glickman offered him invaluable suggestions, telling him early on to spread his information over the course of a baseball game to "let the game breathe."
In addition to the tale of his unconscionable Olympic experience, one of my favorite Glickman stories was retold last week by New York Post and TV Guide sports TV columnist Phil Mushnick.
Early in his career, a broadcasting executive suggested Glickman might want to change his name, a common occurence then and even now among many Jewish entertainers. He said it would make their lives easier, curry favor with some Waspish advertisers and create opportunities down the line.
Glickman told the foolish fellow one day that yes, he had come to the same conclusion and, after much soul-searching, had decided to change his name.
To what, he was asked.
"Moskowitz," Glickman told him. "From now on, I want to be known professionally as Marty Moskowitz."
Marty Glickman would do just fine.