He's in his 18th year as a baseball broadcaster, and his ninth with the National League West champion San Francisco Giants, following four seasons on TV with the Minnesota Twins. He will soon be covering his third Olympic Games from Salt Lake City. He discussed his professional and faith life with G.E. Devine.
Devine: Where did you go to school, before Notre Dame?
I grew up on Long Island, in Rockville Centre, and went to public school through grade eight. Then I really wanted to go to a Catholic high school, and attended Chaminade, conducted by the Marianists, in Mineola. That was a great experience for me. I had a much greater introduction to Catholic education than I had received in the “Sunday school” experience. I had great academic and behavioral discipline under the priests and brothers — things I hadn't experienced previously.
What led you to the University of Notre Dame?
There were some family influences. I had two uncles, my mother's two brothers, who had gone to school there and were huge sports fans. So my parents were sort of “subway alums” and I was a big Notre Dame fan. I did not want to go there when I was a senior in high school. I was independent and stubborn, a typical 17-year-old. I applied elsewhere and actually was accepted at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, which had a great radio-TV program. I was also considering Cornell and Boston College.
So what happened?
My dad said, “You're going to see Notre Dame!” So he took me for a day trip from New York. After 15 minutes on campus I said, “This is where I want to go! This is what I want from a school!”
As far as facing a college choice, you're now in your dad's former position, aren't you?
That's right. Our daughter Annie is currently navigating the college selection process. It's been agonizing, frustrating and stressful yet extraordinarily rewarding in one way — the affirmation of her faith. She has applied to a wide range of schools, including some of the best Catholic universities in the country. When the merits of various schools are debated, she often raises the issue of her faith and how she could continue to practice it at that school.
Throughout her high school years she has been challenged to defend her faith. It has angered her to be placed in such a position, yet she now knows it has strengthened her in ways incalculable. As parents, Mary and I are ecstatic to see someone at an age where religion is often considered disposable actually embrace her Catholicism and refuse to discard it in the name of higher education. At this point, Annie has made a decision which we support her in, to attend Notre Dame.
Do you consider the topics your daughter is dealing with to apply to many young people?
I think so. It's almost standard today among some folks to “pick and choose” as you follow the Catholic faith. The term “cafeteria Catholic” certainly is bandied about. I see that too much and it disturbs me. In life it's much too easy to say, “I'm just going to pick and choose what I want and what I don't want. I'm going to take this and not take that!”
You can't be a person of faith — regardless of which faith — and not follow even things that you personally may question.
No way am I saying don't question. Questioning is good.
But I believe you take the faith as a whole, take it as a package. With Annie and her younger brother Patrick, we try to emphasize it, even with something as simple as not eating meat on Fridays during Lent. It's hard for an adolescent to understand why they can't have a hot dog on a Friday in Lent; it seems to many people not significant.
But it's important to us that they understand that it's a tenet of the Catholic Church and you don't disregard it simply because you want a hot dog on Friday.
It doesn't work that way. I guess that's the point I'm trying to make. You can apply it to the most major issues that we can find, but I try to apply it in my everyday life to the simplest terms. The kids have to understand, also, that you have to go to Mass every week, participate in the sacraments and say prayers. I think it's important for a family to develop a Catholic faith and a Catholic discipline together, for children to learn what comprises the faith. Mary's worked hard on that with me.
Where is your parish?
Nativity in Menlo Park, south of San Francisco, is our parish, although we often attend Mass with the Catholic community on the campus at Stanford — a wonderful group of Franciscans.
You've covered many games. What is your greatest thrill as a broadcaster?
The greatest thrill was not a game, but the Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II at Candlestick Park when he visited San Francisco in 1987.
I made a point of going to our news director at KCBS, Ed Cavagnaro, and said I wanted to be part of it.
They thought I was a “sports knucklehead” doing a papal visit broadcast on what could have been my day off.
But with my faith and my background I wanted to do it. I knew more about it and what would transpire in that Mass than 99 per cent of the people on the staff. To his credit, Ed let me do it. I anchored the papal Mass, with two priests from the Archdiocese of San Francisco to help with explanations and interpretations.
That was the greatest thrill I've ever had, just to be there. There is no game that could ever compete with that.
I don't imagine anything would ever top that. Games are wonderful, and it's great to be involved with a World Series championship. But nothing could match the people I saw — 60,000 or more — falling on their knees as the Holy Father made his way through the stadium. Nothing can compare with that — nothing.