I never really knew Bob Wolff as a nationally renown voice of events such as the World Series, NFL and NBA title games, and everything else I would have known him for had I been older and he, dead Saturday at 96 (clean living), been younger.
But I knew him as a mentor, a gentle prod, an inspiration and educator who would call every few weeks to offer advice, opinions, shoot the breeze and, most importantly, his cherished encouragement to keep writing the truth, at least my version.
Here’s the story I best recall and value about Wolff, and it was long past his prime, but not really:
Years ago, while Bob — Mr. Wolff, to me — was anchoring sports and providing commentary on Long Island-based SportsChannel then Cablevision-LI News, he caught wind of a group of Islanders season-ticket holders who had drawn complaints, accused of being young rowdies, profane, out of control and likely drunk, ruining games for the nearby right-headed.
Wolff — who called memorable moments such as Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series and the 1958 NFL title game between the Giants and Colts — took it upon himself to be in the Nassau Coliseum to sit among them, first to find the accusations to be true, then to ask why they acted that way. He wanted to know if they would be pleased if their families and kids and moms, grandmothers and sisters would be pleased to be seated near them, whether this was their idea and ideal of being sports fans.
He wasn’t being judgmental, just friendly and inquisitive. That was how Wolff rolled before people rolled.
A modest man, he nonetheless told me that he believed he got through to most of them. Some of them are, by now, surely fathers. He took that road.
Though I got to know him on the late side — his wife of 72 years (I’d always make him laugh by asking, “How’s married life going?”), Jane, as well — it wasn’t too late. Hardly. What a great, great man.
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