Wednesday, June 08, 2016

I feel connected …

No, I never met Muhammad Ali but every time I hear about him it brings back memories of the other guy, Howard Cosell. I met him in 1957 in NY City where we were both working for WABC radio… he as a sports broadcaster and me as a lowly writer of promotional material. 

I was living in Tudor City, located on the East side of Manhattan near Grand Central Station and, although it was a hike to West 86th Street, I would often walk to work. However, after a long and tiring day it was a treat to share a cab with others who lived on the East side, or were taking a train home to the suburbs from Grand Central Station. One of the regulars who did this was a young man named Howard Cosell.

Howard worked on the “broadcasting” floor of our building so I never ran into him except on our rides to the East side. He loved music, especially opera and he never tired of telling us about the shows that he and his wife had seen. He would outline the plots of the operas and when and where they had been performed. He was a born teacher and we were avid students. His demeanor was always extremely proper and I had no reason to believe that he would become one of the most controversial figures in the world of sports reporting. The thing I remember most about Howard Cosell was his quiet and compelling voice. The nasal sound was there but I never heard the excited and almost-manic quality that were to become his particular trademark.

I left ABC before the amazing friendship between Muhammad Ali and Howard began but I followed it avidly as it progressed. I remember how he honored the man who became Mohammad Ali and was the first reporter to use his new name. He also stood squarely behind him when Ali refused to be drafted and was the one who broke the good news to him when the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, voted in Ali's favor.

Howard passed away in 1995 at the age of 77. Among the many ailments that contributed to his death was Parkinson's Disease, the very same malady that was taking over the life of Muhammad Ali at this time. 
There will be tributes all week as we mourn the loss of Muhammad Ali and I'm sure that among them will be sound bites and stories about his friendship with Howard. Of course they will be of interest to me but, most of all, it will bring back memories of those magical years in the late 50's and the gentleman named Howard who insisted on always paying the cab-fare.


Blogger Marie Smith said...

It is wonderful t read a personal story about a person one has only heard of in the media.

Ali was a true leader and a teacher for everyone.

10:30 AM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

Good connection: Cosell was exemplary in his recognition and support of Ali.

11:51 AM  
Blogger joared said...

Interesting recollection. Cosell and Ali did have a unique connection.

2:46 AM  
Blogger possum said...

Great story!
We seldom get to know much about these people we hear or just hear about.

4:08 AM  
Blogger NCmountainwoman said...

Very interesting. Around our house, Howard Cosell was the man we loved and hated.

8:06 AM  
Blogger troutbirder said...

Very interesting post AND I agree completely with the previous one.....

5:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope you heard billy Crystals eulogy for Ali yesterday. Wonderful and he mentioned both Ali and Cosell. Great story Ginnie!

9:56 AM  
Blogger KGMom said...

What an interesting series on connections--your life in NYC, seeing "famous" people, who in turn knew famous people, now both dead. And from the same disease.
Life is such a series of interesting connections.

6:32 AM  
Blogger Beatrice P. Boyd said...

While I was never an avid sports fan, Howard C. definitely made the event he broadcast very lively. Glad you had such lovely memories and thanks for sharing more about him.

1:31 PM  

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