Angry Ward Wednesday: Kiner’s Korner, Rizzuto, Midnight Wrestling. Sports the Way They Used to Be

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Phil RizzuttoBRONX, NY – All of this basketball free agency bed-hopping, babying of baseball players, and the now 12-month-a-year NFL news cycle have got me longing for a simpler time. A time when the Mets played on WOR Channel 9, the Yankees played on WPIX 11, and Gilligan’s Island reruns played on WNEW Channel 5. Back then summer camp was playing wiffle ball on your street morning, noon and night, and watching football on a fall Sunday was always preceded by watching an Abbott & Costello movie. Here are just a few essential things missing from today’s sports landscape.

Kiner’s Korner. Ralph Kiner’s low-budget post-game show was essential viewing for any Mets fan, or fan of unintentional comedy, during the 1970s and 1980s. Did Ralph have a couple of drinks prior to each broadcast? Probably. Did guests such as Ed Kranepool, Tom Seaver, and Dwight Gooden sometimes look like they didn’t want to be there? Eh, occasionally. But the end result was great TV and once of the classic sponsor’s of all time, Gillette Foamy.

The Scooter. Whether you were a Yankees fan or not, there was no denying the entertainment value that one Phil Rizzuto brought to both TV and radio broadcasts. You think Keith Hernandez says some ridiculous things on-air? He has nothing on the Scooter. From “Holy Cow” to “Huckleberry” and everything in between, Rizzuto was nothing short of amazing. Good natured co-announcers such as Bill White and Frank Messer, who Rizzuto called White and Messer, were merely straight men to Scooters over-the-top antics. Deathly afraid of thunder and traffic, Rizzuto was never afraid to proclaim “I am out of here.” Now that he is truly “out of here” his hilarious calls and non sequitur stories are missed. He was a Yankee homer who you gladly suffered, because he was that much fun.

Ali and Andre The GiantMidnight Wrestling. Midnight Wrestling on the aforementioned Channel 9, was one of those childhood staples that you’d watch because a) it was cool to stay up late and b) you just couldn’t wait to talk to your friends about the squared circle stupidity you witnessed the night before. Names like Chief Jay Strongbow, George “The Animal” Steele, Stan “The Man” Stasiak and, of course, Andre the Giant provided great grappling entertainment.  So did managers like Captain Lou Albano, Classy Fred Blassie and The Grand Wizard,  in the days before Vince McMahon turned the whole “sport” over to steroid freaks. Who knew then that getting hit by a folding chair or a foreign object would be remembered as the innocent days of wrestling.

PIX, PIX, PIX! I’m not sure if playing Intellivision games for prizes on Channel 11 counts as a sport, but I don’t really care. IntellivisionHapless kids sent their names in on postcards and then yelled the word “Pix” over and over again in an effort to throw a touchdown, hit a home run, or blast a spaceship out of the sky as a more hapless technician pressed a button on their command. You also needed to know the Pix pal of the day, which you had to get up at like 5 am to find out. It was special torture.

Indoor Soccer. Not a lot of people remember the MISL or Major Indoor Soccer League, but it was the closest I probably ever came to liking soccer. Names like Steve Zungul, Branko Segota, and Juli Veee scored tons of goals playing for teams like the New York Arrows, San Diego Sockers, and St. Louis Steamers. It wasn’t soccer so much as it was Bubble Hockey with soccer players. It was awesome, with lots of scoring, but it predictably didn’t catch on.

I could go on about such things as NFL pregame shows that only lasted a half hour and featured professional gamblers, real baseball doubleheaders and pretty much everything that existed before Chris Berman, but where is that getting me? We’re not going back… we’re never going back.

Muhammad-Ali-comparing-hands-with-Andre-the-Giant-1976

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Wednesday: Angry Ward, who has admirers at the NY Times, is the quintessential angry sports fan but one exception... he's flat-out funny. And the angrier he gets, the more amusing his work becomes. Psychiatrists say, "Angry Ward's 'anger' is a direct result of "Bronx/Mets syndrome: growing up in the Bronx as a Mets fan." As if that weren't enough, his Minnesota North Stars abandoned him for Dallas, forcing him to embrace The Wild the way conservatives embrace Mitt Romney. While the Vikings tease him incessantly with flirtations of success, the Golden State Warriors, "Don't have a enough short, white angry guys but I don't dislike them... that much." A-Dubya is MTM's longest-tenured indentured servant, its Larry David and quite simply, The Franchise.

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