The Bob Costas CV


AGE 56

BIRTHPLACE Queens, New York

WHERE HE HANGS HIS HAT Divides his time between a home in St. Louis and a condo in New York City

EDUCATION Syracuse University, where he studied broadcasting at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications

FIRST BROADCAST JOB During college, for $30 per gameday, he called games for the Syracuse Blazers of the North American Hockey League, a semipro outfit that inspired the Paul Newman movie Slap Shot. “The character Ogie Oglethorpe is based on Bill Harpo Goldthorpe, who played for the Syracuse Blazers,” Costas says. “Goldthorpe was brought aboard because of his ability to fight. He seemed to have little regard for me. I’m sitting on the bus one day … and we’re driving down the road to who knows where, and I’m reading the New York Times. I think that very fact enraged Goldie. So he reaches out from the seat behind me, pulls the paper out of my hands, stands up with great ceremony, rips it to shreds, and lets it fall like confetti to the floor of the bus. I’m 21 years old and stupid, or at least foolish, and I think I’ve got to have some kind of response. So I stand up and say to him, ‘Don’t be jealous, Goldie; I’ll teach you to read.’ He grabs me, yanks me out of the seat, slams me up against the wall of the moving bus, and proceeds to threaten life and limb. Somehow I escaped.”

THE OLYMPICS ARE GREAT AND ALL, BUT RADIO WOULD HAVE WORKED TOO After college, Costas started working at the radio station KMOX, a CBS affiliate in St. Louis. His goal was to land a longtime gig as an announcer for a Major League Baseball team. Instead, at KMOX, he was noticed by CBS TV, where he was then noticed by NBC, which led to the job with Later and, eventually, to hosting the Olympics. “I’ve never been a careerist, which, I guess, is easier to say when you’ve had your career turn out well,” he says. “I can honestly say I have never pursued a single job.”

HE GREW UP IN QUEENS, SO GIANTS OR JETS? “When I was a kid, Giants. Because the Jets didn’t come into existence until the 1960s, and the first time I remember watching pro football was the 1958 championship game with the Giants and the Colts. I’ve always felt about sports -- at least for people of my generation -- that the stuff that grabs you when you’re younger is the stuff that stays with you.”

YES, HE REALLY CARRIES A 1958 MICKEY MANTLE CARD “The 1958 Mickey Mantle card happens to be the first baseball card that I remember. I was six years old. It cost five cents. You’d get the pack of cards, which had five cards and a piece of chalky, powdery gum that, if you dropped it on the sidewalk, would shatter like glass. The smell of it would adhere to the face of whichever player was on the bottom. In an archaeological dig, if someone like Wes Covington was the last guy in the stack, they would still be able to discover traces of that gum on Covington’s face in, like, the year 2812.

“So, anyway, I tucked the Mantle card into my wallet, and I kept it there. One day, I’m out to dinner with Tony Kubek, back when we’re doing the Saturday-afternoon game of the week. I go to get the tab, and the card spills out of my wallet. Of course, Kubek played with Mantle. So the next day at the game, he tells the story. It also happens that Sports Illustrated is working on a story about me. So they take a picture of the card -- it’s in the story. Now, everywhere I go, to ballparks around the country, hundreds of times a week, people want to see it. The thing was getting dog-eared from my showing it so much. But the upside was that once this got out … fans would send these things to me. I have, like, 20 of them now. So finally, I decided to have one laminated. And now it is almost like an obligation to carry it, because the few times I’ve been caught without it, I’ve always felt like I was letting the person down who asked me about it.”

HIS BEST CALL During the 1998 NBA Championship, in Game Six, Michael Jordan shot with five seconds left and scored, winning the game and the series for the Chicago Bulls against the Utah Jazz and sending him into retirement (for a while). Costas’s call: “If that’s the last image of Michael Jordan, how magnificent is it?”