Bill Mazer, the sports-talk radio pioneer who also was a fixture in New York television during a 60-year career, died this past Wednesday. He was 92. Mazer’s son, actor Arnie Mazer, said his father died at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut.
Mazer spent more than 60 years in the broadcast business and called some of the biggest games in Canisius men’s basketball history, including the Griffs’ epic four-overtime win against the No. 2 North Carolina State in the 1956 NCAA Tournament. Mazer was also on the call when Canisius lost to Temple in the Palestra in Philadelphia in the 1956 East Regional Championship game, and was adamant that the backcourt violation against Griff forward Bob Kelly that decided the game was the wrong call. Mazer was the right guy at the right time in the right place, becoming in his own very New York way an important figure in sports media history.
Mazer was born to Jewish parents in 1920 in what is now the Ukraine and moved to Brooklyn as a little infant. He graduated from the University of Michigan with honors and served in the Army Air Forces during World War II. Mazer came to New York in 1964 at WNBC-AM after 16 years in radio and TV in Buffalo, and had a long run as WNEW-TV’s sports anchor. He also worked at WOR-AM, on CBS television’s NHL and NFL coverage, on ABC and NBC TV game broadcasts and in radio at WFAN, WEVD and WVOX-AM, retiring in 2009.
Mazer later went on to become the play-by-play man for the Buffalo Bisons (baseball and hockey) for several years and was a sports anchor at Channel 2. He left Buffalo for a position at WNBC in New York City and he is recognized as the host of a sports talk radio show that launched in March 1964. He earned the nickname “The A-Maz-In” for his deep knowledge of sports trivia and he wrote several sports trivia books, including Bill Mazer’s Amazin’ Baseball Book: 150 Years of Baseball Tales & Trivia published in 1990.
Mazer, whose passing was announced by famed radio host Mike Francesca on WFAN Radio on Wednesday afternoon, is a member of the Buffalo Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame and the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. He had minor roles in movies such as Eyewitness and Raging Bull and he appeared episodes of ESPN’s SportsCentury as an expert on sports figures including Gordie Howe, Lawrence Taylor and Mickey Mantle.