SSTN: Today we are here with sportscaster and author Howard Kellman.
Howard is the announcer for the Indianapolis Indians and is known as “The Voice of the Tribe.” He is the author of 61 Humorous & Inspiring Lessons I Learned from Baseball.
Howard was inducted into the Indiana Sportscasters & Sportswriters Hall of Fame in 2009; inducted into the Indiana Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2015 & inducted into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018. He formally broadcasted St. John’s University Basketball games on radio (WRVR 106.7 FM) when he attended Brooklyn College.
Howard, it is great to have this discussion with you. Thanks for coming to Start Spreading the News.
I am delighted to connect with you Paul. I am from Brooklyn and have been a Yankee fan since age seven (1959).
Please begin by telling us a little about your career. How did you get started in broadcasting?
While attending Brooklyn College, I worked on the Campus radio station, WBCR. I became Sports Director and broadcast some Brooklyn College Basketball games. During my junior year at Brooklyn College, I was hired to broadcast St. John’s Basketball.
I wrote a letter to George Steinbrenner telling him of my aspirations to become a baseball broadcaster…he had just bought the Yankees. Mr. Steinbrenner let me use vacant broadcast booths to practice my play-by-play during Yankee games.
That Fall, I wrote a letter to every Minor League Baseball team..there were about 110 teams back then. About 25 responded. There were three job openings for a play-by-play announcer: Spokane, Albuquerque, and Indianapolis.
Yankee broadcaster Frank Messer told me to send an inning of play-by-play, so I did that. It was an inning of a weeknight game in September of 1973 between the Yankees and Red Sox. Because of that, the Indianapolis Indians hired me!
It has worked out beautifully!
As you know, I am an elementary school principal. I once had dreams of sportscasting before life took me in a different direction, one I am very pleased with. If I were to talk to the students of my school about what it takes to make it in broadcasting, what advice would you tell me to share with them?
I think you cannot be bothered by hearing the word “No” if you want to become a broadcaster. I also think you must be totally committed to becoming a broadcaster because if you have an alternate plan, that is what you probably will do because of all the rejection you get in this business.
That is interesting advice for any endeavor. “Be all-in.” We cannot let our failures define us.
What do you most love about your job?
I love the challenge every day of painting the word pictures and telling stories.
After more than 40 years and 6,000 games, every day behind the microphone still is a great experience!
I also enjoy the pre game preparation.
And there is another lesson. To reach excellence, we must work hard. Absolutely.
What do you find most challenging?
Some of the travel days when you get up at 3 a.m. and you must take two flights to get to your destination can be quite challenging.
What is the best part about being part of minor league baseball?
When you broadcast Minor League Baseball at the Triple-A level, you are seeing a very good product and the Major League Baseball stars of tomorrow! And in some cases future Hall of Famers!
You have been announcing games for Indianapolis since 1974. Who was the best Indians player you saw play? Who was the best player from any team that you observed?
Randy Johnson pitched for the Indianapolis Indians in all of 1988 and for a few weeks in 1989. You could see he had “great stuff” but there are others who have great ability but never harness their control. Randy went on to win five Cy Young Awards and is one of the all-time greats!
John “Champ” Summers had the best year of any Indianapolis Indians player (1978) in my years here…
The first game I ever broadcast in Indianapolis was on April 20, 1974 and the Indians opponent, the Omaha Royals had a young 3B named George Brett! Brett is the only man to win batting titles in three different decades. He is one of the greatest 3B of all-time and a man who played with incredible passion!
Will the Indianapolis team be changing their name in 2021 or 2022?
As far as the Indianapolis Indians changing their name, that is something that is being addressed by a committee.
Please tell us about your book, 61 Humorous & Inspiring Lessons I Learned from Baseball.
I wrote 61 Lessons as opposed to 50 or 100, to honor Roger Maris and the 61 home runs he hit in 1961. I was nine years old then and remember so much of it like it was yesterday! When I was hired by the Indianapolis Indians, one of the first things Max Schumacher, President & GM told me, was that Roger Maris played for the Indianapolis Indians in 1956. It meant so much to me and to this day – and still does!
The book is about my experiences in baseball – things that I have seen and stories I have been told. Half the stories are humorous, the other half are inspirational.
What was the biggest lesson that you learned from baseball?
The biggest lesson I learned from baseball is that even when things do not look good, you don’t quit! In June of 1992, the Indianapolis Indians trailed the Denver Zephyrs 12-0 after seven innings. The Indians scored four in the 8th innings and nine in the 9th inning and won the game 13-12!
Do you plan to write other books?
I have been asked many times if I plan to write another book. I am not sure, but I may at some point.
You grew up in New York – as a Yankees fan. In looking at the history of the Yankees, or baseball in general, what person or event would you like to see a book written about?
When I look at the history of the Yankees or baseball (and I love the history of both) I think that every person or event I can think of has been written about…
In the book and the movie The Natural, the main character wants nothing more than to walk down the street and have people say, “There goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was.” Who was the best baseball player you ever saw (at any level)?
Mickey Mantle at his best was incredible! Ted Williams said Mantle had the most natural talent of anyone who ever played the game. Mantle accomplished a great deal but the leg injuries and a shoulder injury in the 1957 World Series prevented him from being even greater.
Willie Mays was more durable than Mantle so I give him the nod.
Our final question is really just a collection of short answers…
What was your favorite baseball team growing up?
The Yankees were my favorite team. I became a fan during a unique four year period (1958-61) in New York Baseball History when there was only one team. Baseball is all about childhood memories and winning those five straight Pennants from 1960-64 was fantastic! The 1960 Yankees won their final 15 games to pull away from Baltimore and win the Pennant! The 1961 Yankees had a 1.5 game lead on September 1st and won 13 straight and the 1964 Yankees were in second place in mid September and won 11 in a row!
What is your most prized collectible?
I never have been a collector of autograph balls or anything else along those lines. I always enjoyed meeting someone, shaking his hand, and talking more than collecting…
Who is your favorite musical group or artist?
I go back to my youth for my favorite music…
While I liked many groups, the Beach Boys were my favorite!
Favorite female artist : Petula Clark, favorite male artist : Johnny Rivers
What is your favorite food (if it is pizza, what is your favorite pizza restaurant)?
My favorite pizza place in Brooklyn was Trio’s at East 17th Street and Avenue U.
My favorite food is New York Strip Steak!
Please share anything else you’d like with our audience:
I would like to share one other thing with you – my greatest thrill as a baseball fan:
Saturday October 10, 1964. I got to Yankee Stadium at 9:00 in the morning to get bleacher seats for Game 3 of the World Series. It was a great game and it was tied 1-1 going to the bottom of the 9th. Curt Simmons and Jim Bouton hooked up and Barney Schultz came in in the bottom of the 9th after Simmons departed for a pinch hitter.
Mickey Mantle was leading off and we were saying, “Wouldn’t it be something if he hit one…”
Mantle hit the first pitch, a no-doubter, he got all of it! The Yankees won the game! That home run was Mantle’s 16th in World Series play breaking Babe Ruth’s record!
Fast forward 13 years. I am in Wichita having lunch with the Indianapolis Indians Manager, Roy Majtyka. Who walks into the restaurant but Barney Schultz! Roy introduces us and says, “Howard, Barney used to pitch for the Cardinals!”
I said, “I’m well aware of that!”
I then said, “Barney, in all the years I watched baseball, you gave me the greatest thrill, I ever had!” He got so excited because he had saved 6 of the final 7 Cardinals victories to win the Pennant! He could hardly contain himself and asked, “When was it?”
I said, “Game 3 of the 1964 World Series, your first pitch to Mantle…”
He replied, “Why you no good…”
And then we both broke up laughing!
What a great story! I love it!
Howard, thank you for spending so much time with me. I hope you enjoy the 2021 season. It’s great that baseball seems to be on its way back for a full season. I hope the minor leagues will get them all in as well.
Please keep in touch!