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An appreciation of Gary Cohen

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Plaudits for the anchor of the best booth in baseball

GKR SNY

Something was missing in the Queen City over the last three days. No, I am not referring to the lack of wins the Mets had over the weekend. No, I am not referring to an incorrect lineup card in the Wednesday afternoon game. No, I am not referring to the hitting—or lack thereof—in the bandbox known as Great American Ball Park by our slumping heroes. I am referring to the absence of the television voice of the Mets, Gary Cohen. Although Wayne Randazzo filled in admirably, it is difficult to replace the legendary Cohen, whose famous calls resonate with a full generation of Mets’ fans.

Gary Cohen was born on April 29, 1958, in New York (Queens, naturally) and was educated entirely in the city, culminating with a degree in Political Science from Columbia University in 1981. After three stints with broadcasting for minor league teams, Cohen became the tenth man to broadcast Mets games in 1998 as a partner to Mets broadcast legend Bob Murphy. His ability to paint the “word picture” to me was unmatched and he perfectly captured the emotion of each moment on the diamond.

In 2006, Cohen moved to television and became the franchise’s 16th broadcaster—there have been a few others who filled in for a day or two here and there. He was joined by former Mets Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling with Ralph Kiner doing selected games. It didn’t take long for the main threesome to mesh and be widely known as the best booth in baseball. Cohen has called nearly everything a baseball broadcaster can announce from Johan Santana’s no-hitter in 2012 to what be the most unlikely home run ever hit off the bat of Bartolo Colon in 2015. Unfortunately, he has yet to call the Mets champions, as they last won it all in 1986. He did call the clinching game for the Mets against the Reds for the National League East crown in 2015, with the famous “tears of joy” call.

But his radio career didn’t quite end with the move to the TV booth. In 2006, while the networks televised the Mets’ playoffs, Cohen did an inning or two of radio play-by-play. He was behind the mic in the sixth inning of Game 7 of the NLCS against St. Loius when Scott Rolen came to bat. He was there, and I was behind the wheel of my car going a little over the speed limit, tuned in. Well, what ensued next is well enshrined in radio lore as Rolen hit the ball to deep left that Endy Chavez caught over the wall, preventing a two-run home run. Cohen perfectly captured the moment as he called it the “the play of the year, the play maybe of the franchise history.” I wanted to clap and started to as my car veered suddenly to the right lane. Fortunately, there was no car there and everything turned out alright, but Cohen’s sensational call stirred up emotions I didn’t think I had. Therein lies his genius. Others have taken notice.

The Guardian ranked the booths of all 30 major league teams in 2017, with The Mets trio finishing number one. But the leader of the group is undoubtedly Cohen whose calls are smooth and accurate and yet knows exactly when to let his colleagues express their wisdom. Watching a game without him broadcasting like we had to for the last three games in Cincinnati, is akin to the apple not going up after a Met home run at Citi Field.

Something is missing.

So now that the headline writers and social media pundits have had their fun at the Mets’ expense over that last day or two (in large part deserved), let’s remember that there is some good, some very good. As the team prepares to take on the Phillies, let’s appreciate what we have had for decades, the best voice in baseball leading the best booth in baseball. For one day, let’s forget about stats, losing streaks, and the like and focus for a moment on the positive. And things don’t get much more positive than a Gary Cohen broadcast.