Here we are, another Super Bowl Sunday. I don’t dislike football, and I do watch it. But the fact is I only get really worked up by two sports and they involve round balls and the use of your hands. Football is just okay and only has one major purpose. It fills some time until baseball season. With that in mind, when I think of the Super Bowl my biggest memory is not of anyone throwing a touchdown pass or running to glory. It’s Jonathan Schwartz.
Jonathan Schwartz, if you do not know, is a long-time disc jockey in New York. He actually started out doing free form rock at the old WNEW-FM in the ‘60s, but in reality he was more into standards, particularly Sinatra. So by the late ‘70s he was over at WNEW-AM, the last New York bastion for the music “where the melody lingers on.”
Now let’s get this straight, this was not my music, or my station. I’m old, folks, but not that old. But my parents loved WNEW and we grew up in tight quarters, so I heard plenty of the station in my life. I always kind of liked when Schwartz was on as I knew him from his previous life as an FM guy and more importantly, he would slip a little baseball conversation in from time to time, including a one-hour “Salute to Baseball” every single Super Bowl Sunday.
What was the “Salute to Baseball”? It was a pre-internet radio version of some cool YouTube clips. Obscure baseball songs, mixed with play-by-play. The very first half inning radiocast of the Mets made the cut for a few years. Some classic Vin Scully. Mazerowski’s walk-off. All kinds of stuff. Right from the start, Mom especially ate it up, total baseball fanatic that she is. It was really, in the end, geared more to her generation, just like WNEW-AM.
Over time I moved on and out and WNEW-AM stopped playing Sinatra or any other music. The “Salute to Baseball” endured though as Schwartz moved to WNYC and continued the routine. As my Mom was a widow by this time and living alone, I began to plan my Super Bowl Sundays around Schwartz’s show. I would pop over to her place for a visit a little before noon with some black and white cookies and listen to the “Salute” with her before going on with my day. During commercials we would talk about the Mets since spring training was finally close enough to feel. For us, Jonathan Schwartz had changed the dynamic of the day. It was no longer the biggest day of the football season. It was the first day of the baseball season. Talk about Super.
Eventually life started to get in the way of the visits. Kids of my own, had to work a few years too. Mom would always ask if I had a chance to listen, and for a long time I did. I’m not exactly sure when I stopped, but ten years ago seems about right. When I checked this week, it seems like Schwartz stopped doing the “Salute” himself, which I can understand. Things change.
But the theme remains for me that today is the glorious beginning of baseball. So I want to do my own salute, to Jonathan Schwartz, who gave me my best football memories.