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Suzyn Waldman: The ultimate female pioneer in sports

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Tenacity and emotions are what set her apart as one of the original trailblazers in sports.

“2009 World Series Film” New York Screening Photo by Henry S. Dziekan III/Getty Images

Ever since I can remember, Suzyn Waldman’s voice has been coming out of my radio and providing color for the New York Yankees. Her knowledge of the game, as well as her sheer wit and humor, are synonymous with Yankees broadcasts. Despite the fact that she is now an integral part of the organization, however, it wasn’t always that way. In fact, she is a trailblazer, a pioneer, and a true inspiration for women in the baseball world.

As many know, Waldman began her career as a singer and actress. Unsatisfied with the career path, however, she decided to give sports broadcasting a try. WFAN, the pioneering sports radio station, hired her, and in 1987 she was the first voice to be broadcasted. As it goes for many women attempting to make a career in a male-dominated sports world, Suzyn’s career was something she had to fight through. “At the beginning here,” she said, “I’ve gone through being spit at by players and death threats and all the things that went with being a woman in sports.” She also reported hearing WFAN executives say “get that smart-aleck broad with the Boston accent off my air in drive time.” Never deterred, however, she persevered.

During her first year with the Yankees in 1988, nobody talked to her in the press box, and when writers were given information, she was excluded from the updates. That same year, George Steinbrenner invited the beat reporters to dinner but neglected to invite her. Still, she won over the self-declared chauvinist with pluck, preparation, and grit, to the point where, in 1999, she brought an end to a decade and a half long feud between Yogi Berra and Steinbrenner, reuniting the two in time for the 1999 season opener. It was the first time in 14 years Yogi had returned to the stadium.

Despite the abuse she received purely based on her gender, she now views it as an advantage, because it helps her bring something to the booth that most men can’t, or won’t: she isn’t afraid to show an emotional side. When asked why she allows herself to show more sensitivity, she responded with: “I want people to see these players as people — they’re not stats.” Waldman was the first to inquire with Wade Boggs about how the loss of his mother affected his play and emotions in the 1986 World Series. She isn’t afraid to shed tears while on the air, either. Following the final game of Joe Torre’s managerial career, she cried while reading a quote from Torre’s final press conference. In allowing herself to do so, she expressed the sentiments of the entire Yankee Universe and as a result, I believe she created an even more powerful moment.

She says she hopes to be considered a pioneer. I think it’s fair to say she’s earned that moniker, as she’s the first woman to call Major League Baseball as a full-time radio announcer, and in 2009 she became the first woman to call a World Series game. She doesn’t claim the title for the kudos but instead cherishes the opportunity to pave the way and inspire. “If there are people coming up behind me who get to places where I’ve never been. Some of the little girls who started listening to me are grown up now. They’re out there.’’

Well, Ms. Waldman, I am one of them. Thank you.