WAY TO GO! Back to Fenway on Wednesday! Big Papi was okay on first … surprise! What a great series this is turning out to be. Who really thought we’d take two out of three in St. Louis? Wonders never cease.
His obstacles were many. Some might have said insurmountable. He was a painfully shy black man with a hearing problem, trying to break into major market radio and television in the ‘60’s. Yet Garry Armstrong went on to accomplish amazing things in his illustrious broadcast career.
Whereas racism was certainly a factor in Armstrong’s career as a person of color, it was never really a defining issue to him. ‘I was just so driven to succeed, racism was never a major thing on my radar,’ he says. ‘I was much more aware of my hearing difficulties. It was more personal.’ Armstrong worked hard on his diction, taking speech therapy in college, to counteract his hearing deficiency.
The Brooklyn, NY native cut his broadcast teeth at Hofstra College radio station. He was a terrific writer, but his shyness made him hesitant to attempt on-air work. But that was overcome by his ability to conduct interviews with major celebrities, such as Johnny Carson, Arthur Godfrey, Merv Griffin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier. Griffin told the young reporter, ‘Well done. You have a future in the business. You listened to me!’
After college, at ABC radio network news, he transcribed radio interviews from news legends such as Ted Koppeland Bill Beutel and became the youngest producer at the network. He edited the copy of biggies such as Paul Harvey, Edward P. Morgan and Howard Cosell.
In 1968, ABC sent Armstrong out to cover major events, such as the iconic Democratic National Convention inChicago and the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. His most memorable ‘war story’ was when he sat around a campfire in Vietnam, chatting and eating beans with then President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Shortly thereafter, he landed an on-air job at a small TV station in Hartford, CT. ‘It was so small that there were only 2 on-air people,’ explains Armstrong. He became the all-purpose news reporter, and learned how to shoot and edit film. Once, however, Armstrong learned a humbling lesson when he returned from scoring a scoop to discover he’d forgotten to load film into the camera.
Ultimately, Armstrong was hired as a general assignment reporter at Boston’s Channel 7, where he flourished throughout his 31-year tenure. He established a rapport with both the black and white communities during Boston’s divisive school desegregation period. Yet his reporting career was certainly not without incident.
For example, while covering a story in South Boston, he was accosted by an angry crowd. His first thought was to get the film back to the station, so he made sure it got into the news van.
But the crowd was chanting racial epithets at him, including the N-word. Armstrong defused the situation in Mel Brook-sian fashion. He turned to the crowd and said, ‘I’m not an ‘N’. I’m a Samoan!’ And the crowd backed off.
One time, as Armstrong was covering the Boston Red Sox on Opening Day at Fenway Park, people behind him were getting rowdy, swearing and hitting him on the head just before he went on air. ‘I lost it,’ reveals Armstrong. ‘I was swinging at the guy as we went back live.’ He thought he’d surely lose his job, but when he got back to the station, General Manager Sy Yanoff approached him exclaiming, ‘Garry, way to go. That’s such great stuff. You went with the moment. That’s what’s so great about you.’
Another time, a radio station reported that Armstrong had been seriously injured in a race-related mêlée. When he called the newsroom to say he’d be back soon with the film, the assignment editor was shocked. He thought Armstrong had been taken to the hospital, and stopped the station from going on the air with a bulletin reporting on his reporter’s alleged beating.
Despite all the celebrities, political leaders and newsmakers he covered, Garry, the seasoned reporter, turned into an awed beginner when he interviewed his movie idol John Wayne during the Duke’s visit to Boston in the early 70’s. Afterwards, Garry repeatedly asked his Channel 7 colleagues if they knew who shook his hand until they suggested he calm down and get back to finishing his story.
The 3-time Emmy-winning, Silver Circle inductee has had a wonderful broadcast life. ‘We were so fortunate to have been in radio and television in that era,’ Armstrong opines, ‘because you could do long-form television news. You could have as much time as you needed to tell the story.’ Now, when he tells young journalists how it was, all they can say is, ‘Boy, you were lucky!’
Roger Lyons, Boston Television Examiner
Roger Lyons is a veteran of the Boston television market. He has worked at many stations in news, public affairs, promotion and advertising. Roger has numerous Emmy nominations, many other industry awards and has served for over 20 years on the Board of Governors of the Boston/New…
A personal note: I talk about Garry a lot, so I thought it might be nice if I put something here for you to actually know a little more about my terrific husband. I wish I could get him to do a little blogging of his own! He has some absolutely wonderful stories of the people he met during his years as a reporter, the changes he saw both in the news business and in the world and so much more. But, so far, no dice. I’ll keep trying. Meanwhile, this is a lovely piece by Roger Lyons that was published at the beginning of this year.
Suggested by the author:
It’s almost August. The year’s mid-point passed a while ago and the days are beginning to shorten again as our tilted planet spins its endless, dizzy circles round our not-yet-fading sun.
Outside in my garden, the roses are past caring, throwing only an occasional blossom. The day lilies, exhausted by the massive display in early July, have collapsed in a heap on the garden floor. They did their job. See you next year.
It stopped raining a couple of days ago and the 100 degree heat broke. Don’t think we don’t appreciate it. It’s almost safe to go outside again! Mow the lawn, clean the walk. If the rain holds off, of course.
All things being equal — they never really are — it’s like, you know? Okay. We’ve had some good times. Laughed with friends. Not cavorting like teenagers, but there were a couple of small get-togethers. We’ve still got a roof over our head. Did a radio show and there’s another soon.
Neither of us has been diagnosed with a terminal disease and only one really good friend died. Pastor Stan went the way we all want to go. If death can be a sign of God’s grace, it’s clear Pastor Stan was the man. Well into his eighties, never sick a day in his life, he was eating lunch with a friend, stood up, fell over and was gone. He was one of the funniest, kindest, most generous people I’ve ever known and we miss him terribly … but if you gotta go (and we all do), that was a classy exit.
The dogs have been healthy. A little scare, no big problems, knock on wood (my head will do).
Got a couple of new computers and a few cameras. We’re broke, but no more so than we’ve been for the last decade. Nobody is banging on the door trying to take anything away. We almost have the car paid off — and it still runs! Imagine that!
I didn’t have hardly any surgery at all and only one hospital stay (a record). The Red Sox are playing much better than expected.
My blog passed 85,000 hits and I’m please with the work I’m doing. More important, I’m enjoying it. I live in permanent dread I’ll lose what I’ve got (take that as a general statement), but that’s so “me.” If I weren’t worried, I wouldn’t be me.
I even sold enough copies of my book (17) to get a royalty check (be still my heart)! It was almost enough to take Garry and I to a luxurious dinner at McDonald’s! Are you impressed? I sure was! Garry merely raised one eyebrow, something he does well and I can’t do at all. It’s infuriating because raising one eyebrow is sophisticated and debonair, but raising both just looks goofy.
We drink much better coffee than we used to and I’ve simplified cooking so it is as close to not cooking as it could be. I haven’t gotten fatter and Garry hasn’t gotten thinner.That’s what we call success!
My husband has been selected to enter the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame in September. I have a new dress to wear to the event and we have more than enough people to fill our table … almost overflowing! I didn’t know we had enough friends to fill a table. May wonders never cease. Around that same time, we’ll celebrate our 23 wedding anniversary, see friends we haven’t seen since college (yikes) and do a radio show too. Our radio host is also the emcee at the induction ceremony, so I guess we shall get a whole week of celebration. I don’t want to jinx us, but it sounds pretty special. Gee.
All in all? Good. I still have to find out what’s wrong with that nasty noisy mitral valve and try to convince my wrists not to punk out on me, but I figure we’re on a roll.
For years it’s been one crisis after another. Maybe, just maybe, we get a little of the good stuff. I know it won’t, can’t last forever … but a little while would be ever so nice.
- Daily Prompt:State of the Year (DailyPost.Worpress.com)
- Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame (massbroadcastershof.org/)
- Daily Prompt: My friend needs me? I’m on my way. (teepee12.com)
- Daily Prompt: Mirror, Mirror – A Ghost I See (teepee12.com)
- “Oh, Oh, Oh, I’ll Take The Jittery Goat Special!” With Recipe (jitterygt.wordpress.com)
- Apache (teepee12.com)
- Daily Prompt: You’ll find me at home where I belong (teepee12.com)
- Daily Prompt: Fandom – Beisbol (teepee12.com)
- Daily Prompt: Party Animals on the Radio (teepee12.com)
- Daily Prompt: Paths and Choices (teepee12.com)
I always liked baseball. I grew up in New York where the annual epic battles between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Yankees were so important we listened to the games in classrooms in elementary school during school hours. When the Dodgers beat the Yankees in 1955, that was as good as it gets for a baseball fan, or more accurately, a Dodgers fan.
When the Dodgers deserted Brooklyn for the west coast, we were heartbroken. Faithless Dodgers! I drifted away. College, babies, work … no time for much else.
Until I married Garry. To say he lived and died with the Red Sox is not an overstatement. Like me, he came from New York and had been a passionate Dodgers fan. Like me, he felt he had been set adrift when our team abandoned us. Although we revived a bit when the Mets came to town, it wasn’t the same, though the Miracle Mets of 1969 almost (but not quite) made up for some of the hurt feelings left in the wake of the Dodgers emigration. Unlike me, he had moved to a true baseball town and found a new team to love.
Ah, Boston. And oh — the Red Sox! In what other town could a huge neon Citgo sign at the ballpark become a city landmark?
The beloved, hapless, hopeless, cursed team of teams. When I came to live in Boston in 1988, they hadn’t won a World Series since 1918. They’d gotten so close … and then some terrible error, some disaster would occur. Everyone would scream, tear out their hair, then finally sigh and murmur “Wait until next year.”
Next year came. Twice, in 2004 and 2007. After that, everyone calmed down. We had done it, not one, but twice. The second time proving the first was no fluke. We could hold our heads up. The curse was lifted. All would be well.
Back to my life with baseball. Garry is, was, always will be an ardent devotee of The American Pastime. Baseball season is long and busy. It isn’t a game a week. It’s a game everyday and even more often, if like Garry, you follow more than one team. I realized early in our marriage I had a choice. Spend my summers without Garry … or learn to love baseball.
I went with baseball. It wasn’t hard to love it. More like remembering something I had once known. I’ll never be quite as much a fan as Garry, but I understand the game, appreciate the art of it and know how baseball is an integral part of American history and tradition. I’ve been to Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame and loved it.
Baseball has enriched my life and my marriage. And I have a year-round husband.
- Daily Prompt: Fandom (dailypost.wordpress.com)
- Daily Prompt: Fandom (thebloggingpath.com)
- Daily Prompt:If I were a great lover of Puccini, would that make me a Fandom of the Opera? (dcmontreal.wordpress.com)
- Don’t Look Now, But the Sox May Have Something Going…. (bostonsportsdesk.wordpress.com)
- Richmondtown Sandlot [Daily Prompt: Fandom] (unknowinglee.wordpress.com)
- “Remembering Jackie Robinson” by Peter Dreier (silviaseek13.wordpress.com)
I had to be at the Baptist Hospital today to see my spine guy, harboring a hope that something can be done to make it hurt a bit less. I have been to the Baptist before and I remembered that it was at the top of the hill on Parkman Hill Avenue in the area known to everyone as “hospital city.”
I’m not going to bother to explain what that means because I’m pretty sure you can figure it out. What I did not remember, or perhaps had never noticed, is that the view from the hospital is great, particularly if you’re a baseball fan and the words “CITGO sign” resonate for you.
There’s a saying in Boston: “London has Big Ben, Paris has the Eiffel Tower. Boston has the CITGO sign.”
If you are neither a baseball fan and nor from New England, you are probably saying “Huh?” A gigantic neon sign for CITGO does not have the iconic sound that you get from Ayers Rock, Big Ben, or the Taj Mahal, but for Bostonians, it’s so entwined with Fenway Park, the Red Sox, and Boston’s identity that the idea of losing it is unacceptable.
Should CITGO cease to exist, I’m sure Boston would make sure the sign remained, flashing over Fenway Park. It’s as obvious an identifier of Boston as the Empire State Building is of New York or the Gold Gate Bridge is of San Francisco.
A Sign Of The Times
The iconic CITGO sign has been a part of the Boston skyline since 1940. Located at 660 Beacon Street, on what was once a Cities Service divisional office, the sign originally featured the Cities Service logo, but was replaced with the famous CITGO “trimark” of today when the CITGO brand was created for the marketing division of Cities Service in 1965.
Efforts to remove the sign in the early 1980s faced fierce opposition and led CITGO to restore the sign, with groups even fighting to declare the sign a landmark.
The CITGO Sign is held in particular high regard by Boston sports fans. Red Sox sluggers are enticed by the so-called “C-IT-GO” sign as they blast home runs over the left-field wall, and runners in the grueling Boston Marathon welcome its sight as the 20th mile mark. Its pulsing flash in the night sky has even been used by mothers-to-be at nearby Beth Israel to time their contractions.
It’s no secret that the CITGO Sign in Boston’s Kenmore Square is beloved by people across the country and around the world. Not only has it become a major image of the city of Boston, featured in postcards and tourist brochures, but the sign was deemed an “Objet d’Heart” by Time Magazine, was photographed by Life Magazine and featured in the New York Times. It has even become a source of inspiration for artists, musicians and filmmakers from around the world.
A Boston Icon Gets a Facelift
In late July 2010, the 45-year-old, 3,600-square-foot sign had all its LED lights replaced with more technologically advanced and environmentally friendly versions. The upgrades required that the sign go dark while the work was done.
Boston residents watched excitedly as the sign was relit on Sept. 17 during the 7th inning stretch of a Red Sox home game— just in time for baseball playoff season. Today, the famous beacon looks better than ever!
When I first came to Boston in 1987, I was puzzled. I couldn’t understand why everyone loved this huge, garish neon sign. Half the time only pieces of it lit up, so what was all the fuss about? It didn’t take me long to get it: this sign was part of the whole Fenway Park-Red Sox mystique, a signature of the park, the team and the city. Moreover, the CITGO sign is visible from far and wide. It is the first landmark I recognized and used to find my way around the peculiar streets of the city. You can use it to find Fenway … and it’s important to be able to find Fenway Park. You might be forgiven for not being able to find Faneuil Hall, but you have to know the way to Fenway. Even if you don’t care about baseball. It’s a Boston thing.
So there I was, on the third floor of the Hospital, which is the lobby floor since the building is built into the hill and suddenly, I looked out and I saw Boston. Better, I saw the CITGO sign … and below it, the green walls of Fenway Park. They tried to build a new ball park some years ago but it turned out the fans didn’t want a new ball park. They wanted Fenway Park. In this house, we simply couldn’t imagine giving up Fenway.
After a great deal of hoopla and political maneuvering, they renovated the old park. CITGO fixed their sign. All is right with the world: Fenway is safe, at least for a while.
This year, 2012, was the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park. If the team hadn’t had their worst season in decades, it probably would have been a more gala occasion. Nonetheless, the Red Sox have put together a great website with pictures going back to the turn of the century. Lots of history and more. Check it out!
- Top 9 Boston Red Sox Traditions (bleacherreport.com)
- 8 Surprising Fenway Park Events (history.com)
- FENWAY: Franks, Fellowship, & Fun (cundiffcreative.com)
- Boston Red Sox: Where Does Fenway Park Rank in MLB? (bleacherreport.com)
- Red Sox Offer Free Tours Of Fenway Park To Veterans (boston.cbslocal.com)
- a weekend in boston (palettesandpassportsblog.com)
- Sox land Victorino to patrol right field at Fenway (mlb.mlb.com)
- Shane Victorino Can’t Wait to Call Fenway Park Home, Loves Boston’s Baseball Tradition (Video) (nesn.com)
- Chat with Larry Lucchino (boston.com)
- Report: Kevin Youkilis Signs One-Year, $12 Million Deal With Yankees (nesn.com)