Southern Brooklyn

Famed Sportscaster Russ Salzberg Remembers His Sheepshead Roots

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Source: WFAN via nydailynews.com
Source: WFAN via nydailynews.com

Russ Salzberg, more affectionately known as “The Sweater,” has been a New York City sportscasting mainstay for 25 years. A New York Daily News report reflected on Salzberg’s success and his humble Sheepshead Bay roots.

Those most familiar with the 62-year-old Salzberg know him for his work on New York Giants and Yankees post-game reports and for his local special event television sportscasting activities. Despite all his success, including a long run working the mid-morning show with legendary WFAN host Steve Summers in the 1990s, Salzberg credits all his success to his father Lou, Brooklyn and the streets of Sheepshead Bay.

“I’ve been there 25 years since…What you see is who I am. I’m just Russ Salzberg from Avenue V and this is how I see it. I owe everything, all my success, to Brooklyn,” Salzberg told the Daily News.

In touring the area, Salzberg recounted his memories of the neighborhood that shaped him:

And it all started here in “V Park,” next to 2886 Avenue V of the Sheepshead Bay projects where he was raised and learned to play the sports that became his life.

“My old man was a track worker for the Transit Authority,” he says, walking into the park. “And all my pals here were working-class. Tough, funny, street-smart, loyal, no BS.”

He stands in the asphalt softball field, gazing at this Brooklyn laboratory where he created a helluva good life. “I played softball, stickball, football, hockey here,” he says. “We shot hoops over there. We met girls there on the benches at night. I learned all there was to know about life right here.”

Sometimes he would come here alone, imagining he was a big leaguer, and do a play-by-play aloud. “‘The count is 3-and-2 with two out in the bottom of the ninth with Salzberg at the dish. And here comes the pitch…'”

Salzberg also remembered how his father helped build the Amity Little League fields located at Knapp Street and Avenue V.

“My old man built these fields. He graded the earth, planted the grass, put up the fence. It was called Bedford Bay Little League then. He’d get up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning, come down, cut the grass, chalk the lines, and by 8 he was coaching my team. And then because my brother was mentally handicapped, he created a league just for handicapped kids. My father was hard as nails, with a heart of pure gold,” Salzberg said.

Tragically, Lou Salzberg died at age 47, three years after the Transit Authority forced him to retire over his bad heart. Salzberg reflected how difficult his father’s loss was for him:

Voice cracking, he smooths his natty suit and shrugs. “He died at 47,” he says. “That wasn’t his worst day. That came three years earlier when the TA forced him to retire because of his bum ticker. Lou Salzberg was a very proud guy. Take away his job and it ripped out his soul. I learned my work ethic from him.”…

Any regrets?

“Just one,” he says. “That my old man never got to see me succeed. Because of all the great people I’ve met, my father was my one true hero.”

This was a great piece by the Daily News and really interesting for people obsessed with listening to WFAN like I am. Growing up in the 90s, I remember fondly listening to humorous antics of the “Sweater and the Schmoozer” on summer days before the Mike and the Mad Dog took over at 1 p.m. To check out the rest of the story, which includes Russ’s story of how he broke into broadcasting, click here.

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