I first "met" Irv Zeidman -- play-by-play broadcaster of the 1950s-early 1960s Shreveport Sports -- on radio.
He was a fabric of the baseball teams of my youth, the main connection through radio. Same with the basketball-playing Centenary Gents, for me from 1958 to 1965.
He was, for those familiar with sports broadcasting in North Louisiana, the forerunner to two future legends: Jim Hawthorne (Centenary, then LSU) and Dave Nitz (Shreveport Captains and Louisiana Tech athletics).
They were good. They were not IZ.
My IZ experience began with -- I might have written about it previously -- our first radio in the United States.
We did not have a television yet; we had never had one in The Netherlands. Radio was how I first connected with sports (Dutch soccer). So when Dad came home with a radio early in 1956, only a month or two after we arrived in Shreveport, it was unique.
It was in the shape of a microphone with large letters on it: KENT.
Bill McIntyre's Shreveport Times column on Irv in November 1975 reminded me: "... The station used to give away, or sell, small radio sets. The only station you could get on it was KENT."
Yes, one station.
Hardly knew anything about baseball, but we went to a game early that season -- Texas League Park was within walking distance from where we lived -- and I learned that the games were broadcast on ... KENT.
IZ taught me a lot that memorable season (it was the year Ken Guettler hit a Texas League-record 62 home runs for the not-so-hot, seventh-place Sports).
Speaking of home runs, I recall Irv's call: "It's going ... going ... going ... and (drawing it out) theeeerrrreee she goes." (The reason I recall it is because in the early 1970s, I wrote a column in The Times mentioning that, only I messed it up -- as Irv pointed out to me a few days later.)
|Irv Zeidman, second from right, taking part in a mid-1950s Shreveport |
Sports baseball promotion; that is majority team owner/operator
Bonneau Peters (white hair, crew cut)
From 1959 to '61, when the Sports were in the Southern Association and one of the broadcast sponsors was Jett Drilling (George Jett was one of the team investors, with general managing partner Bonneau Peters), Irv's slogan became "IZ for JD."
He was the "voice" from Texas League Park-turned-SPAR Stadium and from the road-game "re-creations" done from a radio studio via wire-ticker play-by-play.
"He was masterful at that," his daughter Susan recalled. "He had all the sound effects, and he could tell a good story [to fill the time.]"
To a young listener not exactly aware of that, he could have fooled me ... and did. I thought he was always on the scene ... in Birmingham or Atlanta, Chattanooga, Memphis, New Orleans, Fort Worth, Dallas, wherever.
I thought Irv as a baseball broadcaster was as good as any I'd heard. In Shreveport, we had St. Louis Cardinals' games -- as in much of North Louisiana -- and later the Houston Colt 45s/Astros and, for a time in the mid-1960s, the Chicago White Sox, and later the Texas Rangers. Irv Zeidman was as interesting, as professional, as any of the broadcasters.
And maybe he was even better at college basketball. Any chance I had to listen to him do Centenary games, I tuned in (these were my junior high and high school days). Heard him do Gents' games from our Hirsch Youth Center to Philadelphia to Arizona and throughout the South.
He was not impartial. OK, Irv was a "homer," no question he was taking the side of the Sports or the Gents. If he disagreed with umpire or officials' calls (and that was often), you knew. And Jerry Byrd wrote in a 1975 Shreveport Journal column, baseball official scorers' decision were not exempt.
McIntyre's column tells several stories of how the Centenary delegation, on road trips, made life an adventure for Irv -- and vice versa.
One story: "He was such a good sport," said then-Centenary athletic director/head basketball coach Orvis Sigler. "He loved those boys and we had a lot of good times. Irv never met a stranger. He used to like being recognized wherever he went and once, in Richmond, Don Ensley paid a little shoeshine boy to go up to him and say, 'Hey, aren't you Irv Zeidman.' "
Here is what else Coach Sigler said then, and what I remember:
"I always thought he was a great broadcaster because he got so excited and involved. He lived and died with those boys. And I used to say he inhaled and didn't chew his food so he wouldn't miss a word."
For a couple of years, KSLA-TV (Channel 12) in Shreveport showed Centenary home games on a delayed basis late at night, following the 10 o'clock news, with Irv doing the play-by-play. I watched those, often rushing home if the team I was keeping stats for also played that night.
Centenary dropped its broadcasts in the mid-1960s (not enough sponsors), but Irv didn't drop the Gents. He was an avid fan.
At a game in Ruston, maybe 1968, IZ was upset at a string of officials' calls that went against Centenary (we, Louisiana Tech, won the game) and he came out of the stands and headed for the floor toward those officials. He was, thankfully, stopped short.
Both McIntyre and Byrd's columns mention that, but I didn't need the reminder; I distinctly remember it. By now I was a Tech student and sports information assistant/statistician reluctantly rooting against Centenary. So I had to laugh. Tough luck, IZ.
By then, he had become a chartered life underwriter for Prudential Insurance, but he never lost his love for the games and his teams.
In the early 1970s, during the Robert Parish era, Irv had a couple of heart attacks and was warned not to get too excited. So he would go to Centenary games, but when they got close near the end, he would head to the Gold Dome foyer and wait it out.
His broadcasting career in Shreveport began in 1954 when he was hired by KENT, primarily to do Sports games.
He was a good-luck charm.
That season, 1954, was the only time from Shreveport's recorded pro baseball history through 1986 -- so, roughly 65 seasons -- that Shreveport finished first in its league in the regular season.
McIntyre's column: " 'We came in the same year together,' remembers [team manager] Mel McGaha, going back to 1954. 'Every tie he introduced me from then on -- we won the Texas League pennant that first year -- he always took credit for it and passed it on down the line ... IZ as 5D, and he brought us in No. 1.' "
The next year the Sports won the Texas League playoffs and played in the Dixie Series (vs. the Southern Association champions). The following year was the Guettler season.
And Irving darned near brought in the 1960 Sports as Southern Association regular-season champs. Missed by a half-game.
Couple of other memories:
One I remembered, and used in that Times column -- Irv said he was in Yankee Stadium on October 8, 1956, when Don Larsen pitched his World Series perfect game (Game 5 vs. the Brooklyn Dodgers. (Irv, having lived in Brooklyn as a kid, was rooting for the Dodgers.)
The other: Susan's clippings showed that, in 1961-62, Irv did a weeknight sportscast on KTBS, Channel 3 ... as far as I know, the first TV sportscast in Shreveport. (Bob Griffin on KSLA-12 came along a couple of years later.)
IZ's broadcast career, and his baseball broadcasts, actually began in Monroe, La. In fact, his life in Louisiana began there. It was a long road. That's a story in itself.
Next: Hitting the road