The Voice

The Yankees’ Suzyn Waldman broke barriers as the first female full-time big league broadcaster

March 13, 2012
(NBHOF Library)

Suzyn Waldman has spent most of her broadcasting career overcoming obstacles. Now, after more than two decades of work, she is recognized as a leader in her profession.

Since 2005, Waldman has been joined by John Sterling in the New York Yankees’ WCBS-AM radio booth. In her role as a color commentator, she became the first woman to hold a full-time position as a big league broadcaster.

In the spring of 2005, when Yankees infielder Tony Womack was informed that Waldman would be the first woman to be a full-time baseball broadcaster, he said, “She’s going to be the first? Because of that, there can be a second.”

Baseball has been a part of Waldman’s life from an early age. The Newton, Mass., native grew up a Boston Red Sox fan, attending her first game at Fenway Park at age three and keeping score at age four. She fell in love with the theater as she got older, eventually spending 15 years on the Broadway stage where she appeared in leading roles in musicals such as Man of La Mancha, Nine and No, No, Nanette.

While on the road with musicals, Waldman could often be found at a ballgame prior to an evening performance, sometimes singing the national anthem. Prior to a 1979 Twins home game, while waiting to perform, Waldman was overheard discussing baseball with Boston slugger Jim Rice. Former big league first baseman Wes Parker, working as a NBC broadcaster at the time, overheard the discussion and asked Waldman if she ever considered a career as a sports reporter.

“I’d never seen Wes Parker before,’ Waldman said, “but the man changed my life.”

After being turned down for the lead role in Evita, Waldman soon found herself enrolled in a broadcasting course. Eventually she was hired to work on all-sports radio station WFAN-AM in New York City when it went on the air on July 1, 1987. During her 15 years at WFAN, she worked as an award-winning beat reporter covering both the Yankees and New York Knicks. Waldman would co-host a WFAN show before leaving in 2003 to work Yankees games for the YES Network.

“I was going to be Ethel Merman, Mary Martin and Barbara Cook, all rolled into one,” Waldman said. “But it never happened.”

In 1995, The Baseball Network hired Waldman to work three broadcasts, making her the first woman to announce a nationally televised game.

“This very important,” said Waldman after her national debut. “Because of me, some girl out there who’s 16 will get a shot someday. Once you punch a hole in the wall, you can’t cover it up.”

Waldman was also the first woman to provide play-by-play for a major league team when she worked televised broadcasts of Yankees games for WPIX, MSG Network and WNYW/FOX5 in the mid-1990s.

In 2006, her story was added to the Diamond Dreams: Women in Baseball exhibit at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, and in 2009, her World Series Game 6 scorecard was added to the Hall of Fame’s collection, commemorating her role as the first female broadcaster to call game action in the World Series.

“I’m extremely proud of this,” said Waldman, referring to becoming the first woman to broadcast a Fall Classic. “This is the World Series. It doesn’t get any more important, to me anyway, that this. So this is mine. This is something no one can ever take away.”

When aspiring female sports broadcasters contact her, Waldman’s response is often “Don’t let them tell you no. If they say no, don’t believe them. It’s all about sticking it out. If you think you can do it, don’t let anyone laugh at you. There shouldn’t be some 6-year-old girl out there thinking she can’t be an announcer because ‘women can’t do that.”  

Bill Francis is a library associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum