By the time Bob Page was 15 years old, he knew the only career he would have in sports would be in the field of journalism, and he was just fine with that. As a matter of fact, he dedicated a school paper to it.
“I was a very good baseball and basketball player, but I knew by the time I was 15 I was never going to be good enough. I remember doing a career paper in 9th grade while in junior high school in suburban Detroit about being a sports journalist. I said I had chosen to go to the University of Missouri because at the time, they had the best journalism program in the country. I had interviewed with a couple of newspaper editors in Detroit about becoming a sports writer, so I would say that was one of the designs I had in my life.”
After serving in the industry for the better part of the last 30 years both in front of the camera and on radio, Page answered the call of a friend and decided to put pen to paper. His recently released book, Tales from the Diamondbacks Dugout, was not the original plan, but Bob had good reasons to pursue it.
“I received a call from a college buddy of mine, and he had been asking me to write a book for a long time. He asked me if I would write a book on the Yankees because I had covered them for so many years,” said Page.
Bob had spent almost 10 years in New York as the lead anchor of Madison Square Gardens Network, and in addition to his own half hour program and in-studio show each night; he was a pre-game host for the New York Knicks, New York Rangers hockey team and for the Yankees.
Page said, “I told him I can’t do it (Yankees book) because I am based in LA now, and it is just too big a hassle for me to get to Florida where the Yankees hold spring training. I told him, the last time I looked, the Diamondbacks actually beat the Yankees in the World Series. I have a lot of family in Arizona, how about a book about the Diamondbacks?”
Bob’s career started in 1974 when a fellow Michigan State University student became the first and only designated runner/pinch-runner in the history of Major League Baseball. “At the time, Herb Washington was the fastest man in the world; he was also a track star at Michigan State. He was doing a little work for channel six and left to join the Oakland A’s as the first and only designated runner, designated pinch-runner in the history of baseball. So I went over to Channel Six and I knew some people there because I had worked for Michigan State Sports Information and I took Herb’s place.”
In a career that was shaped and influenced by the legendary Howard Cosell, Page eventually ended up replacing the man who “tells it like it is” on his radio program with ABC, Speaking of Sports.
Bob also spoke of another man he met that was in the industry, Jim Simpson. “Jim Simpson was the number two guy with NBC in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s behind Curt Gowdy. I never understood why because I personally thought Simpson was better. The only time I ever met him (Simpson) in my life was about 10 or 12 years ago. At that stage, Jim had made his money and his career was really winding down. He was doing the Ivy League Football Game of the Week on Sportschannel in New York, and during the football season every Saturday he would go to Princeton or Cornell and do the game. You would think that would be beneath him and he would not want to do that. However, he told me, ‘I am just so-so grateful for the wonderful career I have had, and the people I met, the things I saw, the places I went, the money I made, it has just been absolutely wonderful, and I am happy to just be doing this at this stage in my career.’ I never forgot that”
If you are looking to “Work in Sports”, Bob has experience in giving advice. “I have had a lot of kids write to me and call me in the past asking for advice on how to get into the business which is very flattering. The first advice I give them is if you really, really, really want this, don’t let anyone scare you away.”
A certain situation arose early in Page’s pursuit of a career that exemplifies this theory. “I can remember sitting in the office of my academic advisor in my freshman year, I will never forget his name, the late Dr. David Lewis, and he must have been 50-something at the time and I was a kid about 18 or 19. He said to me, ‘I suppose you know there are no jobs in television or radio?’
Page said he shook his head and said, “Yes sir, I realize that. Of course I didn’t realize that, and I was thinking to myself, there are no jobs? How am I going to get a job then? What am I going to do?” The moral to the story is, “if you want it bad enough and really have enough perseverance, and of course it helps to have some talent too, you are going to be able to do it.”
Other advice is not to get caught up in thinking about where you are going or how much money you’ll be making. Page added, “If you are asking yourself questions like, how many years do I have to work in such-such place before I get my next job, or how much money can I make, then this is not the right gig for you.”
Bob added that if you’re wondering if you may be too old to get into the sports business, here are some other things to think about. “I would get calls from guys who are dentists and lawyers in New York, I would get letters from them, Dear Mr. Page, I have a dental practice I have been doing for the last 15 years but I always dreamed of being a sportscaster. Is it too late for me? How can I do this?“
“When you get to that age, if you have a wife and a family and a mortgage and a car payment, it is hard to just throw that yoke off. But if you are willing to, you go to the small markets and see if you can get yourself a job.”
“Make sure you are financially secure enough to start out with because the job will probably not pay very well, especially in the beginning. Which leads to the other question they always ask me, how long will I have to stay there until I can get to someplace bigger? I always tell them there is no guarantee you’ll ever go anyplace bigger. There are no guarantees. You really have to be able to sacrifice and you have to want it.”
Tales from the Diamondbacks Dugout
Tales from the Diamondback Dugout is a compilation of fascinating vignettes that give baseball fans an inside look at the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks' world championship season as well as many of the magic moments that preceded it. From the founding of the expansion franchise to their quick rise to glory, as seen through the eyes of Manager Bob Brenly, his coaching staff and such D-Backs players as Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Mark Grace, Matt Williams and Luis Gonzalez, readers get a front-row seat for Arizona's World Series win over the New York Yankees. The book takes you behind the scenes for an intimate, informative and often humorous look at the game's new champions. Tales from the Diamondback Dugout is available at amazon.com