One of the most respected and honored broadcasters of his generation turns 64 today.
Robert Quinlan Costas was born in Queens, New York, on this date in 1952. His mother, the former Jayne Quinlan, was of Irish descent and his father, John George Costas, was an electrical engineer whose family hailed from the Greek island of Kalymnos in the Aegean Sea. Father and son shared a deep connection to baseball, where young Bob followed the game on radio. “The sense of romance of the airwaves captured me early on. I became almost as interested in the announcers as the ballplayers.” Costas grew up in Commack, a Long Island suburb–where Peter Frampton recorded the epic LP Frampton Comes Alive–and home to the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. He attended Commack South High School, alma mater of comic Rosie O’Donnell, before enrolling at Syracuse University in late summer 1970. Costas left the prestigious Newhouse School of Public Communications in 1974 before graduation to work at WSYR-TV and Radio in Syracuse, becoming the announcer for the Syracuse Blazers of the Eastern Hockey League—the team and league that became the basis for the comedy film, Slapshot—for $ 30 a game. The following year, he accepted a job as the voice of the ABA’s Spirits of St. Louis on KMOX radio [Daily Dose, February 17]. After the Spirits folded in 1976, Costas covered regional NFL and NBA games for CBS Sports for three years before doing play-by-play for the Chicago Bulls in 1979-80. He also served as the radio voice of Missouri Tigers basketball from 1976-81.
Bob Costas was hired by NBC in 1980, hosting NFL and NBA studio coverage while also doing MLB and pro basketball play-by-play. In 1983, Costas was paired with Tony Kubek, former Yankee teammate of Costas’ boyhood idol Mickey Mantle, calling Saturday baseball Game of the Week. Kubek became his mentor and had as much influence on Costas as anyone he has ever worked with. The duo was so good that many media critics stated they were superior to Vin Scully [Daily Dose, November 27] and Joe Garagiola, the network’s number one team. “They were so well received and I hated that we were competing with ourselves,” said the program’s Executive Producer, Michael Weisman. At 34, he became studio host of NFL on NBC, a position he still holds, and four years later became the host of Later, a ground-breaking nightly half-hour-long talk show. Costa served as prime time host of the Summer Olympics for the first time in 1992 and hosted his first Winter Games a decade later. He has now covered eleven Games during his career, more than any broadcaster in history. The great Stan Musial owned a restaurant in Costas’ adopted home town of St. Louis. The first time he visited, Costas left a $ 3.31 tip on a ten dollar tab in homage to the Hall of Famer’s lifetime batting average. Costas has delivered the eulogy at the funerals of two of baseball’s immortals—Musial and Mantle, describing his boyhood idol as “a fragile hero to whom we had an emotional attachment so strong and lasting that it defied logic.” Mr. Costas has hosted On the Record with Bob Costas, Costas Now and is currently working with MLB Network. This summer, he will be hosting the Olympics for the 12th time in his remarkable career.
Robert Costas has a remarkable ability to report a story, advance a story and place it in historical context. Costas has won 26 Emmy Awards and is the only person in television history to have won Emmys for sports, news and entertainment. In 2000, he authored a guide to fixing baseball entitled “Fair Ball: A Fan’s Case for Baseball” and for years carried a 1958 Mickey Mantle baseball card in his wallet. As a 40th birthday present, former Oakland A’s manager Tony LaRussa permitted Costas to manage his team during a spring training game. He is a member of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters as well as American Sportscasters Association Halls of Fame and appeared in Ken Burns’ epic documentary “Baseball.” During his 42-year career, Mr. Costas has covered golf, hockey, horse racing, basketball, football, baseball, boxing and Olympics. At age 22, Bob Costas went from one “crazy” league to another, leaving the Eastern Hockey League for the American Basketball Association. At 60, he was presented the Walter Cronkite Award for excellence in broadcast journalism.