Robert DeLaney, 84; was Red Sox radio announcer

By Marvin Pave
Globe Correspondent / December 5, 2008
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Two years ago, Robert Joseph DeLaney, who was radio announcer for the Boston Braves and Boston Red Sox a half-century ago, wrote a memoir to pass on to his family.

"I was as green as green but I got by for three seasons [1951-53 as Red Sox broadcaster with Curt Gowdy], sweating out a contract renewal each year," he recalled. "In those days, the sponsors were king."

Mr. DeLaney's stay in Boston was brief, but he returned in 1960 to introduce Senator John F. Kennedy at an election eve rally at Faneuil Hall. President-elect Kennedy sent a letter of thanks to Mr. DeLaney, who had worked as his campaign announcer in 1959 and 1960. The letter was one of Mr. DeLaney's most prized memorabilia.

"My dad remained a loyal Red Sox fan throughout his life, as well as a lover of people. He was one of a kind, a master teaser and needler who was witness to some great moments in sports and American history," said his son, Bob (Robert Michael) of Tucson.

"I remember as a young boy of 7 when he took me to the last game the New York Giants played in the Polo Grounds before they moved to San Francisco," he said. "It was also the last game that he was a Giants broadcaster."

Mr. DeLaney, a resident of Queens, N.Y., who fell in love with baseball while growing up in Elmira, N.Y., died Nov. 25 at St. John's Queens Hospital in Queens from complications of a stroke. He was 84.

A 1942 graduate of Elmira Free Academy, Mr. DeLaney served with the Army in the Pacific during World War II. Later, he attended Syracuse University and worked with radio station WFBL in Syracuse before moving to Boston.

"My romance with baseball began in 1932 when my older brothers took me to Dunn Field where the Elmira Red Wings, a St. Louis Cardinals farm team, played," Mr. DeLaney wrote. "I was a constant figure at Dunn Field until the 1942 season. The next year was Army time, but a few years later, I was sitting in the broadcasting booths at both Braves Field and Fenway Park, doing the home games of both teams to stations in Northern New England.

"Then the Sox and Braves started full time coverage of their games - home and away [on WHDH radio]. Curt Gowdy came up from New York, and I was hired to assist him. In 1954, because I read commercials well, a guy from a New York ad agency took a liking to me, and I was hired to replace Ernie Harwell with the Giants broadcasting team."

His first season at the microphone in New York, the Giants won the National League pennant and defeated the Cleveland Indians in a World Series that featured Giants centerfielder Willie Mays's back-to-the-plate catch of a deep line drive by Cleveland slugger Vic Wertz.

"I was in the big time," Mr. DeLaney recalled, "but four years later, the Giants left New York, and I was never asked to leave my heart in San Francisco."

Shortly thereafter, Mr. DeLaney was signed by the Atlantic Refining Company to do live commercials on Yankee games carried on the Home of Champions Network. His decade-long stint included the great Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris years.

His campaign position with Kennedy was due in part to his baseball background.

"In mid-April 1959, I was playing golf when a caddie came out to the 5th fairway, to tell me that I had an important call from my agent Lester Lewis," Mr. DeLaney recalled. "I called him back, and was told that I had been selected to be Kennedy's announcer for the 1960 presidential campaign.

"I had submitted a tape made at Yankee Stadium . . . With the crowd cheering, I was going on about the "next president of the United States, Senator John F. Kennedy," and I have always felt that people thought I hired a crowd to get the job. By Labor Day, I was in Detroit to begin the odyssey.

"The Labor Day parade was the kick-off point. From there, a flight to Pocatello, Idaho, and on to Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington and a train caravan from Seattle to Oakland, California. I didn't do a thing but watch because the debates had come into play and the need for someone to introduce the candidate at every stop was nullified."

Mr. DeLaney's voice became a familiar one on political commercials, a job that required frequent trips between Washington, D.C., and New York City.

He remembered flying on the presidential plane, the Caroline, that was fitted out "like a living room," and meeting individuals close to Kennedy, including special assistant and campaign manager Kenneth O'Donnell, and campaign backer and Democratic National Committee chairman John Bailey of Connecticut.

After the election, Mr. DeLaney was a television sports host on two New York City stations from 1962 to '68, and a radio broadcaster of the Ivy League Football Game of the Week from 1964 to '68.

He also was a disc jockey at station WFAS in Hartsdale, N.Y., and a freelance commercial voice-over artist.

"He worked until his early 70s," said his son, "and I think the 'Ford has a Better Idea' commercial he narrated put his kids through college."

Mr. DeLaney leaves his wife of 20 years, Donna (Ingram); a daughter, Kathleen Noonan of Denville, N.J.; two other sons, Tim of Chatham, N.J., and Gerald of Bedford, N.Y.; 11 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. His first wife, Irene (Dolbear), whom he met while both worked at WFBL, died in 1977.

A memorial Mass will be said Dec. 13 at 1 p.m. at Corpus Christi Parish in Chatham, N.J.

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