Earlier this past week I had the honor of interviewing Gary Dell’Abate, best known as being the producer of the Howard Stern Show for almost the past 30 years. He is a top selling New York Times Best Selling Author, loving husband and father to two sons. But He is also a die hard Mets fan. Gary was kind enough to spare a few minutes while driving to a appointment, so I made the most of our brief interview.
RustyJr: Thank you for taking time out for this interview, I guess my first and foremost question to you is when did you really first become a Mets fan ?
Gary Dell’Abate: Ah before I can remember. I remember the game being on in the house, my father watching the game, and I just remember it being part of my life forever.
R.J: So do you remember the first game you ever went to?
G.D: My father used to take me and my brothers to Old Timers Day, it had to be ’67 or ’68 and the thing that I remember about it was I found it sort of weird because the Mets didn’t have that many old timers and a there were alot of other New York old timers there. I could be crazy, but I have a vague recollection of Duke Snider and Mickey Mantle being there. And Mantle was a New York Yankee, so I guess they brought back old New York players.
R.J: Okay so who was you favorite player growing up ?
G.D:Without question it was Tom Seaver.
R.J.And what about from the crop of Mets from the past 30 years ?
G.D: Piazza was a big guy.
R.J: Well let me ask you this, when you had Piazza on the Stern Show, were you guys nervous? I am sure Jay Horowitz ( Mets Director of Public Relations) was pacing back and forth during the interview.
G.D:I have known Jay for years and I really had to work him. I’m sure Jay was very nervous about the show, but he has come to like the show. I remember when I was at WNBC I tried to get Mookie Wilson to give a Christmas i.d but Jay was too nervous. I have met Jay many times over the years, and he’s a really good guy.
R.J: What are your impressions on Jose Reyes? Do you think he will be back, do you think he won’t be back ?
G.D: I would like him to come back, I think he is a good player, and to replace a player of that caliber you will have to pay the same amount of money anyway, although they may decide to go with the less expensive option at shortstop and put the money into an outfielder – but I feel that Reyes is a good player and the team is a lot less without him. Nobody knows what it really going on with the Mets financially, and what their deal is. The Wilpon’s have done a great job of sort of closing ranks and saying that everything is great.
R.J:Do you feel that since you have been working for the Stern Show that you have been able to get a lot of access in terms of being able to go behind the scenes with the Mets ? Are you granted special privileges there ?
G.D:I have a couple of good friends that work for the Mets who have always been nice to me over the years. My sons and I have been able to go to the games, attend batting practice, meet the players, it is very exciting. Now that my kids are getting older they are doing other things, but we tried to get out to Citi this year, but we weren’t able to find the time.
R.J: Would you say that your sons Lucas and Jackson are Mets fans – or are they Yankee fans ?
G.D: (laughs) OH MY GOD THEY ARE METS FANS !!!
R.J : It comes across on the show that you are the lone Mets fan on the show, I know Robin is and Howard used to be, but I guess what I am trying to ask is how do you manage to survive during the season when you WERE surrounded by Yankee fans such as Artie and Stuttering John ?
G.D:You learn to survive anything. I mean you are loyal to your team, you take the crap that comes with it. The World Series loss to the Yankees was much easier to deal with than the Mets collapse. I remember when the Mets collapsed in ’07, I was on the air with Artie and we were arguing. I said ” Screw You ! The Mets are getting into the playoffs !!!” , and I went inside, sat down and Jon Hein ( Wrap up Show co-host and inventor of the phrase ” Jump the Shark”) looked at me and said ” Too soon buddy, too soon”.
R.J: Those were some pretty funny times with Arte, did he do that just to bust your chops or was he really that rabid of a Yankee fan to where he was so rabid to go on tangents like that ?
G.D:It was a little of both. He was a Yankee fan so when the Yankees win you bust your Mets fans balls like that. He’s a comedian doing it on the air so it is a little bit of a caricature so Artie was doing it just for fun, and to get under my skin.
R.J: Do you still have some type of relationship with him – or have you really haven’t spoken to him ?
G.D: I just spoke with him last week.
R.J: I hope he is doing well.
G.D: If the Yankees lose tonight I’ll probably call him ( they did lose that night 5-4)
R.J: Have you been watching the playoffs ?
G.D: I have been following the playoffs, but I haven’t had a chance to watch alot of the games. You know that when you are a Mets fan, it’s not who you are rooting for – but who you are rooting against. So I am looking at the scoreboard and rooting against the Yankees and Phillies. I was also very happy to see Atlanta lose.
R.J: So was I. Do you feel now that Boston and Atlanta have both suffered collapses this past season that it takes the focus off the Met ’07 collapse ?
G.D:The thing is when you talk about colossal collapses of all time you don’t really think about the Mets. There is some that are bigger, the ’61 Phillies, the Mets aren’t even in that discussion which is good.
R.J: We have discussed this in email, and I really didn’t want to ask you this, but I was there when you threw out the infamous first pitch back in ’09. I admit that I did cringe, but yet I have seen other people do worse. But what really went through your mind that day when it happened ?
G.D:That it was really F.cking bad, and that it would be talked about on the show. I think the reason that it had blown up is because I was the victim of two things. First of all I work on a show where we have nothing but time to talk about it . If I was the bandleader on the Tonight Show, they would have shown the clip once or twice and moved on to other stuff. Here we have hours to talk about it. The other thing is if I had done that five years before it wouldn’t have gotten nearly as much traction. I told everyone that that pitch – that video is the definition of something going viral. If you look at it now, there are two of them on YouTube. One of them has 700,000 hits while the other has 500,000.I have said this before that I could kill somebody and not get 1.2 million people to watch it.
R.J: In your book ” The Call Me Baba Booey” you relayed a funny story about when you interviewed Rick Cerrone (Yankee catcher from the early ’80′s).
G.D: So I was interning at WLIR radio on Long Island, I was in college, and they guy that I worked with didn’t know the first thing about sports. So I came in one day and he asked me if I would like to interview Rick Cerrone, and I was like great ! I figured I would be there at one O’clock, he would be waiting for me and there would be a special room setup, and it turned out he said ” Okay he will be doing a signing at the mall , go there and try to get him to talk to you”. I was like ” Really ? That’s how it works ?” I though for sure that it would be a better setup. So I went down there, spoke to the P.R lady and she was like ” Sure you can interview him after everyone else is gone”.So I went off to the side to test my tape recorder to make sure it was working, and when I looked up – he was gone ! So I asked them where did he go and they were like ” Oh he left already” . I was like ” Well he promised me an interview.” So I tracked him down and he was up in the mall office , and he let me interview him. The first thing that I asked him was “You won 103 games this year and you lost to the Royals in the playoffs – Is that a disappointment ?.” He just glared at me and he said to me – ” But we won 103 games this season – How was that a failure !!” I was like Whoa – okay fine. I wasn’t even doing it to bust his balls – I asked a legitimate reporter question.
R.J: You are about 9 years older than me so let me ask you this, when the Mets were pretty bad in the late ’70′s did you ever expect them to win ever again ?
G.D: (laughing) No – you never thought they were ever going to be any good. You thought they were going to suck forever. It was a dark period of time because not only did the team suck, and they traded Seaver – As a sidebar – we have a caller who apparently owns a vineyard and i guess Tom Seaver lives in California and they live right next door to each other ad they are friendly. So Seaver doesn’t know me from a hole in the wall, So he got Seaver to autograph a ball that said ” Nice first pitch” – and just to prove that it wasn’t b.s the guy even gave me a picture of Tom Seaver actually holding the ball – I have put it in my man cave.
R.J:What do you think the Mets will do and what would you like to see see them do this coming off season ?
G.D: I would like to see them spend some money – Listen, they have lost a lot of salaries am I correct ? So Beltran’s salary is gone now that the season is over ?
R.J:Yes, his is gone, K-ROD’s is gone as well as Ollie and Castillo’s are all gone.
G.D: Alright, so there has been a bunch of salary that has been dumped,so you would think that if they haven’t gone through this financial disaster that this would be a great year to rebuild. The rumor is that they are pairing down the payroll to about 100 million. Then there was a rumor that payroll could be anywhere between 80 and a hundred million – and if that is the case – I don’t see them being successful. The Mets don’t appear to have the baseball savvy to field a winning team- but having said that , you have a really good general manager ( Sandy Alderson) as well as a really good manager ( Terry Collins) – So will they be allowed to make moves that they want to make ? I would like to see them keep Reyes, and I would like to see them go out and get a really solid number 2 pitcher, but we all know that good number 2 pitchers don’t fall off the vine, and when they do they are overpriced, and the Mets don’t seem to want to overpay.
R.J: Thank you very much for your time Gary – I really appreciate it.
And with that said…. HERE COMES THE INFAMY !!!!!!!
Mets alumni celebrating a birthday includes:
Back up infielder from the ’62 season, Sammy Drake would have been 87 today (1934).
Reserve outfielder/first baseman from ’79-’80, José Cardenal is 68 (1943). In his two seasons witht he Mets, Cardenal appeared in a total of 37 games with the Mets ( mostly as a pinch hitter), and batted .228 with 2 home runs and 8 RBIs.
Mo Vaughn will be rooting hard for the Cardinals tonight solely based on the fact that he prefers ribs over SCRAPLE !!!!