Bob Neumeier, great sports commentator and best storyteller, will be missed


“Right in the jar … hole in one,” recalled Dale Arnold, who has partnered for years with Neumeier on a WEEI sports talk show. “And I’m here screaming, ‘Wow, Neumie, look at that, an ace! And typical Neumie, he just gives her that little smile and he says, “Yeah, whatever, let’s finish and go to the next hole.” “

Neumeier, the still gregarious Boston TV and radio personality and NBC horse racing fan / disabled person, died last weekend of congestive heart failure at his Plymouth home. He was 70 years old.

Neumie, as his best friends, colleagues and those who knew him only from his on-air work called him, was a gifted storyteller, a much rarer art today than when he first entered the theater. ‘company as a Globe copyboy in the sports department in the early 1970s after graduating from Syracuse (’72).

Another horse racing lover, Ed Olczyk, the former NHL forward who often worked with Neumeier on NBC’s Triple Crown events, loved when his buddy applied those storytelling skills in on-track production meetings before the great races.

“In his element, right there, holding the ground,” noted Olczyk, who first met Neumeier when he was playing in the NHL, when Neumie was the radio voice of the Bruins. “He was the conductor. We’d all be in the trailer… talent, producers, bosses, whatever you want… and when he started talking, everyone wanted to listen.

On air, said Olczyk, Neumeier’s greatest gift was his ability to condense the facts and convey them into a simple, entertaining package – often for viewers who only paid attention to horse racing for the Kentucky Derby. , the Preakness and the Belmont.

“Just a great storyteller, and probably not credited enough for it,” Olczyk said. “It would take a story that anyone else would need five or six minutes to tell, and it would come and go in 60 or 90 seconds, and it was perfect, gripping, everything you needed to know . “

Which gave Neumeier extra time, Olczyk noted, for another of his great passions… breaking the chops.

“Oh absolutely [he’d] Sell ​​me down the river on national TV, “said a chuckling Olczyk,” He once said, ‘Eddie, here’s a man after my heart… this guy had a chance to make over 100 G and he just threw away $ 1,700 in lost tickets. in his bag! ‘

Former NHL player and coach Eddie Olczyk fondly remembered his old friend Bob Neumeier.Amr Alfiky / Associated press

What kind of guy, remembers Olczyk, used the word “satchel”? Specifically, what kind of guy would tell the world on TV about the level of his losses?

“Yeah, great,” Olczyk said, recalling his on-air complaint, “now I have to explain to my wife how I lost $ 1,700.”

Neumie often had needles ready for the Bruins’ playoffs, during the years when the club regularly hosted a post-game hospitality room at the team’s hotel down the road. Such opportunities have all but disappeared from today’s team and media landscape. Filled with drinks and snacks, the room brought together team management, and sometimes coaches, to chat with members of the media in an informal setting. Sessions often lasted until early morning, sometimes until dawn, and could be heated.

“Neumie loved being the agitator,” fondly recalls Nate Greenberg, the Bruins’ public relations manager for over 30 years. “He knew exactly how to move Harry forward, TJ… he had an art form of it.”

Harry Sinden was the managing director and Tom Johnson his right-hand man. Everyone, of course, returned what they had received in the reception room. Neumie knew which buttons to push. In Montreal, that usually only took a reference to a bad decision by a referee or, say, a questionable line combination employed by the Bruins coach.

“A great guy and really one of a kind, the Nooms,” said Greenberg, who kept in regular contact with his 40-year-old friend until the end. “He raced by day, the NHL by night… loved to uncover obscure details of everything he watched and read.

Underneath it all, noted former WBZ-TV sports producer Alan Miller, his pal Neumie was a “number guy,” especially when it came to ponies.

“Interested… smart, really smart,” recalled Miller, who was part of the heyday of WBZ sport in the ’80s and’ 90s, when Bob Lobel and Neumeier were the city’s top 1-2 in televised sports. . “That’s really what pari-mutuel is, betting your knowledge against everyone who bets. He had cold numbers and was right most of the time. “

If the Celtics were in Los Angeles to take on the Lakers in the NBA Playoffs at the Forum, Neumie would rush between games and practice and head to adjacent Hollywood Park. If he had a free moment on a quiet working day in Boston, he would rush to Suffolk Downs.

“He was like, ‘You know where I’ll be,’ and that meant Suffolk,” Miller said.

On the afternoon of July 27, 1993, Miller called Neumeier in the Suffolk press box when advice came to ‘BZ that Celtics star Reggie Lewis collapsed while training at Brandeis.

“Probably nothing, but you better go over there and check it out, Neumie,” Miller recalls. Lewis died of sudden cardiac arrest. “Neumie had it, we were on the air at 5 o’clock with it.”

Neumeier briefly taught history in the Weymouth public school system before launching his career in media. His great success came when he was hired by the WHA Whalers to be their play-by-play voice on WTIC in Hartford. He was only 24 years old. Among his on-air partners: Bill Rasmussen, who later in the 1970s founded ESPN in nearby Bristol, Conn.

“Neumie was one of the best hires we’ve ever had,” recalls original Whalers owner Howard Baldwin, who arrived in Palm Springs, Calif., On Friday. “He did a great job and the fans loved him.”

Love was not necessarily universal. Neumie could be singled out for his criticism of Whalers defenseman Marty Howe. Howe’s mother Colleen, wife of the great Gordie Howe, has made it clear to management her displeasure with the young guy game by game – perhaps a factor in Neumeier’s choice in 79 to move on to WFSB Ch. 3 in Hartford for his first gig as a sports presenter. Only two years later, he was back in Boston as Lobel’s sidekick.

Neumeier is widely recognized as the employee of the Whalers who chose the song “Brass Bonanza” as the club’s official song, although there is a dispute on this point. Some, including Baldwin, believe it was George Ducharme who ran the club’s gift shop.

When I informed Neumeier 3-4 years ago that the point seemed to be in dispute, he said, “Uh, no… what can I tell you? … I’m the guy. ”He remembered finding it one day while flipping through vinyl albums.

“When I heard the news that he was gone, it shook me, I was sick,” Olczyk said. “Such a great friend to me, and a lot of people. Amusing. Treated everyone around him with respect.

And always with a touch of humor.

“I can hear it now,” said Olczyk, “Hey, Eddie… you know that horse you picked in the third, I think he has a chance of finishing in the fourth. This will eventually hit the wire.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @GlobeKPD.

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