S-U-Z-Y-N Waldman changed the spelling of her given name 10
years ago when she quit the musical theater to make a name for
herself in a new field.
Now, no matter what letters of the alphabet she's chosen, the
reporter on WFAN sports radio in New York City has succeeded in
getting her name up in lights. Waldman has gained entrance to one
of the last holy of holies of male culture: the broadcast booth of
She is making her debut in the sporting world's equivalent of
Broadway, the first woman announcing for the New York Yankees, one
of the most fabled franchises in sports, in the world's biggest
Waldman is calling balls and strikes for 13 games on TV,
filling in for the legendary Phil Rizzuto on long team trips. And
Waldman is already being cast full time for a starring role.
It's a strange plot turn for a born Red Sox fan with a
Boston-accented voice, whose career was modeled more on that of
Mary Martin than Mel Allen.
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said he was so impressed with
her performance behind the mike that she is his candidate for a
permanent slot in the booth next season. In Yankees
baseball-as-theater, that's tantamount to getting the part.
"She has proven to everyone that she is very capable and very
smart," said Steinbrenner, in his first public comments about the
future lineup in the booth - surprising both Waldman and broadcast
executives. "It's time."
While the Madison Square Garden cable network holds the Yankees
broadcasting rights, Steinbrenner has veto power on the choice of
announcers. "We can just say no, no, no until they understand,"
said The Boss, proving the aptness of his tabloid monicker.
But Waldman, who spent much of her theatrical career playing
the wench Aldonza in "Man of La Mancha" on Broadway and on the
road, has reasons not to believe Don Quixote's dream of Dulcinea.
In February, she underwent surgery for breast cancer and is
"It's bizarre. You think you are going to have it so good and
then, just in case you think you are getting too hot, someone says
`handle this' at the same time."
Sitting in the first row of the broadcast booth at Yankee
Stadium during a recent homestand, Waldman, who turns 50 in
September, won't talk about what might be.
Not when she is wearing a wig because her hair has fallen out.
Not when she has bouts of nausea and her hands tremble. Not when
she has to give herself injections every day to maintain her white
blood cell count. Not when she has to keep up with the grueling
travel schedule of a 162-game season, which exhausts even the young
"I have a job and I love it," she says. "It's hard to think
about next year with so much going on in my life. I have to feel
better first." She has two more chemotherapy treatments, to be
followed by radiation after the season.
Now in her ninth season covering the team for WFAN, she is the
veteran reporter on the Yankees beat, widely respected for the
depth of her knowledge about the players and the game. Waldman has
outlasted seven Yankees managerial changes, from Billy Martin to
"At first I wasn't sure what to make of her, but after a while
I realized that she's just one of the guys," said Joe Torre, in his
first season as Yankees manager.
Initially, she was treated as an outcast - for being a woman, a
radio reporter in a game where print reporters dominate - and
simply a newcomer.
"I traveled with the team for a solid year in 1988 and no one
talked to me," Waldman said. …