Arrayed against the walls of the living room in the Park Avenue apartment of Harry Wismer, the sports announcer who is president of the New York Titans pro football team, are inscribed photographs of General Omar Bradley, Vice-President Richard Nixon, President Dwight Eisenhower, Senator George Smathers, former President Harry Truman, Senator Styles Bridges, Thomas E. Dewey, Moose Krause (the Notre Dame athletic director), George Halas (owner of the Chicago Bears) and J. Edgar Hoover. When a visitor remarks upon the display, Wismer beams. "I've got more inside," he says.
"Those pictures," says a friend, "are Harry's badge of success. Some people work for dollars. Harry works for pictures." Whether at lunch in the Waldorf or in South Bend for a game, Wismer is with tycoons. "Harry," says a college publicity man, "is a radio version of Sugar Ray Robinson. He always has big shots he has to get into the press box."
When not palling around with the power elite, Wismer mingles with the masses. He regards himself as a one man people-to-people program. "I love humanity," he says. He has gotten the wine stewards at El Morocco in New York and the Pump Room in Chicago to become pen pals. "Why shouldn't they write to one another?" he asks. "They're in the two best rooms in the country."
When Wismer runs into an old friend, he is something to behold. "Congratulations!" he exclaims, hurtling his stocky frame forward, his right hand at the ready for a crunching handshake. "I always say congratulations," Wismer explains. "It makes people feel good. 'Congratulations!' Congratulations can mean anything! It rings a note! It's wonderful ! And it's a great opening line. 'Congratulations!' And they say, 'How do you know?' And I say, 'I keep pace.' "
In a crowd Wismer reacts differently: he spreads rumors. His latest is, "So they shot Castro!" Says Wismer, "You get a lot of emotional reaction from people."
With the press Wismer is all business. He doles out scoops alternately to A.P. and U.P.I. "It wouldn't be good sense to take sides," he says. After he calls U.P.I., he dashes to his office to watch the story move on his private teletype. "Harry's got an integrity that a lot of people don't give him credit for," says Mims Thomason, U.P.I, first vice-president. "He's given me dozens of tips on stories and not a bum one yet."
Wismer likes to keep his face as well as his name before the public. His picture on the Titan ad in commuter trains is so large there is barely room for the schedule. When the Los Angeles Chargers requested Titan pictures for the press they received, not photographs of players, but a dozen portraits of Wismer.
"If you knew Harry for a month or two, you'd hate him," says a friend. "After a year, you'd begin to reverse yourself. If Harry would only let his accomplishments speak for themselves instead of letting himself speak for his accomplishments he'd be much better off. There are so many compensating qualities to the man. When a Redskin player got a fractured skull, Harry paid him a year's salary out of his own pocket." Says another friend, "Harry's the greatest contact man in the United States. He's always maneuvering. If he had someone to curb him he'd be a very great man."
Only physical force could curb Wismer—he is immune to criticism, insult, the cold cut or the hot rebuke. Once while broadcasting a pro playoff he announced breathlessly, "He's on the 30, the 35, the 40, the 45, the 50, the 55!" Another time he described a field goal attempt: "He kicks! And it's a beautiful kick! End over end! Terrific! And it's no good!" Wismer has been criticized for broadcasting that celebrities were at a game when, in truth, they were thousands of miles away. "I do that a lot," says Wismer. "I plug my friends. I say, 'Dean Acheson is here. President Eisenhower just walked in. There goes Dick Nixon.' "