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Husing was a payroll clerk for a New York City hosiery manufacturer in 1925 when a local station hired him for a studio announcing job for which 600 others had also auditioned. Within four years he had become CBS's first national sportscaster. He covered everything—baseball and the Olympics, golf and tennis, boxing and polo, horse racing and auto racing, even the Poughkeepsie ( N.Y.) regatta.
Initially CBS gave Husing assignments outside sports as well. He single-handedly covered the 1928 Democratic national convention for the network and that November announced to the nation the election of Herbert Hoover as president. By the '30s Husing was one of the network's headliners, along with Benny, Eddie Cantor and Edgar Bergen.
Husing's celebrity was such that his personal life was often in the news. The second of his three marriages, to the movie star Celia Ryland, was a choice morsel in the gossip columns; like his first marriage, this one would end in divorce. CBS afforded Husing the unprecedented luxury of having two full-time scouts, who circulated around the country, filing background reports to him for the upcoming college football games he would broadcast. He was always prepared to the nth degree, his broadcasts carrying a stamp of authority that other announcers couldn't hope to duplicate.
Husing had an almost poetic ability to paint pictures with words. "On the air, you didn't think of Ted Husing the person," says Marty Glickman, a football and track star of the 1930s who became a premier sportscaster himself. "He was too filled with that which he was describing. You could smell the autumn when he broadcast, you could see the rustling of the leaves, you could feel the wind howling through the stadium."
Unlike Bill Stern, his broadcasting contemporary who wasn't above inventing a lateral if he had misidentified the fellow with the ball, Husing never allowed his ego to interfere with the action on the field. Away from the mike, though, his image became hugely important to him, and he spent long hours polishing it at the bar of the "21" Club in Manhattan. He liked to have Hollywood starlets on his arm, and among his watering hole pals were Damon Runyon, Westbrook Pegler and Ernest Hemingway.
Tall, thin and impressive-looking with his long El Greco face, Husing would glide into Toots Shor's in a snap-brim hat and a camel hair coat wrapped around his shoulders in the manner of a cape. He would no more have loosened his tie than be seen in shoes without laces. His dress shirts were custom-made with low collars, so that his majestic vocal chords would not be restricted. "He was dashing, a Douglas Fairbanks Jr. type," says filmmaker Bud Greenspan, who is best known for his documentaries about the Olympics. "He'd be sitting at a table in Toots Shor's just talking, and people would turn around and look because they'd heard such a unique voice. He wouldn't say, 'Hello, how are you.' It would be, 'Hel-looooo, how ahhhr you.' "
The more I learned about Husing, the more I was struck by the similarities between him and Howard Cosell. The sound of their voices was very different, and Husing would have sneered at Cosell's bombast. In other respects, however, Cosell seemed to be his alter ego. Cosell also used $50 words. Both men's voices and mannerisms were mimicked nationwide. Cosell, too, was arrogant and imperious, possessed an encyclopedic memory, took over rooms the moment he entered them, fashioned himself as a friend of stars, frequented "21," spurned kindnesses and retired from sportscasting a lonely soul.
Another trait Husing shared with Cosell was bluntness. In 1935, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the baseball commissioner, barred Husing from covering the World Series for having called the umpiring in the previous Series "some of the worst I've ever seen." In 1931, Harvard had banned him from its football games for having described the performance of one of its heroes as "putrid."
Husing surprised everyone in 1946, when, at the peak of his career, he left CBS to become a disc jockey at WHN, which later would become WMGM. His daily show, Ted Husing's Bandstand, brought him into closer contact with a number of his show-biz pals, including Bing Crosby and Glenn Miller, and raised his annual salary from $27,500 to the then stupendous sum of $250,000, but he wasn't happy. He moonlighted, doing Army and Baltimore Colt games for the fledgling DuMont Television Network, but he no longer was the center of the scene.
In 1953, Husing's assistant at the West Point Network, Walter Kennedy, who would later become commissioner of the NBA, noticed that Husing appeared emotionally and physically spent after a routine broadcast of the Army-Northwestern football game. For several years Husing had been experiencing pain and an occasional loss of control in his right leg and arm but had told no one. Shortly after this broadcast, Husing learned that he had a brain tumor. Twice in the next three years he underwent surgery, and the first operation was unspeakably cruel, for the nerves that controlled what he cherished most, his voice and his vision, were damaged.