(Editor’s note: This is an updated version of the original story that was posted last night before the Pirates-Reds game. It contains new information and reflects the Pirates’ win.)
In 1963, when 10-year-old Howard Katz met his idol, Bob Prince, the voice of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and told him that he wanted to be the Pirates’ announcer when he grew up, Prince shattered the boy’s dream.
“ ‘Son,’ ” Katz recalled Prince as saying, “ ‘nowadays, unless you become a star athlete, you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell to become a broadcaster.’ ”
Well, 50 years later, it seems that Prince was wrong.
Katz (who now goes by Haim rather than Howard) provided the color commentary as Asaf Rothem’s sidekick on Sport 5 Live in Israel as the Bucs defeated the Cincinnati Reds 6-2 Tuesday in a one-game National League Wild Card game at PNC Park.
It was the first Pirates’ first post-season win since 1992. And and that means, not only that the Pirates go to a divisional series against the St. Louis Cardinals, but that Katz will keep providing color commentary from the Jewish state — at least for a couple games.
“I will be doing tonight’s AL wild card game and tomorrow’s St. Louis Pittsburgh game,” he said Wednesday following the Bucs’ win. “Then I head toward the Burgh, hoping to see a game live.”
He has no idea how many people actually heard his broadcast, but he noted that the channel that carried it is subscription-based.
Katz, a Pittsburgh native who made aliyah in 1978, may not be a star athlete, but he does have a hand in fostering baseball in the Jewish state. He served for eight years as the president of the Israel Association of Baseball, and is actively involved in raising funds to build a baseball field in Ra’anana that could serve as the site of the World Baseball Classic Qualifiers.
Katz, whose day job is in the agricultural industry, made his debut in television sports broadcasting as he commented on the Pirates game in Hebrew while it was aired live in Israel, beginning at 3 a.m. Wednesday morning.
Sport 5 Live is a pay-cable channel, which primarily broadcasts soccer games.
“Very few baseball fans would sign up for this channel,” said Katz, Skyping from his home in Tel Aviv. “At 3 a.m., I don’t think the ratings will be that big. There may be some drunk soccer fans who will be watching, trying to figure out if a soccer game will start soon.”
Still, Katz was thrilled to have the opportunity to live his dream as a Pirates’ announcer.
“Look, I’m not competing here with Bob Michaels or Howard Cosell,” he said. “But I’m obviously very excited about this. I plan to have a lot of fun tonight. But I’m not retiring from my day job.”
The lifelong Pirates fan coincidentally has plans to be in Pittsburgh to visit family on Monday, Oct. 7, he said, just in time for an evening game if, “by chance, we win today,” he said.
“I certainly wouldn’t turn down tickets,” he added with a grin, noting that the last time he saw the Pirates play live in a play-off game was at Forbes Field for the second game of the 1960 World Series.
This year, he said, the theme of the Pirates can be summed up Jewishly as “dayenu” (it would have been enough).
“Pittsburgh fans have been singing dayenu,” he said. “If they just have a winning season, dayenu. If they just make it to the play-offs, dayenu.”
“I hope we add a few more verses to dayenu,” he said, “until we get to the World Series.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at email@example.com.)