Outstanding: Warner Fusselle was as “ATG”
Warner Fusselle, the play by play voice of the Brooklyn Cyclones since the team's inception in 2001 has left us. Those of us at WFUV got to know him well, especially those who covered the Brooklyn Cyclones for our yearly “Life in the Minors” feature.
Warner was always gracious and willing to spend some time with the students giving advice and telling stories. The first time we had Warner on “One on One” he interrupted his introduction to tell us “I’ve been waiting 20 years to be on this show.”
This remembrance of Warner goes back way before the Cyclones and “Life in the Minors” existed. John Cirillo, WFUV and Fordham alum, was proud and privileged to call Warner Fusselle “friend.” He worked with the “Fuse” at MLB Productions in 1979-80, and presently operates the sports public relations firm Cirillo World in New York City.
By John Cirillo
“Out-standing!” Warner Fusselle, the big-piped, brillo-haired broadcaster would bellow, extending his powerful right paw for a firm and hearty handshake. Whether it was executing the plan of a successful food-feast at our two Mott Street havens – the Hunan House and Peking Duck House – in Chinatown, or an evening of music at the Bottom Line in the Village or at the Garden, it was going to be an “outstanding” night. And it always was.
Those junkets took place in the late seventies and into the eighties and into the turn-of-the-century with “Young Bach,” “Dirt,” and “Tex,” and so many of those he befriended, learning the tricks of Szechuan culinary seduction and musical splendor from “The Fuse.” They always ended with a scoop or two of Haagen-Dazs, Warner’s favorite, at his insistence.
Warner Fusselle was an "ATG." That means "All-time Great," as defined by Fusselle himself, though he never used it in self-description, only for legendary sports broadcasters like Barber, Allen, Scully and Harwell – his heroes – or rock and roll greats from Billy Joel to the “Boss” to Elvis, or just everyday people who excelled at their respective crafts. Warner wasn’t a fan of mediocrity.
The booming, but soft, southern-twanged voice of Warner Fusselle was silenced on Sunday (June 10), his big heart succumbing to a heart attack. Warner Fusselle, the “Voice of the Brooklyn Cyclones” since the team’s inception in 2001, who also vividly painted the word picture of the ABA’s Virginia Squire’s, Seton Hall basketball, the Richmond Braves, the Spartanburg Phillies, and was the voice of Major League Baseball (what a resume!) was unquestionably an “ATG.” From his days as a high school baseball player when he hit a blistering .470 in 1962 to lead Georgia’s Gainesville H.S. to an undefeated season, to serving in the Army stationed in Korea, to his iconic game calls, a true “ATG.”
Fusselle passed away just a week before his 12th season calling the Cyclones was about to begin next week. He relished his play by play work from the "Catbird Seat," (originally coined by Red Barber), and he is probably fuming in the broadcast booth in the sky by his poor timing. So are we. It could have waited.
Pretty women were “SYT’s” – Sweet Young Things – so when I married my wife, Fran, she officially became an “SYT” in the Fusselle Files. He referred to a newborn as a “baby child,” so when Bach’s wife, Erica, gave birth to Christian, he was officially a “baby child” under the Warner Rules.
The results of the Chinatown trips were an appreciation for the hot and spicy! Szechuan-style Chinese food, what a discovery thanks to the Fuse! The kid from Brooklyn only knew of traditional Cantonese mainstays like Chow Mein, spare ribs and Moo Goo Gai Pan before that. And so, the fried pork dumplings were outstanding, and the Double-sauteed pork was an ATG, so, of course, was the Peking Duck. And the lessons on the art of the chopstick were quickly mastered; I was able to pick up a single pea or strand of rice with precision, and still can. Thank you, Warner.
The long-anticipated Bottom Line performance by legendary songstress Darlene Love, the Boss’s epic Garden shindig on the Born in the U.S.A. tour, and back-to-back Jackson Browne concerts at Radio City Music Hall are all indelibly etched in my mind’s eye. It’s only rock and roll, but I like it. Warner was the king of rock and roll, as his private collection of more than 30,000 record albums covering the history of rock 'n roll will attest.
It was at Major League Baseball Productions (later Phoenix Communications) on Avenue of the Americas that I first met Warner, in April of ’79, interviewing with Geoff Belinfante, Bill Brown and then Warner. As I was leaving the office, Fuse comes running down the hallway and shouts: “Tex, wait a minute, we want you to start today!” I was floored! “Wow…unbelievable…thank you…can I start tomorrow. I have tickets to the Mets home opener this afternoon.” (Note the Mets won on a Joe Torre game-ending single in the bottom of the ninth). And so began a 33-year friendship. The early days were made up of logging highlights from tapes of endless major league games for This Week in Baseball. “Tex, do your Harry Caray imitation,” he’d say. “Harry Caray with Jimmy Piersall, come on everybody, let’s sing,” I’d say. Warner would roar, “outstanding!” In the old days of big bulky video tapes, we’d erase old highlights to add new ones. One time, a tape ejected before we had finished viewing a highlight. I called it a “premature ejection,” and Warner roared, “outstanding, Tex, outstanding!”
At the time I was fresh out of Fordham and the university’s WFUV Radio, an aspiring baseball announcer. Warner wrote countless letters to his many friends at minor league teams. We almost landed the Durham Bulls job, until that was derailed at the 11th hour when manager Allen Gallagher, a former Giants third baseman, hired Steve Lamarr, who had done the broadcasts in San Francisco. It was “wretched, wretched, wretched.” Bad things and bad people were wretched. I think Warner was more devastated than I was. We both got over it.
It was on to Yonkers Raceway and then the Knicks, as the fork in the road turned from broadcasting to public relations. Warner took great delight when he interviewed me at half time of a Seton Hall broadcast. Bach was there too as his statman. Two or three years ago, as an adjunct professor, I took my Fordham summer sports institute class to the Cyclones ballpark. Warner shared his vast knowledge with 40 eager undergraduate students in the “Catbird Seat.” Two more memories that will last a lifetime.
The antithesis of wretched was outstanding, an “ATG.” Warner Fusselle was one for the ages.