October 7 – Happy Birthday Rip Rowan

73593Though he was born in Schenectady where his Mom Clarissa hailed from, William Rowan Jr. did his growing up in Amsterdam, NY. He resided on the lower “200 block” of Guy Park Avenue and he graduated from Lynch High School in 1953. His father was “Red” Rowan, a skilled Rug City bowler in his day and a huge sports fan, a trait he certainly passed on to his namesake. The kid loved sports and was a fanatical follower of his beloved New York Yankees. He played Church League basketball for St. Ann’s and was an outfielder on the old Mortan’s team that used to compete in the inter-city State League. The team played its home games at Mohawk Mills Park and I came across a 1953 Recorder article that documents the fact that the young Mr. Rowan was a powerful enough hitter to have driven a ball over that venue’s distant center field fence in one such contest.

He graduated from Ithaca College, did his military hitch with the Air Force and got his first job behind a mike at Amsterdam’s WCSS radio station in the late 1950’s, where he quickly became a listening audience favorite, noted for his rapid-fire, high energy play-by-play announcing of high school basketball games. It was 1966, when Rowan landed the sports casting job with WTEN that ended up making him a Capital District Sports Legend. He and Bob McNamara, another long-time Albany-area sports broadcasting celebrity, were hired by the station at the about the same time. When “Mac” accepted an offer the following year to anchor the sports desk at Schenectady’s WRGB, Rowan took over as Channel 10 anchor and the two competed for audience share for the next 20 years, prompting the question heard in thousands of Capital District taverns and bars, “Who do you like better, Mac or Rip?”.

As for the nickname “Rip,” it came from a former star Army running back from the late 1940’s by the name of Elwyn “Rip” Rowan. Rowan was also pretty well known for his ability to “pass gas” on demand and he was not above covertly doing so “on the air,” which added a different level of appropriateness to his nickname, especially when it was extended later in his career to “the Ripper.”

Rowan’s love for the game of baseball made him this area’s biggest advocate for the return of minor league play and he got his wish when the Oakland A’s put a farm club here, resulting in the construction of Heritage Park in 1981. Two years later, Rowan’s beloved Yankees replaced the A’s as tenants of the Park and offered Rip a job in the team’s front office, which he quickly accepted. It was the job of his dreams. He became best of friends with Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto and got to watch Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera up close and personal on their way to the Bronx. Current Yankee GM Brian Cashman interned for Rowan one summer and George “the Boss” Steinbrenner would actually pick up the phone when his secretary told him he had a call from Rip. He spent the next twenty years working as a minor league team exec, switching to the Diamond Dawgs when the Yankees abandoned Albany and then the Tri City Valley Cats.

He retired from everything in 2006 and spent the last seven years of his life living in Saratoga, staying connected to his three kids and five grandchildren and paying occasional visits to his favorite corner of the bar at the Barnsider Restaurant in Colonie. Rip Rowan died in November of 2013 at the age of 79.

 

 

3 thoughts on “October 7 – Happy Birthday Rip Rowan

    1. In the Rip or Mac “rivalry”, I was most definitely a Rip guy, not the least of reasons why was because of our shared love of the Yankees. Rip loved them, Mac did not. I also just liked his style better.

      Liked by 1 person

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