For 15 years, Bill Schweizer was the man for afternoon sports reports on WCBS-AM. He had a knack for clear and concise writing, with special talent leading the audience into sound bites.
Years earlier, though, Schweizer didn’t have any designs on a broadcasting career.
As Schweizer puts it, he got into radio “through the back door.” Instead, he was planning to be a professional baseball player. He had a tryout with the Cleveland Indians right out of high school.
Scouts kept a close eye on the hopeful star while playing at Iona College. As a few teams drew interest, Schweizer’s burgeoning career ended.
“Midway through my senior season I popped a disc in my back,” Schweizer recalls.
Fortunately, Schweizer could fall back on his English major. Being a good writer at Iona, he hoped to land a job as a newspaper reporter. He especially wanted to work in a sports department to “stay close to it.”
However, Schweizer found that getting that first job wasn’t so easy. Told that he didn’t have any experience, Schweizer grew frustrated.
Eventually, he set his sights on radio. He began by enrolling in a 15-week broadcasting course. Before its completion, Schweizer landed his first job at a small station in Ellenville, NY.
It took Schweizer nine years of bouncing around the business before his dream job was offered.
Known for his many years on WCBS-AM, Schweizer actually got his foot in the “Black Rock” door at WCBS-FM. It was 1979 when the oldies station was looking to a make a change to their morning show. In search for a news and sports reader, Schweizer got an audition and the subsequent position. He called CBS home for the next two decades.
“Everybody that came through there, it seemed to me, was like working with the best in the business.”
Within his first two years on the FM dial, Schweizer wasn’t just a star on the rise locally; he began to fill in at CBS Radio.
Between the network and local gigs, Schweizer anchored reports for seven Olympics, not to mention covering the New York teams. He was at the tail end of the Billy Martin/Reggie Jackson Yankees.
By 1981, Schweizer moved to his familiar Newsradio 88.
“I’d look around [and see] Jim Donnelly and Lou Adler in the morning, and the guys that I worked with— Pat Parson and Ben Farnsworth,” Schweizer admits. “I just walked around for the first month and went ‘Wow, I can’t believe I’m here!’”
In those days, all-news was actually an intense rivalry between WINS and WCBS. (WINS was owned by Westinghouse until they bought CBS in 1995.)
“Both stations took great delight in trying beat the others for stories, ratings, all of that. And now they’re both the same family,” Schweitzer says. “It’s kind of strange.
“…To see WINS and CBS be the same company and see that kind of rivalry go away, I don’t think is a good thing.”
Another station in the CBS Radio conglomerate—WFAN— was still several years away  from its existence when Schweizer started at CBS.
“When I was first there, that’s where everybody would tune in to get their sports news,” Schweizer says. “You wanted to give them exactly what they needed, but you also understood that it wasn’t just sports fans that were listening to you.”
Sports fans or not, Schweizer was heard each weekday on WCBS until 1996 when his contract wasn’t renewed. In an effort to save a few bucks, the sports department was outsourced to Rutherford, New Jersey, and Shadow Broadcasting Services. It remains that way to this day.
“Of both Ed Ingles and myself—between the two of us—we had been at WCBS for over 40 years,” Schweizer remembers. “All of sudden they pushed us out.”
While he praises the current crop of WCBS 880 sportscasters, led by morning anchor Jared Max, reverence for those once mighty call letters is gone.
“They would probably be there anyway, but it’s just … the way the business changed,” Schweizer says. “That was …their entrance into CBS Radio.
“…The salaries are much less. The benefits are different. So as far as CBS is concerned, that saved them a whole lot of money.”
Schweizer did remain with the network for two more years.
“That [CBS Radio Sports] became a part of Westwood One, and Westwood One basically weeded out all the CBS people.” Schweizer says.
“CBS Radio [sports division] it’s an entity in name only. There isn’t anything that resembles the CBS Radio that I worked for.”
Schweizer adds that since Westwood took over CBS Radio they did away with all sports programs.
Of course, along with the 15 and 45 minutes past the hour sports reports via Shadow, WCBS is home to the New York Yankees. Schweizer intimates there is only one factor behind that decision.
“There’s not a great impetus on sports [at WCBS],” Schweizer says. “But bottom line talks in broadcasting business these days, and I think that it’s a bottom line kind of partnership.”
Due to the cost-cutting prevalent in the industry, Schweizer doesn’t think a pure “radio guy” can survive anymore.
“You really need to be able to do multimedia because it seems like that’s the way the future of the business is going.”
Schweizer, 62, since leaving WCBS-AM in 1998, has found a new home at Quinnipiac University, as the lead play-by-play announcer for men’s and women’s basketball. It’s the perfect spot for the man who lists Marty Glickman and Marv Albert among his broadcasting influences.
For the second time, Schweizer was hired by his former news director Lou Adler who joined the faculty at Quinnipiac. With his CBS career winding down, in 1995 he taught a radio production course at the university.
A few years later when Quinnipiac made the move to Division I, they decided to put their teams on the radio. The position was the right fit for Schweizer, and he’s been doing it ever since. He joined the school full-time in 2004 and also serves as an associate professor of mass communication.
“I love what I’m doing now. Yeah, it’s not the upper echelon of Division I, but it’s still Division I sports. …It’s still fun to sit down and do [80 per year] games,” Schweizer says. “It’s still pretty satisfying.”
Another important name in the building blocks of Schweizer’s career was Win Elliot. The broadcasting veteran crossed paths with Schweizer at the CBS Radio Network. Elliot, for many years, hosted the weekend “Sports Central USA” updates. He was also heard throughout the 1970s as the World Series pre- and post-game voice.
“[He] inspired a whole generation of us, as far as how to write and how to use actualities. He was the master of it. I think all of us learned from him.”
Obviously, Schweizer had a great teacher. He became one of the best in his own right.
Follow Jerry on Facebook and Twitter. You can also e-mail: [email protected]
Want to get the New York Media Examiner articles first? Subscribe at the top of the page and get an e-mail notification when a new story is posted.