My First: At the mic and at law, experience breeds confidence

Posted: 1:00 am Mon, December 3, 2007 

By Liz Farmer

If you’ve been to a University of Maryland football game in College Park, you’ve heard him. If you saw the school’s basketball team play Sunday at the BB&T Classic tournament in Washington, D.C., you know his voice.

In fact, Philip R. Hochberg has been announcing area ballgames over public address systems longer than he’s been practicing law. To many, the sports attorney’s voice, which called Washington Redskins games and the Senators from their first game to their last in D.C.’s RFK Stadium, has been synonymous with major sporting events in the area for almost a half century.

Now a solo practitioner and special counsel to Shulman, Rogers, Gandal, Pordy & Ecker in Rockville, Hochberg says he is “proud to combine my avocation with my vocation.” He also represents the NFL, NBA, NHL, NASCAR, PGA Tour, and other sports interests in legislative and regulatory matters.

As an undergraduate at Syracuse University in the late 1950s and early ’60s — where he attended school with Marv Albert and Ted Koppel — Hochberg became interested in pursuing a career in announcing games. He says today that being a P.A. announcer is not “rocket science,” but he didn’t always have the confidence and ease with which he approaches his hobby today.

“I was concerned that every or any time that I made a mistake, the management of the baseball team would come up and say, ‘You know, I think it was a nice try, but I think we’re going to go with somebody else,’” he said of his first year announcing. “Well, it never happened.”

It was 1962, Hochberg was 21, and that first year with the Washington Senators in their first season was filled with exciting opportunities — such as calling the All-Star Game that summer, or introducing the New York Yankees in their first trip to town since outfielder Roger Maris had broken Babe Ruth’s single season home-run record the year before.
He learned some long-lasting lessons that year, too. That first game with the Yankees, he said, he was so awed by Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and especially Maris, that he forgot he wasn’t supposed to be a fan.

“I remember introducing Roger Maris in a way that the announcers today would introduce him: Batting third, right-fielder, number nine Roooger Maaaris!” Hochberg said, re-enacting it.

The reporters in the press box quickly set him straight, telling him he needed to introduce Maris the same as everybody else.

“And that admonition — that is what to me stuck with me and sticks with me even today nearly half a century later about the way I do announcing,” Hochberg said. “Basically it was being professional, and I like to think that I maintained the professionalism.”

Hochberg said there were other “no brainers” he learned that year, such as the importance of checking the pronunciation of players’ names.

“There’s nothing that ticks a crowd off more than when you don’t know how to pronounce a guy’s name,” he said.

Over the years Hochberg has honed his talent and professionalism. Though he soon realized he could not turn the gig into a career (he opted for law school and was admitted to the D.C. bar in 1966), announcing has remained his lifelong hobby. He continued for five years with the Senators, called Redskins games from 1963 to 2001, was a fill-in for the Orioles in the 1980s and has called George Washington University basketball games and Maryland football games for the last 30-plus years.

Through all that, he says the biggest kick he ever got was from his Redskins days in 1997, when he announced then-starting defensive tackle Ryan Kuehl. Kuehl, who now plays for the New York Giants, had grown up in the house next door to Hochberg’s in Rockville.

“To see little Ry-Ry, who I’ve known since he was born, was amazing and a huge thrill for me,” he said.

Hochberg says he is lucky because his two worlds complement each other.

“Doing the P.A. work has helped me with clients because my clients are primarily in the sports industry,” he said. “I think my clients recognize that I have some appreciation of how they put on a game and the issues involved.”

Hochberg finds his clients respect his nearly 50 years of game-calling. Trust and experience, he added, have also been his ticket to success as an announcer.

“There’s a level of confidence,” Hochberg said. “If you reach that level of confidence, the crowd is quite content with you being there. It’s really a question of getting your foot in the door and showing that you’re capable of doing it and I think I’ve achieved that.”

Originally published by The Daily Record here: