How a Flatbush kid became the radio voice of the Alabama Crimson Tide

December 4, 2020 Andy Furman Special to the Brooklyn Eagle
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Talk about going against the grain.

He did. And he’s still at it.

Eli Gold, who lived at 165 East 19th St. – between Beverly and Cortelyou – one block off Flatbush – made the move and hasn’t looked back since 1989.

That’s when he became the radio voice for the University of Alabama Crimson Tide football team.

“Oh, that first game,” Gold remembered for the Eagle, “it was Alabama against Memphis State – now the University of Memphis.

“I made a big mistake that first game,” he recalled the other day, while recovering very nicely from shoulder surgery. “I showed up some five hours before kickoff – not a smart thing.”

The radio “bug” hit Gold in sixth or seventh grade, he said. In fact, in his eighth-grade yearbook he wrote his future would find him behind a microphone calling sporting events.

“I spent my childhood listening to New York legends such as Red Barber, Marty Glickman and Mel Allen. It’s something I’ve always known I wanted to do,” he said. “I wanted to travel, watch sports, and get paid for it.”

But the road to Alabama was a long one.

Gold worked for Harry M. Stevens, the concessionaire at Madison Square Garden. “I sold peanuts in the cheap seats,” he said. “It was closest to the press box where I could meet and see the broadcasters,” he said.

Bob Wolff, then the voice of the Knicks and Rangers, would critique his tapes, Gold recalled. “I’d sit in a corner at the Garden, and practice my play by play, and Bob [Wolff] would listen to my work.”

Brooklyn —  Biolick Elementary School and later Midwood High School — was home until he was 23.

And strangely, it was hockey that brought Gold’s Brooklynese to the South.

He worked in the now-defunct World Hockey League (WHL) with the Toronto Toros. “The owner of the Toros,” he said, “moved the club to Birmingham.”

The love-affair between North and South was born.

Gold did minor league baseball with the Birmingham Barons, and then Alabama came calling.

“I did Alabama basketball in ’88-’89 and then something very strange happened,” he said.

While John Forney was preparing his final season – number 30 – as the radio voice of the Crimson Tide, Gold’s name became a popular replacement choice.

“I never applied for the job,” he told the Eagle, “I didn’t have an agent. I had no connection, really with the university so I didn’t think there was a reason to apply.”

It was then-Alabama basketball coach Wimp Sanderson – a fan of Gold’s work – who recommended him to the athletic department.

“I’ve been blessed to call so many national championship games,” Gold said. “The overtime win over Georgia for the national title perhaps remains right up there for me. And then the regulation win over Texas at the Rose Bowl.”

Another title is in view for this season for the Tide, as Coach Nick Sabin recovers from his positive stint with COVID-19.

“He’s serious, very serious,” Gold says of Sabin. “But as serious as he may be, there is a mutual respect between us.”

There’s much respect, as well, between the fan base in Tuscaloosa and Eli Gold.

“They are a very passionate fan base,” he said. “But you’d prefer working for a group like that than for people who don’t care.”

As for visiting Brooklyn, Gold said he was last here in December of 2019. That’s when he was named the Chris Schenkel Award winner by the National Football Foundation. The award recognizes broadcasters with long careers on the air and direct ties to a specific school.

He’s been calling the Crimson Tide for 32 seasons.

But perhaps an even bigger honor: Gold once told an interviewer that he was thrilled that a “Jewish kid from Brooklyn with zero athletic talent would make it into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.”

Andy Furman is a Fox Sports Radio national talk show host. Previously, he was a scholastic sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle.

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