If you lived in Seneca Falls in the early 1960s and maybe were out walking the dog on a nice summer evening near Spring Street, you might have heard something like this:
“Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the Spectrum. Tonight the Sixers are hosting the Boston Celtics … ”
A radio broadcast of a Philadelphia 76ers game? Well, a good first guess, maybe, but more than likely it was a young Harold Weber imitating one of his boyhood idols, fabled Philly sportscaster the late Andy Musser. And he would be using a ketchup bottle — “P&C brand because my family couldn’t afford Heinz” — as a microphone.
“I would actually call games on the porch, and my brothers would say, ‘Wow, what’s wrong with him? Why is he out there talking to himself?’ ” Weber says with a laugh. “My brothers didn’t want to associate with me. They thought I was out of my mind.”
Philadelphia station WCAU came in loud and clear on the Webers’ radio, and Harold said when he heard Musser’s voice he became enamored with it.
“I so admired this guy’s play-by-play voice,” Weber says. “I just enjoyed listening to him, and I would make little notes about some of his terminology, never thinking I would use them.”
One year, when the Sixers visited Syracuse for an exhibition game, Weber went to the War Memorial and managed to meet up with his idol.
“I said, ‘You know, I’ve followed you for a very long time,’ and he was so nice,” Weber recalled. “He said to me, ‘Just hang in there. Do the best you can, and if you ever get an opportunity to do this, don’t take criticism the wrong way. If it is constructive, listen to it. If people think they can do a better job than you, smile at them and say, ‘You can put the headset on and try it.’ ”
Weber laughed again at the memory. He laughs a lot these days looking back as a 50-year career behind the microphone — primarily talking about sports and broadcasting local high school football and basketball games — winds down. Tomorrow afternoon, on FingerLakes1.com, Weber will host the last of his latest incarnation, his “Weber This Week” podcast.
“After starting in 1969, leaving in 2019 just feels right to me,” he said as we ate lunch at Parker’s in Geneva last week. “A 50-year run feels good, feels about right.”
It’s especially impressive for a guy with no formal broadcasting education — save for those nights on the porch on Spring Street — and whose real job was at Goulds Pumps, where he worked for 44 years, first as a foundry clerk and eventually working his way up to senior customer service manager.
Interestingly, Weber says, most of his fans didn’t even know he worked at Goulds. Because his voice was heard on so many radio — and now computer — sportscasts and games, most people thought broadcasting was his full-time gig. Not so.
Weber was born in Lyons in 1945. He will turn 74 April 29, the same birthday as his daughter Samantha, and is the third of three sons of Harold Sr. and Brida. His brother Bob, who lives in Fairport, was born in ’42, Ron, of Georgia, was born in ’44, and Harold came along just a year later.
For a man full of stories, even his name has one behind it. His parents were adamant that they were not going to name any of their children after themselves, but when Harold was born, his father was stationed overseas, and with the nurses in the hospital pressuring mom to name the baby boy, she eventually just blurted out, “OK … Harold F. Weber Jr.”
“I mean, who names their third son after the old man?” Weber says with another laugh. “It just doesn’t happen. I used to tease her, ‘Mom, thanks for not naming me after your husband.’ ”
His parents eventually divorced. His mother remarried to Joseph Marrapese, and the family moved to Spring Street in Seneca Falls.
Weber — he suffered a serious eye injury when he was 7 that would eventually keep him out of the Air Force — was admittedly a “lousy student,” unlike his brothers, who were star pupils. He barely graduated from Mynderse Academy on time in 1963 with a general diploma, flunked the physical to join the service because of that eye, and went about figuring out what to do with his life.
“School was just not for me,” he said. “I couldn’t get into it.”
He says he had a dream one night that he was going to work both at Goulds and as a broadcaster, but without any kind of college degree or training, he didn’t know how either exactly would work out.
That was until his friend Mike’s father, Sam Bunis, vice president of sales and one of the biggest executives at Goulds, took an interest in him.
“He said, ‘You’ve got the gift of gab. Why don’t you come up to Goulds and see me,’ ” Weber recalls, adding that even though there were numerous other better-educated applicants than him, he landed a job because of Sam Bunis. “That’s how it worked back then; it was who you knew. The Harold Webers of today wouldn’t get through like that.”
About the same time, he also met and married the former Mary Palermo of Geneva, who would become his biggest fan.
“When I started doing this, with Goulds and with doing sports on the radio and games at night, she never complained once. She supported me 100 percent,” he said. “Without that, I’m not sure I ever could have done it.”
They adopted Sam in 1969, bought a home on Green Street in Seneca Falls in ’71, and life was good. It was about to get even better, again thanks to Sam Bunis, who partnered up with Bud Souhan to buy Seneca Falls radio station WSFW. He knew Weber had dreamed of sportscasting, so he encouraged him to audition for a part-time job at their station.
Channeling his inner Andy Musser, Weber went through the audition process, recording a number of demo tapes, and eventually beat out 10 or 11 other applicants, many of whom had degrees from the Columbia School of Broadcasting.
“(The station managers) said, ‘What amazed us is you had no 3-by-5 cards, no 5-by-7 notes, you just ad-libbed, and you made it sound interesting. And the terminology, where did you come up with that?’ ” Weber said. “I said, ‘I’ve been practicing to get this job for 15 years.’ ”
So, he started taping sports commentary for WSFW in 1969 that was played in the 6 a.m. time slot and heard “only by cows and chickens,” he jokes. Later, he was moved to the prime 7:30 a.m. slot and was asked to build a team to broadcast area high school games live. That led to hiring Dave Barnick of Ovid in 1975 and Jack Dapolito of Clyde in ’85 and adding engineer Greg Cotterill in ’80 and stat keeper Joe Houck, forming what would become the area’s best-known sportscasting team.
“We had a lot of fun,” Barnick said. “Harold was — and is — a character, to say the least, with never a shortage of surprises. He loved to express his opinions and fearless predictions.”
He also says Weber was notorious for not driving to the games they were covering.
“He usually had a shoebox-sized vehicle, so he would catch rides with me,” Barnick recalled. “When we obtained the first (and brand-new) WSFW van he, of course, insisted on driving and promptly roughed it up going through the drive-through of the fast-food restaurant.”
Barnick also remembers covering a football game from inside his car during a “monsoon,” losing a footrace and a wager to Weber that he never let him hear the end of, and someone dropping a clipboard on the head of Bud Souhan’s brother George that led to a spew of choice words that should not have gone out over the air during a high school game. They are all memories that surely will come up during tomorrow’s final podcast when Weber will be joined by Barnick, Dapolito and Cotterill, now the general manager at WEOS.
Weber has a few recollections of his own, including his two most memorable games: Joe DiCicco’s game-winning shot in overtime as Waterloo beat Mynderse in 1971 at the Rochester War Memorial, and Pat Dunlea’s half-court shot at the buzzer in ’73 as Waterloo, again, beat Mynderse.
Weber’s life now includes granddaughter Izzy and a part-time job working promotions at del Lago Resort & Casino, which he is going to continue for the time being. He has worked a few other sports jobs, including a Saturday-morning, hour-long show for the Radio Group out of Geneva, and for the last eight years has been doing his podcast for Jim Sinicropi and FingerLakes1.com, “Weber This Week,” which has an expanded emphasis from sports to local newsmakers as well.
“I remember mowing the greens at Seneca Falls Country Club as a teenager and looking forward to listening in live to Weber on Sports on WSFW radio on my Sony Walkman,” Sinicropi said. “It was true local media. It was exciting to hear the Dog talk about people and places that I knew personally.
“When we started producing the live podcasts and high school basketball streams, the Web Dog was the first person I contacted to serve as on-air talent.”
And oh, about that nickname — Weber remembers playing sandlot football at Cady Stanton School in Seneca Falls with some buddies. He was about 7, and it was before the eye injury.
May as well let the storyteller finish the story:
“I go out for a pass … the pass comes over … and somehow I’m like OBJ (Odell Beckham Jr.) … I go up one-handed and brought it back in. Don’t ask me why, don’t ask me how. I fell on the ground with the ball. Touchdown. One guy yells out, ‘Nice catch, Web Dog.’ How he got that, I don’t know. I wasn’t much of an athlete, but I caught that one pass and one of my buddies yelled out Web Dog, and the Dog stuck.”
There’s a lot of don’t ask why and don’t ask how in the life of Harold Weber. And an awful lot of terrific things have stuck. Have a great retirement, Dog.