September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men other than skin cancer. One in seven men will be diagnosed with cancer in his lifetime.
However, if diagnosed at an early stage, the disease can often be treated successfully.
Longtime radio broadcaster Ed Randall is one of those success stories. Through his Catholic faith and perseverance, the baseball guru not only defeated prostate cancer, but he also runs a foundation committed to raising awareness of the disease.
Randall’s love of baseball began at St. Nicholas of Tolentine parish in the West Bronx. He went on to All Hallows H.S., the Bronx, which unfortunately for him did not field a baseball team. He instead played in the local Little Leagues as a pitcher.
Soon after he graduated high school, Randall was invited to try out for the Kansas City Royals as a 17-year-old. He said the tryout went well, but he hurt his arm, precluding any chance of him getting signed.
Looks at Life Realistically
“I was always very realistic about my ability,” said Randall, 66. “I believe that I would have made it to the Major Leagues as a pitcher approximately 15 minutes after the first pig flew out of LaGuardia Airport.”
He then pitched for a year on the junior varsity team at Fordham University, the Bronx, where he completed his undergraduate studies. During all four years there, he worked for the radio station, WFUV. He admitted he wasn’t great at calling football or basketball games, but baseball play-by-play was always his first love and came naturally to him.
“I had done baseball play-by-play standing in center field playing sandlot ball in the Bronx,” he said.
“I had done play-by-play waiting for the D train to come to take me to All Hallows. I had always done baseball play-by-play. That really was a dream come true to be able to do play-by-play at Fordham.”
After several radio internships and a brief stint on-air in Rhode Island, Randall got his first baseball broadcasting job in Elmira, N.Y., during the summer of 1974 calling games for the Elmira Red Sox, the short-season minor-league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.
Initially, he worked games for free but eventually was paid $3 per game. To be able to earn a living wage, he worked at McDonald’s during the day since the games were in the evening. That just goes to show the passion he had for chasing his dream: building a career around the sport he loves.
“There’s nothing like the connection between the baseball broadcaster and his audience,” Randall said. “It’s unlike any other sport. Baseball is the only sport I excelled in…. I lost my father when I was 10 years old, but not before he handed down baseball to me, so it’s always been a sacred trust and something that has been very special to me.”
After seven years broadcasting in the minor leagues, Randall made the transition to television when CNN was founded in 1980. He serves as the sports reporter for the New York bureau.
Randall’s career took him to ESPN – both on-air and on the radio – and to WFAN doing weekend updates when the station formed in 1987. In 2002, he began hosting “Ed Randall’s Talking Baseball” on 1050 ESPN Radio. He was soon asked to return to WFAN, and in 15 years, he’s interviewed almost 2,500 guests.
“Ed Randall’s Talking Baseball” airs Sunday mornings on WFAN from the week after the Super Bowl until the NFL season begins in the fall. On Saturday mornings, Randall co-hosts a national baseball nostalgia show “Remember When” on Sirius/XM Radio’s MLB Network Radio channel with fellow Catholic Rico Petrocelli, a Brooklynite known for his days as a third baseman with the Red Sox.
To round out his baseball responsibilities, he is on staff at MLB.com and hosts a podcast entitled “Ed Randall’s Talking Baseball.”
“I am blessed to be able to go to the ballpark and do what I do and renew my relationships and get paid for it,” said Randall, currently a parishioner at St. Augustine’s Church in Larchmont, N.Y. “It’s really something. I’ve never taken it for granted.”
Second At-Bat in Life
Randall went for his annual medical examination in November 1999. The results of his blood test showed his prostate-specific antigens (PSA) levels were high. After a follow-up blood test, his prostate cancer diagnosis was confirmed. He was 47 years old at the time.
“I was shocked,” he said. “I had gone for a routine annual physical, at least I thought it was routine, and I had no history of cancer in the family, no symptoms.”
When Dr. Nicholas Romas told Randall about the cancer, Randall – forever the baseball fanatic in any situation – first asked if he was going to live. The doctor responded that there was a 90 percent chance since the cancer had been detected in an early stage.
“So I say to him (Dr. Romas), ‘You know, Whitey Ford was 9-1 his rookie year in 1950. That’s a .900 winning percentage and he’s in the Hall of Fame,’” Randall said.
“Second question I asked Nick was will it come back. He said 70 percent that it will not.
“And I said, ‘Wow, the inverse of that is 30 percent and those guys that hit .300 they go to Cooperstown too.’ I said this is pretty good. I like my chances. Let’s go!”
When he left the doctor’s office, he immediately went to St. Paul’s Church on 60th Street in Manhattan to have a conversation directly with God.
He recalled saying, “As you know, my father was torpedoed three times in World War II and survived. My mother came as an Italian immigrant to this country, and she was the most upbeat, inspirational person I ever met.
“So I said, ‘God as I go through this, I would really appreciate if you could give me my father’s heroism and my mother’s perseverance for whatever may lay ahead.”
After 23 straight days of radiation and surgery on March 8, 2000, Randall was in remission. Sure enough, a week later he reported to Spring Training.
“Through God’s grace, and as I like to say using a baseball allegory, I got a second at-bat in life,” he said.
Randall realized that there were likely thousands upon thousands of men out there who were in a similar situation he had been in – thinking everything is fine after showing no symptoms of prostate cancer.
As a result, he founded the 501c(3) charity organization Fans for the Cure, which is dedicated to raising prostate cancer awareness as well as highlighting the importance of early detection.
The charity advocated for men who have a history of prostate cancer to start getting screened at age 40 and 45 for men who do not have a history.
When caught in its earliest stages, the disease has a 97-98 percent cure rate. A simple, yearly PSA blood test can make all the difference.
A group of 119 former athletes – including five baseball Hall of Famers – serve on the organization’s advisory board. The newest member is former Minnesota Twins manager and current Arizona Diamondbacks bench coach Ron Gardenhire, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer this past Spring Training.
Each week on his radio shows, Randall makes it a point to talk about his foundation’s work, since the message thoroughly affects his target audience.
“I’m very happy that I’m becoming as known about my advocacy and Fans for the Cure as I am my many years on the air,” he said.
For more information on the charity’s work, visit FansForTheCure.org.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.