William “Rip” Rowan, a former Capital Region sportscaster who later worked for three of the area’s minor-league baseball teams, died Tuesday night.
Rowan broke into television as a part-time cameraman at WRGB. After working as a disc jockey, Rowan became a sportscaster for WROW-TV (later WTEN) in 1965.
“I always felt Rip was an iconic sports figure,” said WGDJ-AM owner, talk show host and longtime friend Paul Vandenburgh. “Before anyone heard of ESPN, we all heard of Rip. He was a strong, enthusiastic and dominant local sports figure. He will be missed.”
WNYT-TV general manager Steve Baboulis recalled Rowan as a very friendly person, even though they were competitors.
“I first got to know Rip when I was starting in local television back in the late 1970s.” Baboulis said. “He did sports at the competition, but outside of work, he was always helpful when I asked him a question about the TV business. He was one of the established veterans who taught me the ropes. Rip was a good man and will be missed.”
Rowan grew up in Amsterdam and always loved watching baseball. He attended many Schenectady Blue Jays games and once saw Blue Jays pitcher Tommy Lasorda strike out 25 Amsterdam Rugmakers in a game. Years later, when Rowan was covering the World Series and saw Lasorda, then managing the Los Angeles Dodgers, he reminded Lasorda of that game. The two became close friends.
Rowan was also close with New York Yankees icon Phil Rizzuto and was also friendly with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.
“One of the nicest guys I knew, and nobody loved baseball more than the Ripper,” WNYT sports director Rodger Wyland said.
Rowan’s love of baseball was evident in his broadcasts. He campaigned to have a minor-league team play in the Capital Region, which hadn’t had a team since the Albany Senators in 1959.
Rowan’s influence helped bring an Eastern League team to Albany from West Haven, Conn., in 1983. The team was affiliated with the Oakland Athletics and was known as the Albany-Colonie A’s. When the team changed affiliations to the New York Yankees in 1985, Rowan left television to join the A-C Yankees. During Rowan’s time with the Yankees, the team won three Eastern League titles.
When the Yankees left for Norwich, Conn., after the 1994 season, Rowan joined the Albany-Colonie Diamond Dogs, who played in the independent Northeast League from 1995-2002.
“When I first moved here, he was one of the premier sports guys,” said University at Albany Associate Athletic Director of External Affairs Charlie Voelker. “I did some work with him at the Yankees and got to know him a little more there and then with the Diamond Dogs. We worked together for a long time. He was a great friend, a great guy, and he personified sports in the Capital Region, and Albany specifically. What a great, great man. He was a people person.”
Rowan worked as a senior adviser for the New York-Penn League’s Tri-City ValleyCats from 2006-09. During that time, Rowan also served as the team’s official scorer.
“We are deeply saddened to hear the news of Rip Rowan’s passing,” the ValleyCats said in a statement. “Rip was an icon within the Capital Region sports community and was a great friend and contributor to the ValleyCats organization. He had a major influence on many of our lives and will truly be missed.”