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A Radio Friendship

by Bob Edwards

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-87013-0
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

 A broadcaster's captivating but unsentimental memoir of the relationship he enjoyed for more than 12 years with the late Walter Lanier (``Red'') Barber. Edwards had hosted NPR's Morning Edition since its late 1979 inception when the nonpareil sportscaster was persuaded to make a weekly appearance on the program. Almost every Friday from 1981 until Barber's death last October at age 84, the author (at the mike in a Washington, D.C., studio) and ``the ole redhead'' (speaking via satellite from his retirement home in Tallahassee) chatted at 7:35 a.m. EST. The four-minute spots soon became one of the NPR network's most popular features, thanks mainly to the discursive charm of the sometime voice of the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees. Barber offered knowledgeable commentary on a wealth of subjects, including camellias, cats, the English language (which he employed with elegant precision), literature, race relations, religion, and, of course, the wide world of sport. Owing to hard labor as a play-by-play announcer for high-school basketball tournaments in his salad days, however, the Mississippi native didn't have much use for the court game. Nor was Barber an unfailingly lovable fellow: He could turn flinty and sternly demanding when an associate didn't meet his high standards of accuracy or integrity. As Edwards nonetheless makes clear through generous samples of their unscripted dialogues, short takes on Barber's career, anecdotal material gleaned from colleagues, and Red's influence on the author's own life, the stylish southerner was a genuinely good man off the air as well as on. An affectionate and affecting tribute to a friend who seldom was at a loss for words. (Photographs--not seen)