By all accounts, sports radio veteran Joel Blumberg of East Meadow was both a force to be reckoned with and an unsung hero in his corner of the sports broadcasting world.
For more than 30 years, Blumberg worked as an engineer, producer and play-by-play man for professional and college sports teams including the Islanders, Rangers, Knicks, St. John's and Manhattan College. He was also the former sports director for WGBB radio on Long Island as well as an avid film buff and historian.
However, Blumberg, 64, died suddenly Friday, Dec. 17 of an apparent heart attack while riding a New York City–bound LIRR train, en route to work at a Miami Heat vs. New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden.
Blumberg is survived by his wife, Jill, and daughter Miranda, 14.
"He was a no-nonsense guy who taught me so much about being a professional broadcaster, and yet, as much as he asked of me, he was so much more demanding of himself," said Tony Sibilla, who worked for Blumberg as an engineer in the late 1980s.
"Despite all that, he loved the sporting world so much and prepared himself for every game as if it was a championship matchup. It was that high level of quality that we learned to expect from ourselves to this day. It certainly was a very important life lesson that I credit Joel for everyday."
Ed Ingles, a longtime broadcaster for WCBS and close friend, recalled Blumberg's zest for life.
"Joel had a passionate approach to whatever he did," Ingles said. "He felt like that was the most important thing in the world at that moment."
Calling Blumberg an extraordinary producer, engineer and play-by-play man, Ingles recalled working numerous events together and playing golf. He also recalled his penchant for helping people.
"Joel loved to help people…He liked to fix things, he loved a good discussion, and sometimes they got heated, he was opinionated. He had a big heart and it gave out on the LIRR train last week."
"It's never easy when an architect of our culture leaves, especially an unsung one," wrote Tom Mongelli, news bureau chief at Millennium Radio in northern New Jersey. "But it's consoling to know that everyone after him takes some of his influence with them."
Marc Ernay, a sports reporter and anchor on 1010 WINS radio, paid tribute to Blumberg via his Facebook page.
"This is my friend, mentor and occasional golfing buddy, Joel Blumberg," Ernay wrote, below a photo of Blumberg. "He'll be missed by all who knew him."
And, those who truly knew Blumberg were keenly aware of his abiding passion for film and classic movies.
"He loved classic movies and respected the history of film and broadcasting," said Sibilla. "He had just finished writing a book about the late actor Lloyd Nolan and he was an old movie buff who knew the stars, producers and directors of most films and he would critique those movies," Ingles said.
Rob Kowal, a sports host on WGBB, recalled that Blumberg was able to combine his work with his passion for movies through his program on the station, "Silver Screen Audio" a show that focused on classic films released on DVD.
"I did not know Joel very well, but anytime we spoke he was always offering his assistance with my development of Sports Radio NY," Kowal said.
Kowal also remembered that Blumberg had helped yet another WGBB sports host, Eric Mirlis, with a charity broadcast only a few days before he passed away.
"Joel was simply a nice guy, always willing to lend a hand, and he will be missed by all that knew him here at WGBB."