When Mark Rosen signs off Thursday from the WCCO sports desk, there’s bound to be tears from viewers as well as the broadcast legend himself. While he’ll continue to provide commentary on radio’s KFAN (100.3 FM), it’s the end of an era for a station he’s called home for nearly a half-century.
But the moment has also triggered fond memories from those who know him best:
John Randle, former Vikings defensive tackle: “When we lost the NFC Championship game in 1998, I saw Mark not as a reporter, but as a fan. You could see it in his emotions. Ed McDaniel was like, ‘What’s wrong, Mark? It wasn’t like you lost.’ But for Mark it was like we all lost.
“It was just a different perspective than other media members. It showed how much he cared about Minnesota sports. It wasn’t just a job for him. That’s why I always went out of my way to talk to him.”
Amelia Santaniello, WCCO anchor: “One time at the end of a 10 p.m. newscast, we were on the air talking about embarrassing moments for some reason. Rosie brought up the time he walked out of a movie theater holding hands with his 12-year-old girlfriend and ran into his parents. There was a pause and I said, ‘I think we should point out that you were also 12 at the time.’ ”
Frank Vascellaro, WCCO anchor: “Mark has known my wife [Santaniello] longer than I have. They are close and great friends. I would often try to get Rosie to take my side when Amelia and I would argue or disagree. Loyal Mark would say, ‘Sorry, Frank, but I knew her first.’ That was usually followed by his wonderful laugh and big smile.”
Tom Barnard, host of the KQRS morning show, where Rosen served as a sidekick in the 1980s: “Frank Vascellaro’s mom and my mother were really good friends. When Frank’s mom died recently, Mark approached me at the memorial and asked for a private moment. He hugged me for a long time and teared up — told me he loved me. I didn’t know at the time that his wife had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. He’s a real human being. That’s what I’ve always loved about the guy.”
Paul Douglas, former WCCO meteorologist: “I guess I had a habit of sometimes going long during my weather segment, which meant less time for sports. He’d say, ‘Hey, Paul! When the producer says wrap, SHUT UP!’ But he’d say it with a grin and a twinkle in his eye.”
Nick Rosen, son: “One of my earliest memories is sitting in my dad’s office as a young child. Watching him work fascinated me. I used to sit by his jumbo gumball machine and watch him type on a now ancient computer, surrounded by signed photos, pictures with famous athletes and other priceless sports memorabilia. He would always make time to answer my incessant questions, even while he was rushing to type out a story for the 5 p.m. news. I knew he was important to people, and that gave me a sense of excitement and pride.”
Chloe Rosen, daughter: “When I was about 5, my parents took us to Beaver Creek [resort in Colorado] for a family ski trip. My dad was a skier at the time and wanted to spend a little time on the slopes with us. We were preparing to get on the chairlift and he picks me up and plops me down, right on the edge of the seat, before sitting down himself. As the chairlift started its climb I tried to wiggle myself further back on the seat and slipped off. Dad managed to grab me by my hair! The chairlift stops and people below are trying to help. Eventually he manages to pull me up. Again, by my hair. It took some time before he’d go skiing with me again. But we still laugh about it.”
Don Shelby, former WCCO anchor: “Rosie’s hero was Sandy Koufax, and he had the opportunity to not only meet him, but interview him. Koufax had refused to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it fell on the Sabbath. His hero refused the spotlight on principle. From that day forward, everything Rosie did was run through the ‘Koufax Principle’ filter. I heard him talk about Koufax a hundred times, and each time, I could see the boy in the man.”
Ahmad Rashad, TV broadcaster and former Vikings wide receiver: “He was one of the real reasons for my success in television. In the early days, he was patient with me, gave me a lot of confidence. He’s also one of the nicest guys I’ve met in my life.”