Post-Gazette sports writer Ray Fittipaldo offers this remembrance of the late John Barbero (right):
The text message arrived at 10:01 p.m. Monday night: RIP John Barbero.
It was from my brother, who lets me know when someone from our childhood memories dies. He sent me a text a few months ago when Baron Mikel Scicluna passed away.
The latter sparked fond memories of watching studio wrestling in the 1970s, of Scicluna pulling a foreign object from his trunks. Of the referee turning his back at an oh so inopportune time. Of Vince McMahon warning, in vain, of the oncoming attack.
Similarly, Barbero’s passing took me back to the nights when my brother, dad and I attended Penguins games at Mellon Arena in the 1970s and 1980s.
Barbero’s distinctive voice is indelibly etched in my mind when recalling those nights. There was the way he announced Penguins goals, especially those of Mario Lemieux.
"The Pittsburgh goal, his 48th of the season, scored by No. 66 Mario Lem-ieuuuuuuuuuux. Assisted by No. 12 Bob Errey and No. 25 Kevin Stevens. That’s Lemiuex from Errey and Stevens at 12:22."
But there was so much more. Yes, I was one of those annoying 10-year olds who shouted with 1:03 remaining in a period: "How much time’s left?"
Only to be followed seconds later by Barbero’s voice: "One minute remaining in the period, one minute."
And then there were Barbero’s between-period announcements. To this day, I remember Barbero announcing a future concert date featuring REO Speedwagon, only pronouncing it Rio in one fell swoop instead of R-E-0.
I also loved the way he would announce opponent goals. They were so subdued when contrasted to his Penguins calls.
"The Philadelphia goal scored by No. 12 Tim Kerr, assisted by No. 26 Brian Propp and No. 27 Ron Hextall. That’s Kerr from Propp and Hextall at 19:29."
Somehow, his monotoned calls of the opposing team’s goals had a way of conveying a palpable disgust in the building.
On the way home we would imitate Barbero’s announcements. It was part of the postgame ride-home routine just like listening to the Mike Lange goal calls we missed on the radio. Or the stop at Wendy’s on West Liberty Avenue to cash in our ticket stubs for free chili on the nights the Penguins scored seven goals.
When we got older – and I’m sure increasingly annoying to my dad and anyone else who had to listen – we inserted the names of world leaders into our fake Barbero calls.
"South Africa goal scored by Bishop Desmond Tutu, assisted by Nelson Mandela and Benjamin Netanyahu. That’s Tutu from Mandela and Netanyahu at 18:47."
Yeah, we were deranged.
For us, Barbero was as much a part of the experience as the wins, the losses, the goals, the fights and the nahcos we covered with too many jalapenos.
So a special thanks to Barbero for filling so many of our childhood nights with his entertaining voice.
The memories last a lifetime.
Ray Fittipaldo can be reached at