LAS VEGAS -- Gary "Baba Booey" Dell'Abate, who has produced The Howard Stern Show since 1984, is walking around the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino wearing his Jets hat and Jets shirt, trying to keep his expectations in check for the upcoming season while hearing fans scream "Baba Booey" at him as they walk by. "I don't want to be like one of those crazy fans. I don't think we're going to win a Super Bowl but look what the Falcons and Ravens did with a rookie quarterback," he says. "I think we can make the playoffs."
Dell'Abate is in Vegas co-hosting the first Fantasy Football Super Draft, a four-day party in Sin City where over 3,000 fantasy football players not only gathered to draft their teams but party with the likes of "Baba Booey," Shannon Elizabeth, Molly Sims and Stacy Keibler. "I don't think they came to party with me as much as the girls," he says. "Some of them might not even know who I am."
I sat down with Dell'Abate before he drafted his fantasy football team to talk about Howard Stern not being more of a sports fan, if Joe Buck will ever have a reunion with Artie Lange on the show and if he has a future in sports after Stern retires.
SI.com: We're here in Vegas for the Fantasy Football Super Draft, how long have you been playing fantasy football?
Dell'Abate: This is only my third season so I'm fairly new to it. We have a Stern Show league with a lot of the guys from the show. It's myself, John Hein, who co-hosts "The Wrap-Up Show" with me, Will and Jason, who produce in the office, Steve Brandano from "The Intern Show," Scott "The Engineer," David Height who does "The History of Howard," Jared, JD and Jerry O'Connell.
SI.com: Wasn't fantasy football one of the reasons for the feud between JD and Jared?
Dell'Abate: Yeah, it started it. That's how heated it can get. JD didn't like Jared to begin with but supposedly Jared picked up JD's kicker off of waivers and JD thought it was a douche move and so that started their feud.
SI.com: If you could have any sports guest on the show right now who would it be?
Dell'Abate: Well, I would love to have someone from one of my teams but unfortunately there's no one that exciting on the Jets and Mets. I don't know. We've had Shaq on, we've had Magic on, we've had so many big names in sports. Tom Brady would be interesting to have. I met Brady once at Sirius and he's very involved with Sirius and everyone says he's great so we'd love to have him on someday.
SI.com: One of the legendary things the show did years ago was U.S. Open Sores, where you played tennis against Howard. What was that like?
Dell'Abate: Well, it started out one morning where Howard and I were talking on the air and Howard said, "I could beat you at any sport" and I said, 'No, you can't, pick a sport." Howard said he could beat me at tennis and I said that I could beat him at tennis and we were just goofing around and somebody called in and said that they would pay to watch us play. So it started out that we were just going to play at a local tennis court in Long Island and it grew and grew and by the next morning we were selling tickets at the Nassau Coliseum and we sold it out in four hours. I was probably 26 or 27 at the time and now I'm 48 years so when I hear those shows again it takes me back to a different time. The show is different. I don't Howard would play me in tennis now and I don't know think if I would want to play him.
SI.com: Who have been some of your favorite sports guests?
Dell'Abate: God, there's been so many. I love when John Daly is on the show. Dennis Rodman is a recurring guest, who's great. Maybe my favorite was Mickey Mantle. It was just amazing to meet him. I always felt that was a really cool interview because Howard's not a huge sports fan so when he had Mickey Mantle on there wasn't a lot of hero worship and I think Mickey loved that in the sense that it was a different interview. He really liked Howard a lot. He dug him. I've liked a lot of other sports guests who have gotten the show like Shaq, Magic, Piazza. We also had Antonio Pierce come in and intern for us. He was a good guy and we had a lot of fun with him. Over the years we've had so many sports people and legendary names it's been amazing when look back on it.
SI.com: Do you ever wish Howard followed sports?
Dell'Abate: Well, he follows football a little bit but he's not really a sport fan. He'll tell you that going to a baseball game is maybe the most boring thing and at times he's right it can be boring. For me, going to baseball game with my kids or my friends and having a couple of beers is fun. I actually think that's why Howard's sports interviews are so good because they don't come out of place of, "Oh, my God you're Mike Piazza" and you start rattling off stats. It's like, "Hey, I don't really follow baseball but I heard you're good" and then he starts talking to them about stuff they don't get hit with every day or don't normally talk about. He talks about who they're dating, who they're seeing and what life's like as an athlete.
SI.com: Who are some sports TV personalities you like and who are some you dislike?
Dell'Abate: Well, Dan Patrick is my bro. I like him. He's a big fan of the show and he actually sat front row at my roast. I also love his column in SI. He's one of the guys I really like. I like Kevin Burkhardt who works on the Mets. He's a good guy and another fan of the show. I think Tim McCarver is good for baseball. I loved John Madden. Al Michaels is a good friend of the show and he's a legend and he's got a great sense of humor. There's no one I really dislike. I met Joe Buck at the movie premiere for A Night at the Museum before Artie [Lange] did his show on HBO and I was with my kids and the only thing I knew about Joe Buck was how he was outraged about Randy Moss pretending to moon the fans in Green Bay. In my mind, I thought there's a guy who must hate our show. So I'm at the premiere and I went up to get some sodas and he turned to me and said, "Oh my God, I'm such a big fan of the show." I would have never expected that. I think Joe Buck is a good guy.
SI.com: Is there any chance Joe Buck would be on the show after the incident with Artie on his show?
Dell'Abate: I gave him the offer right after it happened and he passed on it. I wanted him to come on the show but I think wisely his party saw that he didn't Artie in the first round and he wasn't going to beat him in the second round. It was just one of those things where it wasn't going to do anything for Joe to come in and argue with Artie and Artie was going to argue with him.
SI.com: Did that whole situation surprise you? I mean it looked like Artie almost had a vendetta with Joe Buck that came out of left field once the cameras started rolling.
Dell'Abate: Yeah, that was one of the things Artie and I disagreed on. Artie said that he didn't do anything wrong and I don't think he technically did anything wrong but I told him this is how it looked to me. If you didn't know anything it looked like you hated Joe Buck. He said, "No, they asked me to go there and be crazy and create controversy." I just thought it came across that he was angry at Joe Buck. It's weird because just the day before he did the show we were talking about how much we love Joe Buck. So Artie said that they asked him to go there and mix it up and what happened was Artie came out being sort of a wiseass and then Joe tried to go toe-to-toe with him and Joe's not a comedian.
SI.com: Is there anyone you like or listen to on sports talk radio?
Dell'Abate: I used to listen to Mike & The Mad Dog and now I just listen to Mad Dog on Sirius. I have no problem saying that I always liked Mad Dog better. When he came over to Sirius I was so exciting. He was always the more interesting of the two for me. He's the only show I listen to on sports radio now.
SI.com: I know Howard's not a big sports fan but it seems all the other guys on the show are so how big a role does sports play in the office, off the air?
Dell'Abate: It's funny because in the studio it doesn't play a big role at all but in the office it's enormous. When I come into the office in the morning it's myself, John Hein, Will, Jason, JD, Steve "The Intern" and Scott "The Engineer," we're always the first ones in and we're usually talking about the games or sports news from the night before. We talk about it all show long. One of the things that's really funny that Artie does and I'm not even sure Howard is even aware of this but when Artie will tell a joke he'll usually crowbar in an old sports figure from the 70s or 80s and we'll just laugh our asses off because Howard doesn't know who he's talking about. I'll give you an example. One time we sent out a guy to do interviews and he interviewed Willie Gault and he said he was a huge fan of the show, especially Artie. So I told Artie that and three days later Artie crowbars in Will Gault into a story that had nothing to do with anything. It was awesome.
SI.com: There have been a couple of incidents with the Stanley Cup in studio, right?
Dell'Abate: It's only been one the show once where we pretended Jackie (took it to the bathroom) and then it was up to Sirius once where I had my incident with it, where I held it over my head which I didn't know you weren't supposed to do. I'm a huge Islanders fan so I have a thousand pictures with the Cup. I love the Cup. I know the guy who was with the Cup that day is a fan of the show and didn't mind but the woman who was some PR person started yelling at me. I always thought that was a myth, by the way, about holding the Cup over your head if you haven't won it but I guess it's not.
SI.com: You know, people forget that you threw out the first pitch at Shea Stadium a few years ago but all they talk about now is your infamous first pitch at Citi Field a couple months ago. How was it throwing out the first pitch at Shea?
Dell'Abate: A lot better than the second one at Citi Field. [Laughs]
SI.com: Well, what happened with that Citi Field pitch? It's sort of joined an infamous group as one of the worst first pitches ever.
Dell'Abate: I was more nervous for that pitch. There were a lot of elements why that pitch went so bad but one of them was that I had never been to Citi Field before. For me it was all new. All I remember thinking was I just don't want to be a highlight on ESPN. It's like this amazing clip of Bill Buckner two weeks before the '86 World Series, where he says, "I just don't want to be the goat. My worst nightmare is the ball goes threw my legs." That's how I felt after that pitch. I felt like it was a self fulfilling prophecy. I sort of screwed myself over.
SI.com: You started being called Baba Booey 20 years ago for simply calling Baba Looey, Baba Booey. Do you think that first pitch is going to be with you just as long now?
Dell'Abate: Probably. Who knows? I never thought the name would stick with me that long but I love it. For the most part when someone calls me Baba Booey now it's a term of endearment.
SI.com: You were at the Bill Buckner game in 1986, right?
Dell'Abate: Yeah, I was at Game 6 of the 1986 World Series with my dad. That's easily the biggest game of any sporting event I have been to in my life. The Bill Buckner picture is also on my "Man Cave" but I had nothing to do with that. They basically interviewed me and spoke with my wife and talked to other people and tried to make a "Man Cave" that I would like and that is clearly my favorite scene in the history of sports.
SI.com: Only one of your teams can win a championship before you die, who are picking?
Dell'Abate: It's the Jets. I've already lived through four Stanley Cups with the Islanders and I've already lived through a championship season with the Mets but I have not lived through a Jets Super Bowl season. So, it's clearly the Jets for me, hands down.
SI.com: Would it be safe to say that the halftime show of the Super Bowl five years ago changed the course of The Howard Stern Show?
Dell'Abate: Absolutely. I was shocked. We were all shocked. All I know is that we came in Monday and it was a big deal and by Wednesday we were feeling the backlash and I couldn't believe that we were suffering for the content of our show because Janet Jackson showed her [breast] at the Super Bowl. It really changed the landscape for everything. I do think the show is better now because we enjoy ourselves more because the restrictions are gone. The restrictions of 25 minutes of commercials per hour and the restrictions of the language is taken away and that makes it more fun for us and if we're having more fun it makes for a better show.
SI.com: We're sitting in the Hard Rock in Las Vegas, which was home to some of the most memorable Stern shows when you guys came here about seven years ago. What sticks out from those shows you guys did here?
Dell'Abate: Well, actually two of my most vivid memories here are both sports related and they both took place in the parking lot. One of them was when Artie was going one-on-one with that women's basketball player and losing and the other one was Artie batting against a female pitcher. My favorite story about that was that we had set it up with one of our clients, whose colors were red and black and they said if Artie wins the $25,000 they want him to walk to the roulette table and bet it on black or red. So before he left, Howard asked him what he was going to put it on and Artie said in honor of my favorite Yankee of all-time Mickey Rivers I'm putting it on black. So he puts it on black and the wheel spins and it landed on double zero green. So Howard says, "Man, Artie if Mickey Rivers were green you would have won."
SI.com: Finally, Howard keeps hinting that he may retire soon, when that day comes is there a chance you might get out of talk radio and start producing a sports show?
Dell'Abate: Yeah, I love sports. I think Real Sports is probably the best show on television. It really is consistently good. It's about sports and yet you don't have to be a ports fan to like it. I find my wife watching it with me a lot even though she doesn't care about the sports stories because they have such great human interest stories. It's so well done. It's probably my favorite show on TV right now so that might be a possibility.