At least 119 sports voices, many big names, are 70+; Sportscasting is no longer a young person’s game

22 announcers are 80+ and 26 are 75-79; No play-by-play announcer on network television has survived over 80

Some broadcasters think they’re beyond reproach. They refuse to recognize that the clock winds down inexorably, that shelf lives are limited and that their broadcast styles become obsolete.

Some ignore the constellation of symptoms; swelling shortcomings generated irrepressibly by age. Some think that seniority comes with a lifetime license, one of a tenured professor or a Supreme Court justice. Others have self-distorted views of themselves after years of being awash with glamorous exposure.

Younger broadcasters talk in hushed tones about their elder and esteemed colleagues, “We want him to leave at the top of their games,” not thinking ahead to when they themselves will face similar predicaments.

Passion can be our most powerful enemy. We, people of all walks of life, believe what we want to believe. It can turn us delusional. Some announcers think they’ll go on forever, getting nodding but unbinding assurances from the powers that be. Locally, some voices have built formidable community capital, the kind they conveniently interpret for lifelong entitlement. No referendums.

Is sports broadcasting a meritocracy or a gerontocracy? There are many in the broadcast booth much older than 70, an age at which the government mandates seniors to draw down their retirement accounts. Think of law firms where partners have required retirement ages. Pilots can fly commercial aircraft up to a fixed age. No such rules for broadcasters.

Some seniors haven’t lost an iota of their vocal speed, some have. Al McCoy and Hubie Brown, both 86, are blessed. Hubie is still as self-assured on ESPN as he was on Turner thirty years ago. McCoy travels the NBA 82-game circuit calling games on radio from the nosebleeds, doing so with preternatural eyes.  Al says proper rest is required to facilitate imperturbable focus while on-air. It’s a discipline that doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. Genes dictate a lot too. Both Al’s parents lived to over 90.

Announcers sometimes get away with overstaying their welcome, even when their voices quiver or their hands move unsteadily when holding a stick mic. They proceed by maintaining a taut smile or inoculating themselves by harshly dismissing their critics.

There are those who recognize the power of social media. Some conveniently dismiss it. A few submit to the imperative of reality and the handwriting on the wall. They retire.

There are voices who maintain their word retention and others who don’t. There are those who can still spin spontaneous yarns. Others just talk less to elude unnavigable pitfalls. Some move on when it’s time, others can’t. Some justify their mistakes, not many make plans for retirement. Their identity is their work. They can’t give it up. They’d feel like a carpenter without tools. A few scale back but don’t give up the booth entirely.

My hat’s off to Rick Peckham, 64, Voice of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who’ll retire at the end of the NHL season when he’s 65. He’s sticking by his plans of years ago. Steve Albert retired in his mid-sixties as did his brother Al before him. Oldest brother Marv, 78, a basketball broadcast icon, shows no signs of wanting to shed the mic.

If baseball had its Sandy Koufax and the NFL had Jim Brown, both of whom retired at 30, basketball on radio had Kentucky’s beloved and talented Cawood Ledford. He was 66 and gave it up on his own. He took heed to the recordings of his work. They were still great but not as great as they were. He didn’t wait for anyone to blow the whistle.

I think of the wonderful Chick Hearn in his final few years when he and his toupee looked propped up. But his adrenalin was uncontainable. He bolted a hospital emergency room in Houston to keep his attendance streak alive on Lakers broadcasts.

Chick was a man who cared so much about his job that he used a walker to get to the broadcast booth. It was odd, yet eyepopping. Fans loved him even when on rare occasions he mistook a Rick Fox for Magic Johnson.

But no one in their 80s has held a play-by-play job on network television. As they approach 80, they’re gone. They no longer call major team sports on network TV. Think Keith Jackson, Dick Enberg, Verne Lundquist, Tom Hammond, Mike Patrick, Don Criqui, Brent Musburger and others.

Broadcasters are exposed. It’s a public domain. Just check social media to see how many announcers take verbal lashings on football weekends. Whether they represent the minority or majority, many of the points made or the mistakes listed are still reality.

What resonates is what Dick Enberg shared with budding broadcasters, “You sit on the chair, you don’t own it.” Sports broadcasting was once a young man’s game. It ain’t anymore. Just look at this list. Some pace themselves. Others don’t.

Because it’s TV, no one sees beneath the makeup of what Laura Hillenbrand described and I liberally paraphrase, “Faces are scratched with lines mapping out the miles of their lives.”  Broadcasts are live. Announcers face crucibles every time their microphones are turned on. It goes with the territory. (Updated 12.23.19- to 121)

Alphabetical Order

1. RichieAdubato81Orlando Magic Radio Network
2. MarvAlbert78Turner/NBA
3. JerryAllen71Oregon F/B Radio
4. BillBaker71Northern Illinois
5. Jim Barnett75Golden State Warriors Radio
6. GaryBarnett73Colorado Football Network
7. DanBelluomini78Pac-12 Network
8. LenBerman72WOR Radio + Various
9. GeorgeBlaha74Detroit Pistons / Mich State Football
10. BuckyBockhorn86Dayton Basketball Radio
11. RonBoone73Utah Jazz Radio Network
12. TerryBradshaw71Fox Sports
13. GilBrandt86SiriusXM/NFL
14. HubieBrown86ESPN/NBA
15. P. J.Carlesimo70ESPN/Westwood One
16. AustinCarr71Cleveland Cavaliers TV
17. CharleyCasserly71NFL Network
18. JoeCastiglione72Boston Red Sox Network
19. AlChallis71Southern Utah Univversity
20. JimChones70Cleveland Cavaliers Radio
21. Rich Chvotkin74Georgetown Radio
22. LarryClisby72Purdue F/B Radio
23. LeeCorso84ESPN
24. TerryCrisp76Nashville Predators
25. TomDavis71Baltimore Orioles TV Pre/Post
26. GeneDeckerhoff74T.Bucs/Florida State F/B Radio
27. HarryDonahue 71Temple F/B
28. JacquesDoucet79Toronto Blue Jays/ French
29. CliffDrysdale78ESPN
30. Mike Emrick73NBC / NHL
31. Phil Esposito77Tampa Bay Lightning Radio
32. EdFarmer70White Sox Radio
33. DonFischer73Indiana University F/B
34. RayFosse72A’s Radio/TV
35. MikeFratello72NBA TV
36. WaltFrazier74MSG Network / NY Knicks
37. NeilFunk73Chicago Bulls TV
38. PeteGammons74MLB Network
39. GaryGerould79Sacramento Kings Radio Network
40. PeterGillen72CBS Sports Network
41. ButchGoring70Islanders TV
42. MikeGorman72Celtics TV
43. Ray Goss82Duquesne Basketball
44. BobGriese74Miami Dolphins Radio Network
45. TomGrieve71Texas Rangers TV
46. AlGroh75ESPN
47. GregGumbel73CBS Sports
48. BryantGumbel71HBO
49. DaleHansen71Dallas- TV
50. Fran Healy73MSG Network
51. TommyHeinsohn85Boston Celtics TV
52. JimHill73CBS Affiliate – Los Angeles
53. BillHillgrove79Pittsburgh Steelers and Pitt Network
54. NormHitzges75The Ticket – Dallas TV/Radio
55. JohnnyHolliday82Maryland Radio Network
56. TommyHutton73Marlins TV – Host
57. JaimeJarrin83Los Angeles Dodgers Spanish Radio
58. RickJeanneret77Buffalo Sabres Radio/TV
59. JimmyJohnson76Fox Sports – NFL
60. JimKaat81MLB Network
61. MikeKennedy70Wichita State Basketball Radio
62. TonyKornheiser71ESPN
63. MikeKrzyzewski72SiriusXM
64. BobKurtz72Minnesota Wild Radio
65. MikeLange71Penguins Radio
66. StuLantz73Lakers TV
67. TedLeitner72San Diego Padres and San Diego State
68. SlickLeonard87Indiana Pacers Radio Network
69. VerneLundquist79CBS Sports
70. BuckMartinez71Blue Jays TV
71. DennyMatthews77Kansas City Royals Radio Network
72. TimMcCarver78St. Louis Cardinals TV
73. AlMcCoy86Phoenix Suns Radio Network
74. ShepMessing70MSGN/Bulls Soccer
75. AlMichaels75NBC Sports
76. RickMonday73Los Angeles Dodgers Radio Network
77. BrentMusburger80SirusXM
78. Dave Nitz77Louisiana Tech Radio Network
79. WayneNorman71UConn F/B
80. TonyOliva81Minnesota Twins Spanish Radio
81. WoodyPaige73ESPN
82. JimPalmer74Baltimore Orioles TV Network
83. KentPavelka70Nebraska Basketball
84. BillPolian77SiriusXM/NFL
85. RossPorter81Cal State Northridge Baseball
86. MikePratt71Kentucky Color
87. JimPrice78Detroit Tigers Radio Network
88. BillRaftery76CBS Sports / Fox Sports
89. JudyRankin74Golf Channel
90. Ahmad Rashad70Various
91. LarryRawson77ESPN
92. MickeyRedmond72Red Wings TV
93. MerrillReese77Philadelphia Eagles Radio Network
94. TomReid73Minnesota Wild Radio
95. SamRosen72New York Rangers TV
96. BradSham70Dallas Cowboys Radio
97. MikeShannon80St. Louis Cardinals Radio Network
98. Ken Singleton72Yankees TV
99. SteveSomers72WFAN Radio
100. DaveSouth74Texas A&M Baseball
101. KenSquier84WDEV Radio/NASCAR
102. JoeStarkey78Cal Berkeley Football Radio Network
103. CharleySteiner70LA Dodgers Radio
104. JohnSterling81New York Yankees Radio Network
105. DickStockton77Fox Sports- NFL
106. Steve Stone70 Chicago White Sox TV
107. DonSutton74Atlanta Braves Radio Network
108. BobbyTaylor73Tampa Bay Lightning TV Studio
109. Joe Theismann70Redskins TV (pre-season)
110. John Thompson78Westwood One/NCAA Network
111. GaryThorne71Orioles TV
112. BarryTompkins79Mountain West Network
113. RogerTwibell70ESPN3 /ESPN+
114. BobUecker85Milwaukee Brewers Radio
115. JoelUtley80Kentucky Wesleyan Radio
116. DaveVan Horne80Miami Marlins Radio Network
117. DickVitale80ESPN
118. SuzynWaldman73New York Yankees Radio Network
119. LarryWard72Chattanooga Lookouts
120. BillWorrell72Houston Rockets TV
121. Sam Wyche74ESPN3 or ESPN+

By age- oldest first

1. SlickLeonard87Indiana Pacers Radio Network
2. BuckyBockhorn86Dayton Basketball Radio
3. GilBrandt86SiriusXM/NFL
4. HubieBrown86ESPN/NBA
5. AlMcCoy86Phoenix Suns Radio Network
6. TommyHeinsohn85Boston Celtics TV
7. BobUecker85Milwaukee Brewers Radio
8. LeeCorso84ESPN
9. KenSquier84WDEV Radio/NASCAR
10. JaimeJarrin83Los Angeles Dodgers Spanish Radio
11. Ray Goss82Duquesne Basketball
12. JohnnyHolliday82Maryland Radio Network
13. RichieAdubato81Orlando Magic Radio Network
14. JimKaat81MLB Network
15. TonyOliva81Minnesota Twins Spanish Radio
16. RossPorter81Cal State Northridge Baseball
17. JohnSterling81New York Yankees Radio Network
18. BrentMusburger80SirusXM
19. MikeShannon80St. Louis Cardinals Radio Network
20. JoelUtley80Kentucky Wesleyan Radio
21. DaveVan Horne80Miami Marlins Radio Network
22. DickVitale80ESPN
23. JacquesDoucet79Toronto Blue Jays/ French
24. GaryGerould79Sacramento Kings Radio Network
25. BillHillgrove79Pittsburgh Steelers and Pitt Network
26. VerneLundquist79CBS Sports
27. BarryTompkins79Mountain West Network
28. MarvAlbert78Turner/NBA
29. DanBelluomini78Pac-12 Network
30. CliffDrysdale78ESPN
31. TimMcCarver78St. Louis Cardinals TV
32. JimPrice78Detroit Tigers Radio Network
33. JoeStarkey78Cal Berkeley Football Radio Network
34. John Thompson78Westwood One/NCAA Network
35. Phil Esposito77Tampa Bay Lightning TV
36. RickJeanneret77Buffalo Sabres Radio/TV
37. DennyMatthews77Kansas City Royals Radio Network
38. Dave Nitz77Louisiana Tech Radio Network
39. BillPolian77SiriusXM/NFL
40. LarryRawson77ESPN
41. MerrillReese77Philadelphia Eagles Radio Network
42. DickStockton77Fox Sports- NFL
43. TerryCrisp76Nashville Predators
44. JimmyJohnson76Fox Sports – NFL
45. BillRaftery76CBS Sports / Fox Sports
46. Jim Barnett75Golden State Warriors Radio
47. AlGroh75ESPN
48. NormHitzges75The Ticket – Dallas TV/Radio
49. AlMichaels75NBC Sports
50. GeorgeBlaha74Detroit Pistons Network / Mich State Football
51. Rich Chvotkin74Georgetown Radio
52. GeneDeckerhoff74Tampa Bay Bucs/Florida State F/B Radio
53. WaltFrazier74MSG Network / NY Knicks
54. PeteGammons74MLB Network
55. BobGriese74Miami Dolphins Radio Network
56. JimPalmer74Baltimore Orioles TV Network
57. JudyRankin74Golf Channel
58. DaveSouth74Texas A&M Baseball
59. DonSutton74Atlanta Braves Radio Network
60. Sam Wyche74ESPN3 or ESPN+
61. GaryBarnett73Colorado Football Network
62. RonBoone73Utah Jazz Radio Network
63. Mike Emrick73NBC / NHL
64. NeilFunk73Chicago Bulls TV
65. GregGumbel73CBS Sports
66. Fran Healy73MSG Network
67. JimHill73CBS Affiliate – Los Angeles
68. TommyHutton73Marlins TV – Host
69. StuLantz73Lakers TV
70. RickMonday73Los Angeles Dodgers Radio Network
71. WoodyPaige73ESPN
72. TomReid73Minnesota Wild Radio
73. BobbyTaylor73Tampa Bay Lightning TV Studio
74. SuzynWaldman73New York Yankees Radio Network
75. DonFischer73Indiana University F/B
76. LenBerman72WOR Radio + Various
77. JoeCastiglione72Boston Red Sox Network
78. LarryClisby72Purdue F/B Radio
79. RayFosse72A’s Radio/TV
80. MikeFratello72NBA TV
81. PeterGillen72CBS Sports Network
82. MikeKrzyzewski72SiriusXM
83. BobKurtz72Minnesota Wild Radio
84. TedLeitner72San Diego Padres and San Diego State
85. MickeyRedmond72Red Wings TV
86. SamRosen72New York Rangers TV
87. Ken Singleton72Yankees TV
88. SteveSomers72WFAN
89. BillWorrell72Houston Rockets TV
90. MikeGorman72Celtics TV
91. LarryWard72Chattanooga Lookouts
92. JerryAllen71Oregon F/B Radio
93. BillBaker71Northern Illinois
94. TerryBradshaw71Fox TV
95. AustinCarr71Cleveland Cavaliers TV
96. CharleyCasserly71NFL Network
97. AlChallis71Southern Utah
98. TomDavis71Baltimore Orioles YV pre/post
99. HarryDonahue 71Temple F/B
100. TomGrieve71Texas Rangers TV
101. BryantGumbel71HBO
102.DaleHansen71Dallas- TV
104.MikeLange71Penguins Radio
105.BuckMartinez71Blue Jays TV
106.WayneNorman71UConn F/B
107.MikePratt71Kentucky color
108.GaryThorne71Orioles TV
109.PJCarlesimo70ESPN/Westwood One
110.JimChones70Cleveland Cavaliers Radio
111.EdFarmer70White Sox Radio
112.ButchGoring70Islanders TV
113.MikeKennedy70Wichita State Basketball Radio
114.ShepMessing70MSGN/Bulls Soccer
115.KentPavelka70Nebraska Basketball
116.Ahmad Rashad70Various
117.BradSham70Dallas Cowboys Radio
118.CharleySteiner70LA Dodgers Radio
119.Steve Stone70 Chicago White Sox TV
120.Joe Theismann70Redskins TV Pre-Season
121.RogerTwibell70ESPN3 / ESPN+

Oldest on-air voice by network

Fox SportsJimmyJohnson77
MLB NetworkJimKaat81
NBA NetworkMike Fratello72
NBC SportsAlMichaels75
NHL NetworkBarryMelrose63
NFL NetworkCharlieCasserly71
Turner SportsMarvAlbert78

Gang of 70+ broadcasters retired or separated in last decade

EddieAndelmanBoston Sports Talk
JoeAngelOrioles Radio
SteveBlassPirates TV
MartyBrennamanReds Radio
DonCherryNHL Canada
DonCriquiNotre Dame Football
LenDawsonChiefs Radio
StanFischlerMSG Network
DickGroatPitt Basketball Radio
KenHarrelsonWhite Sox Television
BobHarrisDuke Radio
JimHendersonSaints Radio
JerryHowarthBlue Jays Radio
SonnyJurgensenRedskins Radio
PeterKostisCBS Golf
BobLameyColts Radio
RalphLawlerClippers TV/Radio
FredManfraOrioles Radio
GaryMcCordCBS Golf
BobMillerKings Hockey
JerryReynoldsKings TV
JohnRobinsonSports USA
WarnerWolfWABC Radio
VinScullyDodgers R/TV

Random comments:

HubieBrown86Has temerity not to age and not to break
MikeEmrick73Card him. Doc sounds half his age
GregGumbel73Gentle and assuring in the studio
SlickLeonard87An avuncular curmudgeon with an apt story
Al McCoy86Indestructible – even with Kryptonite
AlMichaels75Seemingly Flawless
BrentMusburger80Strong opinions keep you forever young
WoodyPaige73A tousled, impassioned professor
BillRaftery76Hasn’t lost his spunk yet
DickVitale80Irrepressible energy who remains relevant
David J. Halberstam

David is a 40-year industry veteran who served as play-by-play announcer for St. John's University basketball in New York and as radio play-by-play voice of the Miami Heat in South Florida. He is the author of Sports on New York Radio: A Play-by-Play History.

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Larry Ward
Larry Ward
6 months ago

There might be a few more NOT on a national scale but a decades long career just the same, including yours truly (50 years broadcasting sports/38 years professional baseball/three decades of college sports and other sports venues now at age 72+) Could make for another good column. Just sayin!!!

Michael Green
6 months ago

Well, 80 may be the new 40! Or something like it. As I think about it, Chick Hearn had lost a step, but was still really good. Vin Scully did make more minor mistakes in his later years, but, even then, he was still the best. I think of Red Barber talking about being the “Old Redhead” in his thirties, and thinking he was older in his fifties!

Michael Green
6 months ago

It always comes down to what they have left in the tank. I think of Lindsey Nelson talking about how the network radio pioneers burned out when they were young while team announcers lasted forever, then noticing how many team announcers were then dragged out kicking and screaming. Then I think of how there are announcers on that list I never liked anyway, so I suspect I wouldn’t think they’d slipped at all, and Ross Porter, who I have heard on college baseball sounding as great as ever. I guess it comes down to genes, and I don’t mean Deckerhoff!

Anrhony Perkins
6 months ago

There may be hope for me yet! I’m 60 and I’ve reported on almost every sport imaginable, in the USA and overseas. But my goal has always been and continues to be play-by-play.