Best sports calls on TV and radio the last 50 years: Voting is down to the Elite-8; Scully, Jack Buck prominent


Jack Benjamin is using social media this spring to select the best play-by-play calls the last fifty years. Borrowing the March Madness bracket format that we all love and experience each year, the voting to select the best one began with 68 separate television and radio calls.

Round-by-round, Jack’s been counting them down. The voters are down to the Elite-8. Broadcasters and fans are encouraged to vote here

Polls are open now and close Friday at 5pm ET. Then it’ll be down to the Final Four. (brackets below)

Five of the final eight radio calls cover baseball moments and Jack Buck voiced two of them.

On the television side, the Elite-Eight is represented by a broader mix of sports, golf, baseball, the NBA, college basketball, the Olympics and boxing. Vin Scully made two of those calls.

Jack Benjamin Broadcaster – Jack BenjaminBenjamin (left) is up to something. Arenas and ballpark are shut down for now, so a little drama, a little reliving of history, is always fun and innocuous.

But bear in mind that the competition covers fifty years. For the millenial generation, please consider the fact that sports began long before it.

Maybe that’s the next project for Benjamin, Voice of Nicholls State, by the way of Westchester County, north of New York City.  Let’s get them all in! There was quite a bit of sports before 1970. How about an all-time list next spring? Jack can do a thoughtful job with it.

I can think of at least ten fantastic moments off the top of my head that are not on this ballot, limited by the fifty year window:

Joe Louis knocks out Max Shmeling for the heavyweight championship (1938)

Cookie Lavagetto breaks up Floyd Bevins’ no hitter in the ninth of Game #4 of the World Series (1947)

Bobby Thomson’s home run, ‘The Shot heard around the world’  (1951)

Willie Mays’ amazing World Series catch at the Polo Grounds (1954)

Don Larsen’s perfect game in the World Series (1956)

The 1958 NFL Championship overtime spell-binder (1958)

Bill Mazeroski’s home run in game #7 of the World Series (1960)

Roger Maris breaks Babe Ruth’s single season home run record (1961)

Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) beats Sonny Liston for the heavyweight title (1964)

Sandy Koufax throws a perfect game (1965)

I like the fact that Benjamin selected two great calls of the same wonderful moment when Henry Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s career home run mark. Both Milo Hamilton and Vin Scully captured the drama brilliantly. Yet Scully went the extra yard eloquently. He saluted the racial significance of the unrestrained cheers in the heart of the south for Aaron, a black man, who expunged the record of a white icon. Curt Gowdy’s call on NBC was pretty good too.

Benjamin, the fellow who mapped this all out, included 68 entries, selected from 460 TV and radio calls that were rated by more than 800 survey respondents. They covered 13 sports, from the mainstream to the Olympics and horse racing.

Benjamin talked about the contest with these three broadcasters who are household names:

Jim Nantz Interview – Greatest Calls Bracket

Mike Breen Interview – Greatest Calls Bracket

Kevin Harlan Interview – Greatest Calls Bracket




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 and The Fundamentals of Sports Media and Sponsorship Sales: Developing New Accounts.

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