Bob Prince and Bill Hillgrove were loved in Pittsburgh; Harry Kalas and Merrill Reese were identified in Philly

A quick look at Pennsylvania


Bill Hillgrove will only do college sports – fully –  U of Pitt Football and hoops 

I was very surprised to see that Pittsburgh’s Bill Hillgrove is leaving his Steelers’ position after 30 years. His plans are to commit fully to the U. of Pitt for both football and basketball. Bill carves a nice and smooth job. With no NFL assignment, Hillgrove will likely use his free time, to do football and hoops. You’d be interested in noting that Dick Groat partnered with Hillgrove for some 40 years. He played the game at Duke, not long after the war.

So Hillgrove’s NFL days are over and he’s now 83.

Pittsburgh is a lovable city. The topography is hilly. You can argue that the Rooneys are committed to the team like no one else. It’s been a family tradition for decades. Thirty years in the booth for is a long time. Often, you have to move on. 

Nothing changes, you’re always at the confluence of the Allegheny, the Monongahela, and the two rivers that meet to form the Ohio River. Hillgrove worked with Dick Groat on Pitt  before he was insensitively dismissed.

Bill and Dick would schlep the broadcast equipment around, even in his 80s and 90s. They were a good couple.

Hillgrove won the Chris Schenkel Award during his long run. How about Gene Deckerhoff? A few years ago, he retired from Florida State University but he stuck with the Tampa Bucs. The number of older passengers appear to be stronger.

In Pittsburgh, let’s sample the famed voices – pure play-by-players or commentators.

1) Bob Prince – “We need a bloop and a blast” unmatched catch-phrases

2) Mike Lang –  Unexpected expressions

3) Myron Cope – Opinionated expressions

4) Joe Tucker – Owned Western Pa. for decades, doing Steelers 

5) Bill Hillgrove – gave his guts to the club

6) Jack Fleming – Jack gave his Sundays to the Steelers 

7) Lanny Frattare – 33 years is a lifetime giver in terms Pirates booth

8) Rosey Rowswell – A Pittsburgh institution 

9)  Steve Blass – One of the longest known Pirate voices

10)Milo Hamilton – A task masters


The top-ten voices who should be remembered are: 

In Philadelphia, Merrill Reese, is the most senior of the current NFL play-by-play brothers (1977). Still sharp! Who else has had 47 years in experience on his his own?  He knows what it takes.

Phillies are dominated as a team by popularity)

1) Bill Campbell (Phillies, Warriors and Eagles)

2) Merrill Reese (Eagles, Big Five Basketball)

3) Harry Kalas (Phillies) 

4) Byrum Saam (Phillies)  

5) Tom McCarthy  (Phillies) 

6) Tom McGinnis (76ers)

7) Andy Musser (76ers and Phillies)

8) Marc Zumoff (76ers)

9) Gene Hart (Flyers)

10) Jim Jackson (Flyers)

Busy NFL

Brent Musburger – May 20, 1939 – Vegas A’s -(84)

Bill Hillgrove – Nov 20, 1940 – Pittsburgh Steelers – (83)

Merrill Reese – September 2, 1942 –  Philadelphia Eagles- (82)

Gene Deckerhoff  – May, 2, 1945  – Bucs – (79)


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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