We all know that we live in a divided country. But both sides of the aisle will agree on one thing, sports and politics are local.
Talk to fans around America and no matter where, they’ll stick up for their local announcers. Ask Eagles’ rooters in Philly: “Merrill Reese is unquestionably the best. No way, no one better!” Have they ever heard anyone else? Probably not.
In celebration of broadcasting today and tomorrow, we’ve identified the top 100 local voices through the 100 years of sports play-by-play, be it radio or television.
To cast a wider net, each announcer who worked both locally and nationally were assigned one category, not both.
Local today and network tomorrow (fellows like Vin Scully, Jack Buck and others who excelled locally and nationally – will be on list of network announcers tomw)
Thought process in identifying the names:
- Established themselves prominently in local markets
- Longer time in grade than most
- Very popular with fans
- Represents a widespread of eras
- How vast a landscape they covered
- Memorable catch-phrases
- Painted word pictures on radio and/or captioned them on TV economically
- Contribution to the sport, the school and the medium
- Did they teach or write tutorials?
- This is an all-time list of 100 years. For the most part, these are radio and TV play-by-players.
- Limited Studio and top analysts
The assessing model isn’t perfect and at the end of the day it’s my opinion and I’m often wrong. It’s an opinion column. Sorry!
GRAND WINNER, LOCAL AND NETWORK – SPORTSCASTER OF THE CENTURY: VIN SCULLY
George Blaha–Detroit Pistons Radio/ TV, Mich State – Rooter, fair, fifth decade, tired
Mark Boyle– Indiana Pacers Radio – Sooth delivery, never hurried
Lyell Bremser–Nebraska football — Four decades of mostly good years, no longer
Marty Brennaman–Reds– Owned Cincinnati. Not afraid to express his views
Jack Brickhouse–Cubs, Bears + — Likely the most popular sports voice ever in the Windy City
Kevin Calabro–Seattle/Portland NBA — Galvanizing voice, Midwest roots, wears team colors
Bill Campbell–Warriors, Eagles Phils — Did everything in town except collect the tolls
Skip Caray–Braves, Hawks — A sardonic grin and trenchant comments
Harry Caray–Cards, Cubs + — One of baseball’s great voices, Can sell anything on-air
Herb Carneal–Twins — Soft spoken, Did his job quietly for decades
Joe Castiglione–Red Sox– When Joe is on and there is a breeze, Fenway can’t be far away
Gary Cohen–Mets — His command of the mic is redolent of the Ivy schools
Jerry Coleman –Padres + Known for his puzzling malaprops and his heroic combat missions
Jack Corrigan –Rockies – TV in Cleveland to radio in Denver, He’s built his people capital
Gene Deckerhoff–TB Bucs, Fl. State – Throaty and a we or they guy. Always honest
Jim Donovan –Cle Brown – Puts his heart into broadcasts, Still, downright honest
Eddie Doucette–Milw Bucs – Alcindor, the ’71 championship and a host of catchy cliches
Jimmy Dudley–Indians, Pilots – Eloquent and respected except by his antagonistic partner
Jim Durham–Chi Bulls, Dal Mavs – Right up there among the NBA’s better radio talent
Woody Durham–UNC Football and basketball – Absolutely admired by Heels fans
Wes Durham – Atl Falcons – Southern drawl and never overbearing – from radio to TV easily
Bob Elson–Chi ‘Sox – The Commander. If you couldn’t find him, check out the wagering houses
Max Falkenstein–Kansas U- KU through and through, 60 years on-air. “A deliberate foul shooter”
Don Fischer–Indiana U – 50+ years, accurate, well oiled machine and moments with Bob Knight
Jack Fleming–WVU, Steelers, Bulls – Big in the hills and three years with NBA’s Bulls
Walt Frazier–NY Knicks — It’s a Ewing doing and Oak’s got the stroke; He’s smiling either way
Hilliard Gates–IU, Ft. Wayne Pistons – As popular in Indiana as they come
Marty Glickman–Knicks, Football Giants – Wrote the book for basketball and superb at football
Eli Gold–Alabama Football – The Alabama voice told me his favorite today is Kevin Harlan
Mike Gorman–Boston Celts TV – Smooth, identified with the Celts and ESPN’s early Big East years
Milo Hamilton–Houston Astros Full of smoke, strong voice and memorable calls
Merle Harmon–Milw, Tx, NY Jets – Upbeat and resonating, “Joe Willie looks and throws”
Tom Harmon–USC Football – Yesteryear, athlete, actor and play-by-player
Hawk Harrelson–Chi W/Sox- Like Dizzy Dean, he brings his own language and charm to work
Ernie Harwell–Det, Bal, NY, Bklyn – A warm blanket and a soft breeze
Chick Hearn–LA Lakers – Stylized and unique. Jerry West: Like putting a baby in the cradle
Bill Hillgrove–Steelers, Pitt –Pittsburghers love their own and Bill’s been one forever
Dan Hoard–Bengals, UC – Living his dream, UC football, the Bengals and maybe MLB one day
Russ Hodges–NY/SF Giants – Shot heard ’round the world. Say no more
Steve Holman–Atl Hawks – Disciple of Johnny Most, unabashed rooter. Yes, loves what he does
Waite Hoyt–Cincy Reds – Superstitious, storyteller galore. Listeners hoped for rain delays
Pat Hughes–Chi Cubs – Has the pipes, clips his words like a pro, doesn’t miss a thing on the field
Hot-Rod-Hundley–N.O./Utah Jazz – Best ever, ex-NBAer to call games, especially simulcasts
Ernie Johnson Sr.–Atl Braves – A gentleman, son Ernie Junior, a chip off the old block
Chuck Kaiton–Hartford./Carolina, NHL Paints colorful pictures and enunciates names perfectly
Harry Kalas–Phl Phils- Slow, dry, sepulchral. Doesn’t overfill the mic. Words are precious
Michael Kay–Yanks TV – Doesn’t hold back on his talk show or as Yankee TV play-by-player
Paul Keels –Ohio State – Right from the diaphragm -never forgets the score and time left
Les Keiter–NY Giants/Knicks + – Riveting, creative and a mesmerizing delivery
Mike Keith–Tenn Titans- A native. Arrival of the Titans in Nashville was his well deserved gift
Bill King–A’s, Warriors, Raiders: Any sport and a renaissance man are unsurpassed
Wayne Larrivee –Chi, G. Bay, NFL + He explodes with energy and enthusiasm every game
Ralph Lawler–LA, SD Clippers+ The Clippers’ years of losing never tempered his anticipation
Cawood Ledford–Kentucky F/B – Everyne in Kentucky knew his name. Just say Cawood
Ted Leitner–SD Padres – It took time to embrace a Bronxite but he became a fixture
Josh Lewin–Various-MLB, Ftbl + Inexplicably bounced around. He’s on border of brilliance
Denny Matthews–KC Royals – Started with the team its first year – It’s been 53 seasons
Al McCoy–Phoenix Suns – Longest tenured NBA team announcer. It’s his 50th and he’s wonderful
Jiggs McDonald –NY Isles, NHL+ – Started with the LA Kings’ first year in ’67 and on to fame
Arch McDonald –NY Yanks, Was Senators – Through the war and a little more, big in DC
Van Miller–Buf Bills – His Scott Norwood call was heartbreaking and picture perfect
Bob Miller–LA Kings – Grew up loving the NHL. Started as a simulcaster before radio/TV split.
Monte Moore–UK, KC/Oak A’s – Out-survived owner Charles Finley, covered 3 WS on NBC
Johnny Most–Boston Celts – Out of Marty Glickman school, became an iconic Boston voice
Larry Munson–Georgia, Falcons – Throaty, gripping: “The fans are roaring, the stadium rocking”
Bob Murphy–NY Mets “When he hits them, they go” or “We’ll be back with the happy recap”
Andy Musser–Phl 76ers, Phils – Hoops were more his thing, but not bad on baseball
Eric Nadel–Texas Rangers – From Brooklyn with love, a lifelong fan of baseball on radio
Dave Niehaus–Sea Mariners + Got his lessons, sitting near Dick Enberg on Angels
Greg Papa–Raiders, 49ers + Followed the great Bill King and was liked immediately. It says tons
Gene Peterson–Hou Rockets – Still missed, How sweet it is!
Lloyd Pettit–Chi B/Hawks + “Here comes number 9, Bobby Hull, a shot and a goal!”
Bob Prince–Pit Pirates – “Bucs down one. All we need is a bloop and a blast”
Merrill Reese–Phl Eagles- At 79, his passion hasn’t waned. Sounded the same 44 years ago
Eric Reid –Mia Heat – New Yorker by way of Providence, has become a South Florida institution.
Phil Rizzuto–NY Yanks – Yankee fans miss him. Brought a neighborly warmth to the booth.
John Rooney –St. L Cards, W/Sox – Rarely gets attention, yet he is good and dependable
Howie Rose–NY Rangers, Mets – Mets fan as a kid, loved Bob Murphy and admired Marv Albert
Sam Rosen–NY Rangers – “It’s a power play goal! Rosen a NYC kid did the NFL on Fox too”
Spencer Ross–NY-Yanks, Jets, Nets +- Great diction and speed, an original ABA voice in ’67.
By Saam–Phl A’s, Phils – He went back to the days when the A’s and Phils both played in Philly
Gil Santos–NE Pats, Celts – For many years, he did the Pats and the Celtics on TV
Bill Schonely –Port Trail Blazers – Original voice of the Blazers, after doing MLB’s Sea Pilots.
Brad Sham–Cowboys, Tx Rangers – Probably the best known play-by-player in Texas
Gib Shanley–Cle Browns – An institution in Cleveland, Browns plus nighttime TV sports anchor.
Mike Shannon–StL Cards – Fifty plus year calling Cardinals baseball
Lon Simmons–SFG, 49ers, A’s – Superb at baseball and football. Worked with Hodges on Giants.
Dewayne Staats –Tampa Rays – Another dulcet toned play-by-player who gets into nobody’s way
John Sterling–NY Yanks, Isles- Fundamentally questionable, still polarizing, 33 years on the job
Chuck Swirsky –Chi Bulls – A steady in the Windy City, Excels on hoops for the Bulls
Joe Tait–Cle Cavs, Indians- Best NBA play-by-player ever and talented on baseball
Chuck Thompson–Bal O’s/Colts – Dulcet toned on baseball, fierce but gentle on football
Gary Thorne–NY Mets, Balt O’s – Mr. Excitement and a former attorney on top of it.
Kern Tips–SW Conf – No TV years, S/W Conference teams relied on radio only, Tips dominated
Bob Uecker–Milw Brewers- Uke took broadcasting seriously and he’s still real good at it at 87
Bob Ufer–Michigan football – Bob lived and died Micheegan Saturday after Saturday
John Ward–Tenn football – Must have done well. When he retired, donated million$ to the school
Bill White–NY Yanks – Made history becoming first fulltime Black play-by-player any sport
Bob Wilson–Boston Bruins – Had the timbre and the call that goes with it.
Jim Zabel –Iowa F/B – 48 year voice, on WHO, station where Ronald Reagan once worked