Announcers Historical

Broadcasting’s centennial: The top 100 LOCAL TV and radio voices on the electronic media’s 100th birthday

 

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Halberstam

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

 

 

 

 

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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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Michael Green
7 months ago

This list could cause a lot of barroom brawls …. I do think it’s hard to put Ernie Johnson and Skip Caray on there and not have Pete Van Wieren, and then we get to the issue that they were on the Superstation for so long, were they local? I have to say, from the first time I heard Jerry Coleman, I thought he was a good, solid broadcaster, and I was never listening when he let one of those classics go. I feel deprived. I’m also glad to see John Rooney on the list–I got to hear him on… Read more »

ChasG
ChasG
7 months ago

Dick Enberg! As one who grew up in So California, Enberg was the voice of the Angels, Rams and UCLA Basketball. Now his time for only local was probably less then 10 years, but, if ever listen to his tv&radio calls, especially of Nolan Ryan’s no hitters – there is no way he can left off any list just because of his short time compared to others. Enberg set the bar extremely high for those who have followed to call these team’s games and they all have fallen very short. Remember, Vin Scully was in town with the Dodgers. And… Read more »