Commentary

Jerry West has passed at age 86; Felt comfortable on the bench; Early boxing attracted radio

Jerry West passes at age 86 

A Hall of Famer, played many years with the Lakers, starred at West Virginia collegiately, Coach of Year twice. And has his profile stamped on the league’s logo.

Marv Albert turns 8

Retired Marv Albert celebrates his 83d birthday on 6.12.1941. You might argue that he shaped basketball and hockey in the Big City under the auspices of mentors Marty Glickman and Les Keiter. Marv delivered play-by-play on radio, through Knicks and Rangers when TV coverage was still thin. From the mid-60s on, he grew from radio to TV. He also did local telecasts on the NBC local affiliate in New York. He was best known for his NBC hoops during Michael Jordan’s greatness.

Early days when big voices grew

Graham McNamee wrote about calling doing the first ever Rose Bowl on NBC. Ted Husing did college football and Derby’s. Boxing was dominated by all when the biggies meant a lot, Tunney-Dempsey in 1926 and 1927 and Louis-Schmeling in 1936 and 1938.

Lindsey Nelson remembers McNamee and Husing and later Jack Brickhouse and Ernie Harwell, Red Barber, among those who penned books that shed more depth on baseball.

In 1986, Curt Smith released his priceless tome on the history of baseball on-air, Voices of the Game. He is a tireless and prolific authority and a magical linguist on the game. It was authored sharply and written beautifully about then men he admired.

McNamee was employed by NBC until his death, shortly before his 54th birthday

in 1942. “He died, burned out,” broadcaster Lindsey Nelson. He added that the folks who worked with McNamee flocked to Campbell’s Funeral Home in Manhattan. His pallbearers were a veritable list of who’s who in broadcasting, including broadcast partners Phillips Carlin and Tom Manning, Tommy Cowan, who did the first World Series in 1921. He left an estate that was valued at $137,707, roughly what a network announcer might make in a few of months today.

McNamee influenced others

His influence was far-reaching then, particularly because boxing’s allure then was rich. After WWII, Lindsey Nelson was assigned his very first heavyweight championship fight in 1957 on NBC, Floyd Patterson against Hurricane Jackson at the Polo Grounds. “I don’t think I ever had an assignment that excited me so much as this one. It all went back to those days of sitting on the living room rug and listening to Graham McNamee do Dempsey-Tunney.”

In the 1950s Tom Gallery, NBC Television’s director of sports, invited Nelson, a native Southerner to do a little play-by-play and color. He also gave him some ad sales assignments. In those days, the rates were high and took only a couple sponsors. In 1971, ad sales were cut from:60 to :30.

McNamee’s stock as a sports announcer was dropping slowly in the early 1930s. He was kept on some glamour assignments through the mid-1930s and would maintain a presence on the World Series broadcasts and on heavyweight title fights but Mac was no longer NBC’s lead sports announcer.

Nelson would later say in his autobiography, Hello Everybody, I’m Lindsey Nelson: Bill Munday remained on the wagon until his death in 1965. Georgian, Ernie Harwell, echoing what I imagine was the sentiment that of Barber and Nelson.

Munday remained on the wagon until his death in 1965. Nelson went on, “All of us Southerners have some Bill Munday in us, consciously or subconsciously,” said fellow Georgian, Ernie Harwell, echoing what I imagine was the sentiment of Barber and Nelson.

McNamee’s stock as a sports announcer was dropping slowly in the early 1930s. He was kept on for his glamour assignments through the mid-1930s and would maintain presence on the World Series broadcast event and heavyweight title fights but he was no longer NBC’s lead sports Voice.

With Munday undependable and McNamee’s sports role diminishing, NBC built a stable of football announcers to dip into when needed.

In the 1930s folks such as Bill Slater, Don Wilson, Jack Ingersall, Ford Bond, Halsey Hall, Fort Pearson, and Tom Manning. They would get broader assignments by the older and bigger network.

Howie Deneroff and Westwood

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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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