Leading network voices: Their early heroes, idols, influences, mentors and professional role models

I reached out to a renowned group of network voices who for decades shepherded millions of Americans through hundreds upon hundreds of sporting events.

They were asked to identify the broadcasters of their youths and early careers, the voices who served as early heroes, idols, professional role models and/or mentors. My hope was to keep the responses simple and uniform; a list of  one, two or three national broadcasters. It didn’t quite work out that way. In some cases, there’s a mix of network and local announcers.

I also had a sense that I was asking a few of them to play Solomon. So when it was all said and done, I included some outakes below this list. In the cases of Lindsey Nelson, Pat Summerall and Jack Whitaker, the selections are from past notes and conversations.

You’ll note of course that older network announcers in some cases reference an earlier generation of voices than the ones identified by younger announcers.

Here you go:

Kenny Albert (Fox)

Marv Albert, Al Michaels, Howie Rose*

Marv Albert (Turner)

Marty Glickman,* Les Keiter,* Vin Scully

Brian Anderson (CBS and Turner)

Ernie Harwell,* Al Michaels, Vin Scully

Jason Benetti (ESPN)

Brian Anderson, Ian Eagle, Sean McDonough

Thom Brennaman (Fox)

Marty Brennaman,* Dick Enberg

Tim Brando (Fox)

Dick Enberg, Curt Gowdy, Keith Jackson

Joe Buck (Fox)

Jack Buck, Al Michaels, Mike Tirico

Linda Cohn

Marv Albert, Len Berman, Ed Ingles*

Bob Costas (MLB Network)

Marv Albert, Marty Glickman,* Vin Scully

Don Criqui (retired, CBS, NBC)

Mel Allen, Chris Schenkel

Tom Hammond (semi-retired, NBC)

Dick Enberg, Jim McKay, Jack Whitaker

Kevin Harlan (CBS and Turner)

Don Criqui, John Facenda,** Jim Simpson

Ernie Johnson, Jr. (Turner)

Bob Costas, Ernie Johnson, Sr.* Brent Musburger

Steve Levy (ESPN)

Marv Albert, Len Berman

Verne Lundquist (semi-retired, CBS)

Jim McKay, Ray Scott

Sean McDonough (ESPN)

Dick Enberg, Curt Gowdy

Curt Menefee (Fox)

Fred Hickman

Al Michaels (NBC)

Curt Gowdy, Vin Scully

Jon Miller (ex ESPN, currently SF Giants)

Dick Enberg, Curt Gowdy,  Al Michaels

Brent Musburger (VSiN)

Howard Cosell, Lindsey Nelson, Vin Scully (1)

Jim Nantz (CBS)

Jim McKay, Pat Summerall, Jack Whitaker

Lindsey Nelson (late CBS and NBC voice)

Bill Stern

Brad Nessler (CBS)

Ray Scott, Pat Summerall

Dave O’Brien (ESPN) 

Bob Costas, Jim McKay

Dave Pasch (ESPN)

Marv Albert, Bob Costas

Mike Patrick (formerly ESPN)     

Dick Enberg

Tim Ryan (retired CBS, NBC)

Jack Whitaker

Dan Shulman (ESPN) 

Tom Cheek,* Dick Enberg

Dick Stockton (Fox) 

Curt Gowdy, Lindsey Nelson

Pat Summerall (late CBS and Fox voice)

Ray Scott

Gary Thorne (ex ESPN, ABC)

Curt Gowdy, Ned Martin,* Chris Schenkel

Mike Tirico (NBC) 

Marv Albert, Bob Costas

Lesley Visser (CBS)

Bud Collins, Peter Gammons

Jack Whitaker (late CBS and ABC commentator)

Ted Husing, Clem McCarthy, Bil Stern

Bob Wischusen (ESPN)

Dick Enberg, Marty Glickman,* Dick Stockton


*Primarily local broadcasters

**Voice of NFL Films – Sepulchral toned announcer often heard on featured network programming

Tim Brando “I loved Curt Gowdy. My parents knew it. So when my brother was born, I was 12 and they named him Curt.”

Joe Buck on his selections: “Definitely my dad, (Jack Buck). I got my pacing and timing – basically my style – from him. But it is ongoing…Michaels for his continued excellence and precision…Tirico for his versatility… I admire so many who currently do it because it isn’t easy.

Linda Cohn “I loved Len Berman. He worked for WNBC – I loved him because he would just talk to you. He wouldn’t scream at you, he didn’t have shtick, he didn’t have catchphrases, he’s just a guy talking sports with you and it was great.”

Bob Costas pointed out to me that the three on his list are those whose legacies were well established when he was first breaking in. Bob adds that among others, Al Michaels is someone he admires. But Bob points out that Al was not yet a national figure when he launched his own career. Costas’ first gig was in St. Louis where he says Jack Buck was already an icon and had a great influence on his career.

Marty Glickman Marty was a star athlete at Syracuse and had little training when he began his radio career. He did say to me once or twice that he developed his nomenclature for basketball by listening to pioneer hockey announcer, Foster Hewitt, and drawing geographic parallels. Glickman was the first voice of the Knicks in 1946.

Kevin Harlan “The three voices that influenced me the most were John Facenda, Jim Simpson and Don Criqui. (Voice and delivery). Then there were Joe Tait and Jim Durham, whose basketball style I and many broadcasters adopted.”

Ernie Johnson, Jr. The Turner NBA and NCAA host and baseball play-by-player also included Johnny Carson. Come to think of it, what Ernie does with Chuck, Johnny Carson had to do with Don Rickles.

Steve Levy “I came up with a studio background long before play-by-play and Marv checks all the boxes for me doing the sports on WNBC-TV, Rangers radio, Knicks TV and network.”

Sean McDonough After listing the local Boston announcers he heard growing up, Sean added: “Curt Gowdy was on every big event when I was young. Or at least it seemed that way. And as I got a little older, Dick Enberg. Wonderful way of rising to the big moments, classy and elegant, wasn’t a “look at me” broadcaster, outstanding storyteller.

Curt Menefee  Fred Hickman of the popular 80s show CNN Sports was a mentor and adviser to Curt in his early years, when he was still in high school. At Coe College in Iowa, Menefee was encouraged and guided by John Campbell the sports director at KCRG in Cedar Rapids who hired him as a producer and urged him to try air work. Campbell was as much a contributor to Curt’s success as anyone. Many successful voices, like Curt, can point to off-air executives who championed their careers.

Al Michaels had a similar experience working with Curt Gowdy as Dick Stockton did. In 1972, the Reds, whose games he was broadcasting on radio, advanced to the World Series. So Michaels joined Gowdy on the NBC telecast. Michaels was as nervous as can be and said to himself, ‘Please, let the words come out of my mouth.’ Gowdy made Al feel very relaxed. Michaels also grew up with Scully, listening to him first in Brooklyn, then in Los Angeles.

Jon Miller “When I started doing television, I reached out to Al and he the first thing he said was that when shifting from radio to television, forget about description. It’s all about names and captioning the picture. I grew up in Northern California with Russ Hodges, Lon Simmons and Bill King.”

Brent Musburger also included local voice extraordinaire Bill King, who presided over the broadcasts of the Warriors, A’s and Raiders.

Jim Nantz  He and Whitaker were tight until Jack’s very end. Nantz delivered a eulogy and was a pallbearer at McKay’s funeral. Jim also worked with Summerall for ten years and considered him a mentor. Jim then added, “Feeling badly about leaving out the Schenkels, Enbergs, Jacksons of yesteryear. Another one – Win Elliot. I was a stringer for him back in the day when he anchored SportsWorld Roundup on the CBS Radio Network. Genius talent, he was. His broadcasts showed a skill set for writing, along with the interaction of sound on tape, that was unlike anything ever heard in the radio medium.”

Tim Ryan “No idols—I wanted to be me, covering everything everywhere on ‘On Someone Else’s Nickel.’ Man, admired most , and who mentored me to not spend too many late nights at PJ Clarke’s—Jack Whitaker. Thoughtful, beautiful writer who was unmatched in capturing a sports scene with poetry. Nobody else close. Ravaged by pompous Masters hierarchy.”

Vin Scully The master often repeated what Red Barber shared with him. Be yourself in the booth. Vin was taught not to imitate others or as he put it so eloquently, “You’ll water your wine.” This said, it doesn’t mean that Scully didn’t admire broadcasters he heard growing up. He heaps praise on Ted Husing, the nation’s first true sportscaster: “His command of the language was rich. When I would listen to those Saturday college football games in the 1930s, I was delighted when Ted did them.” 

Dick Stockton added some beef to his choices. In 1975, Stockton did some of the riveting Reds-Red Sox World Series on NBC. As for Gowdy, “I was as nervous as you can be on the telecast of Game 1 of the Series. Curt was gracious and warm in his on-camera intro before my stint for the last 4 and a half innings. He relaxed me tremendously and we went from there.” With regard to Lindsey Nelson, “He told me that he could do Notre Dame football Saturdays, CBS NFL Sundays, and Monday Night radio by immediately forgetting all about the game he just did and concentrated on the numbers for the game ahead.  For radio, Marty Glickman for his incredible descriptions including uniforms and Cawood Ledford for his crisp, precise calls.” Those two were the best radio hoops callers to me growing up.”

Lesley Visser  “I would go to Wimbledon and say, ‘Hi I’m Lesley Visser, I work with Bud Collins’ – and I’d hear, ‘Oh, wow, what do you need?’  I’d go to the World Series, ‘Hi, I work with Peter Gammons’ – “Come right in” – the NBA finals, ‘I’m Lesley Visser from the Globe, I work with Bob Ryan’  – the super bowl ‘…Will McDonough’ – all were fantastic to me.

Jack Whitaker “Growing up my idols were the great columnists of the day. I loved guys like Red Smith and always wanted to write; to do what he did. As a kid, I loved Clem McCarthy on horse racing, Bill Stern, a dramatic storyteller and of course play caller, Ted Husing. Later I loved the three southern voices of New York baseball; Russ Hodges (Tennessee), Mel Allen (Alabama) and Red Barber (Florida). There was something very soothing about their deliveries.”










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
4 years ago

VERY interesting and enlightening. And I’m not surprised that the second generation voices listed their fathers–they WOULD influence them. But I found Joe Buck’s comment about his father’s influence on his style interesting because I can tell in listening to him that he has worked to make sure he doesn’t sound too much like his father–and that isn’t a criticism at all. I think of Skip Caray, who was in a lot of ways like his father, but you could also hear Jack Buck’s influence on him–likewise Thom Brennaman, a bit, and especially DeWayne Staats, the fine longtime baseball broadcaster.… Read more »