Announcers

At least 119 sports voices, many big names, are 70+; Sportscasting is no longer a young person’s game

22 announcers are 80+ and 26 are 75-79; No play-by-play announcer on network television has survived over 80

Some broadcasters think they’re beyond reproach. They refuse to recognize that the clock winds down inexorably, that shelf lives are limited and that their broadcast styles become obsolete.

Some ignore the constellation of symptoms; swelling shortcomings generated irrepressibly by age. Some think that seniority comes with a lifetime license, one of a tenured professor or a Supreme Court justice. Others have self-distorted views of themselves after years of being awash with glamorous exposure.

Younger broadcasters talk in hushed tones about their elder and esteemed colleagues, “We want him to leave at the top of their games,” not thinking ahead to when they themselves will face similar predicaments.

Passion can be our most powerful enemy. We, people of all walks of life, believe what we want to believe. It can turn us delusional. Some announcers think they’ll go on forever, getting nodding but unbinding assurances from the powers that be. Locally, some voices have built formidable community capital, the kind they conveniently interpret for lifelong entitlement. No referendums.

Is sports broadcasting a meritocracy or a gerontocracy? There are many in the broadcast booth much older than 70, an age at which the government mandates seniors to draw down their retirement accounts. Think of law firms where partners have required retirement ages. Pilots can fly commercial aircraft up to a fixed age. No such rules for broadcasters.

Some seniors haven’t lost an iota of their vocal speed, some have. Al McCoy and Hubie Brown, both 86, are blessed. Hubie is still as self-assured on ESPN as he was on Turner thirty years ago. McCoy travels the NBA 82-game circuit calling games on radio from the nosebleeds, doing so with preternatural eyes.  Al says proper rest is required to facilitate imperturbable focus while on-air. It’s a discipline that doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. Genes dictate a lot too. Both Al’s parents lived to over 90.

Announcers sometimes get away with overstaying their welcome, even when their voices quiver or their hands move unsteadily when holding a stick mic. They proceed by maintaining a taut smile or inoculating themselves by harshly dismissing their critics.

There are those who recognize the power of social media. Some conveniently dismiss it. A few submit to the imperative of reality and the handwriting on the wall. They retire.

There are voices who maintain their word retention and others who don’t. There are those who can still spin spontaneous yarns. Others just talk less to elude unnavigable pitfalls. Some move on when it’s time, others can’t. Some justify their mistakes, not many make plans for retirement. Their identity is their work. They can’t give it up. They’d feel like a carpenter without tools. A few scale back but don’t give up the booth entirely.

My hat’s off to Rick Peckham, 64, Voice of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who’ll retire at the end of the NHL season when he’s 65. He’s sticking by his plans of years ago. Steve Albert retired in his mid-sixties as did his brother Al before him. Oldest brother Marv, 78, a basketball broadcast icon, shows no signs of wanting to shed the mic.

If baseball had its Sandy Koufax and the NFL had Jim Brown, both of whom retired at 30, basketball on radio had Kentucky’s beloved and talented Cawood Ledford. He was 66 and gave it up on his own. He took heed to the recordings of his work. They were still great but not as great as they were. He didn’t wait for anyone to blow the whistle.

I think of the wonderful Chick Hearn in his final few years when he and his toupee looked propped up. But his adrenalin was uncontainable. He bolted a hospital emergency room in Houston to keep his attendance streak alive on Lakers broadcasts.

Chick was a man who cared so much about his job that he used a walker to get to the broadcast booth. It was odd, yet eyepopping. Fans loved him even when on rare occasions he mistook a Rick Fox for Magic Johnson.

But no one in their 80s has held a play-by-play job on network television. As they approach 80, they’re gone. They no longer call major team sports on network TV. Think Keith Jackson, Dick Enberg, Verne Lundquist, Tom Hammond, Mike Patrick, Don Criqui, Brent Musburger and others.

Broadcasters are exposed. It’s a public domain. Just check social media to see how many announcers take verbal lashings on football weekends. Whether they represent the minority or majority, many of the points made or the mistakes listed are still reality.

What resonates is what Dick Enberg shared with budding broadcasters, “You sit on the chair, you don’t own it.” Sports broadcasting was once a young man’s game. It ain’t anymore. Just look at this list. Some pace themselves. Others don’t.

Because it’s TV, no one sees beneath the makeup of what Laura Hillenbrand described and I liberally paraphrase, “Faces are scratched with lines mapping out the miles of their lives.”  Broadcasts are live. Announcers face crucibles every time their microphones are turned on. It goes with the territory. (Updated 12.23.19- to 121)

Alphabetical Order

1. Richie Adubato 81 Orlando Magic Radio Network
2. Marv Albert 78 Turner/NBA
3. Jerry Allen 71 Oregon F/B Radio
4. Bill Baker 71 Northern Illinois
5. Jim Barnett 75 Golden State Warriors Radio
6. Gary Barnett 73 Colorado Football Network
7. Dan Belluomini 78 Pac-12 Network
8. Len Berman 72 WOR Radio + Various
9. George Blaha 74 Detroit Pistons / Mich State Football
10. Bucky Bockhorn 86 Dayton Basketball Radio
11. Ron Boone 73 Utah Jazz Radio Network
12. Terry Bradshaw 71 Fox Sports
13. Gil Brandt 86 SiriusXM/NFL
14. Hubie Brown 86 ESPN/NBA
15. P. J. Carlesimo 70 ESPN/Westwood One
16. Austin Carr 71 Cleveland Cavaliers TV
17. Charley Casserly 71 NFL Network
18. Joe Castiglione 72 Boston Red Sox Network
19. Al Challis 71 Southern Utah Univversity
20. Jim Chones 70 Cleveland Cavaliers Radio
21. Rich Chvotkin 74 Georgetown Radio
22. Larry Clisby 72 Purdue F/B Radio
23. Lee Corso 84 ESPN
24. Terry Crisp 76 Nashville Predators
25. Tom Davis 71 Baltimore Orioles TV Pre/Post
26. Gene Deckerhoff 74 T.Bucs/Florida State F/B Radio
27. Harry Donahue 71 Temple F/B
28. Jacques Doucet 79 Toronto Blue Jays/ French
29. Cliff Drysdale 78 ESPN
30. Mike Emrick 73 NBC / NHL
31. Phil Esposito 77 Tampa Bay Lightning Radio
32. Ed Farmer 70 White Sox Radio
33. Don Fischer 73 Indiana University F/B
34. Ray Fosse 72 A’s Radio/TV
35. Mike Fratello 72 NBA TV
36. Walt Frazier 74 MSG Network / NY Knicks
37. Neil Funk 73 Chicago Bulls TV
38. Pete Gammons 74 MLB Network
39. Gary Gerould 79 Sacramento Kings Radio Network
40. Peter Gillen 72 CBS Sports Network
41. Butch Goring 70 Islanders TV
42. Mike Gorman 72 Celtics TV
43. Ray Goss 82 Duquesne Basketball
44. Bob Griese 74 Miami Dolphins Radio Network
45. Tom Grieve 71 Texas Rangers TV
46. Al Groh 75 ESPN
47. Greg Gumbel 73 CBS Sports
48. Bryant Gumbel 71 HBO
49. Dale Hansen 71 Dallas- TV
50. Fran Healy 73 MSG Network
51. Tommy Heinsohn 85 Boston Celtics TV
52. Jim Hill 73 CBS Affiliate – Los Angeles
53. Bill Hillgrove 79 Pittsburgh Steelers and Pitt Network
54. Norm Hitzges 75 The Ticket – Dallas TV/Radio
55. Johnny Holliday 82 Maryland Radio Network
56. Tommy Hutton 73 Marlins TV – Host
57. Jaime Jarrin 83 Los Angeles Dodgers Spanish Radio
58. Rick Jeanneret 77 Buffalo Sabres Radio/TV
59. Jimmy Johnson 76 Fox Sports – NFL
60. Jim Kaat 81 MLB Network
61. Mike Kennedy 70 Wichita State Basketball Radio
62. Tony Kornheiser 71 ESPN
63. Mike Krzyzewski 72 SiriusXM
64. Bob Kurtz 72 Minnesota Wild Radio
65. Mike Lange 71 Penguins Radio
66. Stu Lantz 73 Lakers TV
67. Ted Leitner 72 San Diego Padres and San Diego State
68. Slick Leonard 87 Indiana Pacers Radio Network
69. Verne Lundquist 79 CBS Sports
70. Buck Martinez 71 Blue Jays TV
71. Denny Matthews 77 Kansas City Royals Radio Network
72. Tim McCarver 78 St. Louis Cardinals TV
73. Al McCoy 86 Phoenix Suns Radio Network
74. Shep Messing 70 MSGN/Bulls Soccer
75. Al Michaels 75 NBC Sports
76. Rick Monday 73 Los Angeles Dodgers Radio Network
77. Brent Musburger 80 SirusXM
78. Dave Nitz 77 Louisiana Tech Radio Network
79. Wayne Norman 71 UConn F/B
80. Tony Oliva 81 Minnesota Twins Spanish Radio
81. Woody Paige 73 ESPN
82. Jim Palmer 74 Baltimore Orioles TV Network
83. Kent Pavelka 70 Nebraska Basketball
84. Bill Polian 77 SiriusXM/NFL
85. Ross Porter 81 Cal State Northridge Baseball
86. Mike Pratt 71 Kentucky Color
87. Jim Price 78 Detroit Tigers Radio Network
88. Bill Raftery 76 CBS Sports / Fox Sports
89. Judy Rankin 74 Golf Channel
90. Ahmad Rashad 70 Various
91. Larry Rawson 77 ESPN
92. Mickey Redmond 72 Red Wings TV
93. Merrill Reese 77 Philadelphia Eagles Radio Network
94. Tom Reid 73 Minnesota Wild Radio
95. Sam Rosen 72 New York Rangers TV
96. Brad Sham 70 Dallas Cowboys Radio
97. Mike Shannon 80 St. Louis Cardinals Radio Network
98. Ken Singleton 72 Yankees TV
99. Steve Somers 72 WFAN Radio
100. Dave South 74 Texas A&M Baseball
101. Ken Squier 84 WDEV Radio/NASCAR
102. Joe Starkey 78 Cal Berkeley Football Radio Network
103. Charley Steiner 70 LA Dodgers Radio
104. John Sterling 81 New York Yankees Radio Network
105. Dick Stockton 77 Fox Sports- NFL
106. Steve Stone 70 Chicago White Sox TV
107. Don Sutton 74 Atlanta Braves Radio Network
108. Bobby Taylor 73 Tampa Bay Lightning TV Studio
109. Joe Theismann 70 Redskins TV (pre-season)
110. John Thompson 78 Westwood One/NCAA Network
111. Gary Thorne 71 Orioles TV
112. Barry Tompkins 79 Mountain West Network
113. Roger Twibell 70 ESPN3 /ESPN+
114. Bob Uecker 85 Milwaukee Brewers Radio
115. Joel Utley 80 Kentucky Wesleyan Radio
116. Dave Van Horne 80 Miami Marlins Radio Network
117. Dick Vitale 80 ESPN
118. Suzyn Waldman 73 New York Yankees Radio Network
119. Larry Ward 72 Chattanooga Lookouts
120. Bill Worrell 72 Houston Rockets TV
121. Sam Wyche 74 ESPN3 or ESPN+

By age- oldest first

1. Slick Leonard 87 Indiana Pacers Radio Network
2. Bucky Bockhorn 86 Dayton Basketball Radio
3. Gil Brandt 86 SiriusXM/NFL
4. Hubie Brown 86 ESPN/NBA
5. Al McCoy 86 Phoenix Suns Radio Network
6. Tommy Heinsohn 85 Boston Celtics TV
7. Bob Uecker 85 Milwaukee Brewers Radio
8. Lee Corso 84 ESPN
9. Ken Squier 84 WDEV Radio/NASCAR
10. Jaime Jarrin 83 Los Angeles Dodgers Spanish Radio
11. Ray Goss 82 Duquesne Basketball
12. Johnny Holliday 82 Maryland Radio Network
13. Richie Adubato 81 Orlando Magic Radio Network
14. Jim Kaat 81 MLB Network
15. Tony Oliva 81 Minnesota Twins Spanish Radio
16. Ross Porter 81 Cal State Northridge Baseball
17. John Sterling 81 New York Yankees Radio Network
18. Brent Musburger 80 SirusXM
19. Mike Shannon 80 St. Louis Cardinals Radio Network
20. Joel Utley 80 Kentucky Wesleyan Radio
21. Dave Van Horne 80 Miami Marlins Radio Network
22. Dick Vitale 80 ESPN
23. Jacques Doucet 79 Toronto Blue Jays/ French
24. Gary Gerould 79 Sacramento Kings Radio Network
25. Bill Hillgrove 79 Pittsburgh Steelers and Pitt Network
26. Verne Lundquist 79 CBS Sports
27. Barry Tompkins 79 Mountain West Network
28. Marv Albert 78 Turner/NBA
29. Dan Belluomini 78 Pac-12 Network
30. Cliff Drysdale 78 ESPN
31. Tim McCarver 78 St. Louis Cardinals TV
32. Jim Price 78 Detroit Tigers Radio Network
33. Joe Starkey 78 Cal Berkeley Football Radio Network
34. John Thompson 78 Westwood One/NCAA Network
35. Phil Esposito 77 Tampa Bay Lightning TV
36. Rick Jeanneret 77 Buffalo Sabres Radio/TV
37. Denny Matthews 77 Kansas City Royals Radio Network
38. Dave Nitz 77 Louisiana Tech Radio Network
39. Bill Polian 77 SiriusXM/NFL
40. Larry Rawson 77 ESPN
41. Merrill Reese 77 Philadelphia Eagles Radio Network
42. Dick Stockton 77 Fox Sports- NFL
43. Terry Crisp 76 Nashville Predators
44. Jimmy Johnson 76 Fox Sports – NFL
45. Bill Raftery 76 CBS Sports / Fox Sports
46. Jim Barnett 75 Golden State Warriors Radio
47. Al Groh 75 ESPN
48. Norm Hitzges 75 The Ticket – Dallas TV/Radio
49. Al Michaels 75 NBC Sports
50. George Blaha 74 Detroit Pistons Network / Mich State Football
51. Rich Chvotkin 74 Georgetown Radio
52. Gene Deckerhoff 74 Tampa Bay Bucs/Florida State F/B Radio
53. Walt Frazier 74 MSG Network / NY Knicks
54. Pete Gammons 74 MLB Network
55. Bob Griese 74 Miami Dolphins Radio Network
56. Jim Palmer 74 Baltimore Orioles TV Network
57. Judy Rankin 74 Golf Channel
58. Dave South 74 Texas A&M Baseball
59. Don Sutton 74 Atlanta Braves Radio Network
60. Sam Wyche 74 ESPN3 or ESPN+
61. Gary Barnett 73 Colorado Football Network
62. Ron Boone 73 Utah Jazz Radio Network
63. Mike Emrick 73 NBC / NHL
64. Neil Funk 73 Chicago Bulls TV
65. Greg Gumbel 73 CBS Sports
66. Fran Healy 73 MSG Network
67. Jim Hill 73 CBS Affiliate – Los Angeles
68. Tommy Hutton 73 Marlins TV – Host
69. Stu Lantz 73 Lakers TV
70. Rick Monday 73 Los Angeles Dodgers Radio Network
71. Woody Paige 73 ESPN
72. Tom Reid 73 Minnesota Wild Radio
73. Bobby Taylor 73 Tampa Bay Lightning TV Studio
74. Suzyn Waldman 73 New York Yankees Radio Network
75. Don Fischer 73 Indiana University F/B
76. Len Berman 72 WOR Radio + Various
77. Joe Castiglione 72 Boston Red Sox Network
78. Larry Clisby 72 Purdue F/B Radio
79. Ray Fosse 72 A’s Radio/TV
80. Mike Fratello 72 NBA TV
81. Peter Gillen 72 CBS Sports Network
82. Mike Krzyzewski 72 SiriusXM
83. Bob Kurtz 72 Minnesota Wild Radio
84. Ted Leitner 72 San Diego Padres and San Diego State
85. Mickey Redmond 72 Red Wings TV
86. Sam Rosen 72 New York Rangers TV
87. Ken Singleton 72 Yankees TV
88. Steve Somers 72 WFAN
89. Bill Worrell 72 Houston Rockets TV
90. Mike Gorman 72 Celtics TV
91. Larry Ward 72 Chattanooga Lookouts
92. Jerry Allen 71 Oregon F/B Radio
93. Bill Baker 71 Northern Illinois
94. Terry Bradshaw 71 Fox TV
95. Austin Carr 71 Cleveland Cavaliers TV
96. Charley Casserly 71 NFL Network
97. Al Challis 71 Southern Utah
98. Tom Davis 71 Baltimore Orioles YV pre/post
99. Harry Donahue 71 Temple F/B
100. Tom Grieve 71 Texas Rangers TV
101. Bryant Gumbel 71 HBO
102. Dale Hansen 71 Dallas- TV
103. Tony Kornheiser 71 ESPN
104. Mike Lange 71 Penguins Radio
105. Buck Martinez 71 Blue Jays TV
106. Wayne Norman 71 UConn F/B
107. Mike Pratt 71 Kentucky color
108. Gary Thorne 71 Orioles TV
109. PJ Carlesimo 70 ESPN/Westwood One
110. Jim Chones 70 Cleveland Cavaliers Radio
111. Ed Farmer 70 White Sox Radio
112. Butch Goring 70 Islanders TV
113. Mike Kennedy 70 Wichita State Basketball Radio
114. Shep Messing 70 MSGN/Bulls Soccer
115. Kent Pavelka 70 Nebraska Basketball
116. Ahmad Rashad 70 Various
117. Brad Sham 70 Dallas Cowboys Radio
118. Charley Steiner 70 LA Dodgers Radio
119. Steve Stone 70 Chicago White Sox TV
120. Joe Theismann 70 Redskins TV Pre-Season
121. Roger Twibell 70 ESPN3 / ESPN+

Oldest on-air voice by network

CBS Bill Raftery 76
ESPN/ABC Hubie Brown 86
Fox Sports Jimmy Johnson 77
MLB Network Jim Kaat 81
NBA Network Mike Fratello 72
NBC Sports Al Michaels 75
NHL Network Barry Melrose 63
NFL Network Charlie Casserly 71
Turner Sports Marv Albert 78

Gang of 70+ broadcasters retired or separated in last decade

Eddie Andelman Boston Sports Talk
Joe Angel Orioles Radio
Steve Blass Pirates TV
Marty Brennaman Reds Radio
Don Cherry NHL Canada
Don Criqui Notre Dame Football
Len Dawson Chiefs Radio
Stan Fischler MSG Network
Ron Franklin ESPN
Dick Groat Pitt Basketball Radio
Ken Harrelson White Sox Television
Bob Harris Duke Radio
Jim Henderson Saints Radio
Jerry Howarth Blue Jays Radio
Sonny Jurgensen Redskins Radio
Peter Kostis CBS Golf
Bob Lamey Colts Radio
Jim Lampley HBO
Ralph Lawler Clippers TV/Radio
Fred Manfra Orioles Radio
Gary McCord CBS Golf
Jon McGlocklin Bucks
Bob Miller Kings Hockey
Mike Patrick ESPN
Jerry Reynolds Kings TV
John Robinson Sports USA
Warner Wolf WABC Radio
Vin Scully Dodgers R/TV

Random comments:

Hubie Brown 86 Has temerity not to age and not to break
Mike Emrick 73 Card him. Doc sounds half his age
Greg Gumbel 73 Gentle and assuring in the studio
Slick Leonard 87 An avuncular curmudgeon with an apt story
Al McCoy 86 Indestructible – even with Kryptonite
Al Michaels 75 Seemingly Flawless
Brent Musburger 80 Strong opinions keep you forever young
Woody Paige 73 A tousled, impassioned professor
Bill Raftery 76 Hasn’t lost his spunk yet
Dick Vitale 80 Irrepressible energy who remains relevant
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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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Larry Ward
Larry Ward
1 year ago

There might be a few more NOT on a national scale but a decades long career just the same, including yours truly (50 years broadcasting sports/38 years professional baseball/three decades of college sports and other sports venues now at age 72+) Could make for another good column. Just sayin!!!

Michael Green
Michael Green(@michaelgreen)
1 year ago

Well, 80 may be the new 40! Or something like it. As I think about it, Chick Hearn had lost a step, but was still really good. Vin Scully did make more minor mistakes in his later years, but, even then, he was still the best. I think of Red Barber talking about being the “Old Redhead” in his thirties, and thinking he was older in his fifties!

Michael Green
Michael Green(@michaelgreen)
1 year ago

It always comes down to what they have left in the tank. I think of Lindsey Nelson talking about how the network radio pioneers burned out when they were young while team announcers lasted forever, then noticing how many team announcers were then dragged out kicking and screaming. Then I think of how there are announcers on that list I never liked anyway, so I suspect I wouldn’t think they’d slipped at all, and Ross Porter, who I have heard on college baseball sounding as great as ever. I guess it comes down to genes, and I don’t mean Deckerhoff!

Anrhony Perkins
1 year ago

There may be hope for me yet! I’m 60 and I’ve reported on almost every sport imaginable, in the USA and overseas. But my goal has always been and continues to be play-by-play.