Colossal Voices

Ten prodigious voices who leaped into play-by-play instantly and enjoyed a sustained career

 

Precocious Starters 

I’m sure there are more. Yet great leaps right out of the college gate include masters:

Kenny Albert 

It was a wonderful privilege for the youngster to follow his dad from the time he was an infant. Dad Marv was a great mentor and Kenny followed in his footsteps. At 22, Kenny, fresh from NYU, worked for the Washington Caps and Wizards. Now, 55, Kenny deservedly earned the #1 job calling the NHL on TBS. He’s done, NFL, MLB, NHL and some NBA. If that’s not enough, how about the Knicks and Rangers. He’s facile with each sport. Most importantly, he’s unpretentious. 

Marv Albert began to dominate sports broadcasting beginning in the 1960s when the Knicks and Rangers were reviving themselves. He’ll tell you that he was influenced by two mentors, Marty Glickman and Les Keiter. From the New York area where he did the Knicks, Rangers and Football Giants, he started doing sports on WNBC’s local 6 and 11pm news. Then football and basketball on the NBC network. On January 27, 1963, he filled in for mentor Glickman, starting a glowing on-air basketball career, doing an NBA Game at age 21 for the Knicks

Tim Brando has a distinct, riveting and tingling call and still does. He renewed with Fox for three years. He’ll continue to do college hoops and football. His love for college football is redolent in his voice. He grew up with the game in his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. Viewers have known him for his years at ESPN and later on CBS covering the NCAA Tourney. In recent years Brando teamed with Spencer Tillman on football. In 1976. Brando hardly 20, began his career as a disc jockey. 

Bob Costas needs no introduction. He attended Syracuse and was up for grabs by broadcasters while in college. His command of the language, understanding of sports and ability to describe games were unsurpassed. Bob was the topic of conversation, who threw his heart into his work. In his early years, it was the American Basketball Association and the Spirit of St. Louis. In his young twenties he showed his wares on powerhouse KMOX Radio in St. Louis. By the mid 1970s, Costas was getting a strong look from CBS and NBC. In 1980, NBC hired him. He was there for some forty years. His assertiveness, versatility and simply time in grade stamp his accomplishments. (Costas, left)

Noah Eagle came onto the scene just after he graduated Newhouse at Syracuse some three years ago. Like Kenny Albert’s profile, Noah’s dad, Ian, was baptized with Jim Nantz’ college basketball number one spot.  The older Eagle takes over the Final Four call next spring. Noah Eagle was named the play-by-player for Saturday Night’s NBC college football. That’s pretty lofty for a 25 year old. Noah is so confident that he will leave the Clippers radio broadcasts at the end of the upcoming NBA season.

Kevin Harlan was a KU kid. Fresh out of school, at age 22 in 1985, he became the radio announcer for the Kansas City Kings. It was the team’s last season in KC before it moved to Sacramento. Harlan with an overpowering voice then became the Voice of Kansas U’s football and basketball before the networks jumped all over him. Think NFL for many years on radio and TV including more Super Bowl’s than anyone else. A blessed broadcaster.

Sean McDonough. He interned at Enterprise while a student at Syracuse University. In 1981, only 19, he did college football on TV of the Ivy League. A year later he was calling Syracuse Chiefs Baseball. His career has been very well rounded, the World Series on CBS, Monday Night Football, college football and now the Stanley Cup. Sean’s intonation and enunciation are unmatched. He’s a perfectionist and comfortable at whatever he does. Sean grew up in New England and does a limited schedule 

Al Michaels had great confidence. He could hardly have written it any better. College at ASU. But there weren’t many sustainable job opportunities then, late 60s. So in 1966 he moved to Hawaii where among other things he recreated road Minor League games. Then the Reds called and he became popular in Cincinnati. You know the rest: Monday, Sunday and Thursday Night Football, 11 Super Bowls, NBA Finals, Racing, Olympics, the NBA Finals and World Series. He was with NBC representing the Reds alongside NBC’s Curt Gowdy on the 1972 Fall Classic. He was 27. Al calls Vin Scully and Gowdy his two coaches.

Vin Scully was a Bronx boy who knew from the day that when he was a youngster, he wanted to announce himself. He listened to Ted Husing in the 1930s do college football. It was the roar of the crowd that triggered Vin’s interests in broadcasting. At some point all he wanted was the microphone. He got it and changed the play-by-play role. No one was more comfortable with it. No one did baseball better than he. Never at a loss for the perfect word or a pertinent story. Youngest to ever do a World Series, 1953 at 25 for NBC.

Mike Tirico Unlike Kenny Albert and Noah Eagle, Tirico had no one to introduce him to decision makers.  Mike did it on his own. Pushing hard early, he earned great praise and visibility at Syracuse during his first 25 years at ESPN. Tirico was the first recipient of the Robert Costas scholarship at SU. He’s now reached the pinnacle, Sunday Night Football on NBC. Prior, pretty much right out of college he started and pushed hard at ESPN. College Basketball, College Football, the NFL, Golf, Tennis and more. 

 

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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
10 months ago

It’s an incredible list, and when I see some sons on there, I think of how Skip Caray put it: He said he knows he had some advantages as Harry’s kid, but once he got the job, he had to be good enough to keep it. So it is here.