Announcers Columnist

Top 100 NETWORK voices in a century of broadcasting; From TV to radio and through the U.S.

 

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Halberstam

Yes, the centennial began this past July 2nd. Radio had hit the ethers 100 years earlier in 1921. If WW II hadn’t disrupted American ingenuity, TV would have mushroomed earlier.

As it turned out, television essentially started in 1947. But it took some fifteen years for the new medium to hit critical mass, 90%. This list of the top network sports personalities is made up of  of national broadcasters, representing both TV and radio.

Thought process in identifying the names:

  • Established themselves prominently, nationally
  • Longer time-in-grade than most
  • Very popular with fans
  • The list represents a widespread of eras
  • Measuring the vast landscape each voice covered
  • Memorable catch-phrases
  • Painted word pictures on radio and/or captioned them on TV economically
  • Contribution to the sport, the school and/or the medium
  • Did they teach or write broadcast tutorials? How will each be remembered?
  • This is an all-time list of 100 years. For the most part, these names are made up of TV play-by-players Early, national radio voices are recognized too
  • A limited number of studio and top analysts are on the list

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

Troy Aikman--Fox-NFL – Always on his game. Chuckles with Joe, a perfect partner

Marv Albert--NBC-NBA – Stylized, Did both NBA and NHL finals

Kenny Albert–Fox-NFL – A workhorse, always there and dependable

Mel Allen–NBC-MLB – A pioneer, the envy of any budding broadcaster in the 50s

Red Barber–CBS, NBC – A bit odd off-air, gave baseball its radio geography and early TV rhythm 

Charles Barkley –Turner-NBA – Made everyday humor accepting on TV

Chris Berman–ESPN – Went from offbeat studio man to a repetitive and tired clown

Terry Bradshaw–Fox-NFL – He’s about saying little, and finding the next camera to park his face

Tim Brando–CBS-Fox – One of the very best, equally excellent calling big games or in studio

Mike Breen–ESPN – Bang is not yes, yet the younger generation believes it is. Good for him

Tom Brookshier–CBS – He and Summerall enjoyed a drink before and after games. During?

Hubie Brown–Various – Disciplined and professorial. Great teacher of the game

James Brown–CBS Sports – The perfect gentleman. They don’t come better

Frank Broyles–ABC – A Keith Jackson staple in the 70s

Jack Buck –Fox – Different from Joe, The world changed. Jack spoke his mind

Joe Buck –CBS – In an economy of language, he shares material info

Doris Burke–ESPN – Tough not to appreciate where she is, but she’s no Hubie Brown

Mary Carillo--NBC – If tennis were more popular, Mary would dominate the set

Bud Collins–NBC- Bud and Enberg were must watched TV on NBC. Rest in peace

Cris Collinsworth–NBC-NFL – That giddy delivery will never depress viewers

Lee Corso–ESPN – TV has kept the man alive. GameDay without Corso? Tough sledding

Howard-Cosell–ABC – Fiery personality. Impromptu and brilliantly extemporaneous 

Bob Costas–NBC – He’s blessed. Best ever mix of play-by-player, orator and interviewer 

Don Criqui–CBS-NBC – That big voice reminds Americans of so many fall Sundays

Dizzy Dean–CBS- Owned baseball on TV in the 1950s, terrible grammar excused 

Dan Dierdorf--ABC-CBS- Intelligence made him a commentator on MNF with Al Michaels

Don Dunphy--ABC – When boxing was fashionable, Dunphy was a TV personality

Ian Eagle-CBS — A Marv Albert disciple and son Noah right behind both of them

Rich Eisen–NFLN – From Staten Island, Northwestern, sportswriter onto ESPN and NFL Network

Mike Emrick–NBC-NHL – Eloquent, a deep dictionary and an unrestrained passion for the NHL

Dick Enberg–NBC-CBS – A storyteller sprinkled broadcasts with gripping human interest angles

Roy Firestone–ESPN – Miss him. A magical ability to get the best to relax and tell their stories

Joe Garagiola--NBC-MLB –  Joe deferred to Vin on Kirk’s night. Never a better moment

Frank Gifford–ABC-NFL – Arledge gambled, dropped Jackson for Frank. Miscast? Maybe

Curt Gowdy--NBC – Dominated play-by-play in late 60s and 70s. Best at hoops, he said

Greg Gumbel–CBS –Taciturn, reserved and unimposing. Excellent in studio, okay on game call

Bryant Gumbel –NBC- More gutsy than his older brother. Took command in-studio on pre/post

Tom Hammond--NBC – A star who was underused. Think more NFL, NBA and track

Kevin Harlan–CBS-Turner – Has the timbre and emotional investment into every game 

Ted Husing--CBS Radio Network – A pioneer, football was his game. Touched Brickhouse, plus

Keith Jackson--ABC – Best college footballer. Sonorous, never shrill. Saturdays meant Keith

Ernie  Johnson Jr–Turner – Simple! Barkley, Shaq and Kenny trio wouldn’t work without him

Charlie Jones–NBC -Husky and syrupy, NFL Sundays meant Jones was calling a game somewhere

Dan Kelly--CBS- I’m in Kelly camp, followed by Tim Ryan and Doc Emrick among NHL top three

Suzy Kolber–ESPN – The Philly lady works tirelessly and it’s why she’s risen through the ranks 

Tony Kubek–NBC-MLB – No analytics. Give us the fundamentals and nothing too complicated

Steve Levy–ESPN – Three in a booth requires mental timekeeping. Levy makes it look easy

Verne Lundquist–CBS-Turner – Who’ll ever forget those belly laughs? An old-school listen

John Madden–CBS+ – When he surfaced in the late ’70s, the NFL on TV took a funny turn

Paul Maguire–NBC-ESPN – Her liked working with Marv most. A wisecrack turned into banter

Clem McCarthy--NBC Radio Network. Did ’38 Schmeling-Louis, 75% of U.S. listened, No TV yet 

Tim McCarver–Various – Cocky and never wrong. Still, survived NBC, ABC, CBS an Fox

Sean McDonough–Various – Silver-tongued with the command of a drill sergeant – Superb

Jim McKay–ABC – “They’re all gone” and “The thrill of victory….,” Jim in perpetuity

Graham McNamee–NBC Radio-Pioneer, no one to follow, Still, MLB, Rose Bowls and the ring

Barry Melrose–ESPN-NHL – A funny man with a chuckling partner. NHL needs him on ESPN

Curt Menefee -Fox – Confident, keeps the room in check, despite egos, like Bradshaw, Long

Don Meredith--ABC- “Turn out the lights the party is over.” Those were fun Mondays

Al Michaels–ABC-NBC – Friend Curt Smith might say, “the cynosure of NFLcasts.” 36 years plus

Jon Miller–ESPN – Why the Bristolites didn’t renew him is as mysterious as Allen, Prince, plus

Joe Morgan–ESPN – Many were critical of him. If I’m Fox, I’d trade dull Smoltz for Joe anytime

Brent Musburger–CBS-ESPN – Reared in rugged Montana, has edge and won’t go down easily

Jim Nantz--CBS – His sturdy voice is inflected with a token touch of firmness, no matter the event

Lindsey Nelson–CBS-NBC –Known for gaudy jackets, college football, NFL and 17 years with Mets

Brad Nessler–CBS-ESPN Soft spoken, a complete pro, right on it

Pat O’Brien–CBS – He dressed the part on the sidelines. Showtime’s Magic, Riley and Hollywood

Merlin Olsen –NBC – There are those who say that Enberg and Olsen were the NFL’s best TV duo

Shaquille O’Neal –Turner -A bear of a man with a heart equally as big

Billy Packer–CBS -Contrarian, enjoyed engaging in polemics, and for decades a Final Four fixture 

Dave Pasch–ESPN – If he can handle Walton’s need for attention, he gets an A for the rest

Van Patrick–Mutual – Wonderful delivery, remembered for his years with Tigers, Lions and ND

Mike Patrick–ESPN – Immediately identifiable, rhythmic, in command, should still be on-air   

Bill Raftery--CBS-Fox -From ESPN to Fox and #1 on CBS, UCLA open in a 2-3 zone

Ahmad-Rashad--NBC – His relationship with Jordan’s camp made the GOAT easier to access 

Tony Romo–CBS – Stormed onto scene. Is he remembered more for his analysis or $17M per?

Tim Ryan–CBS-NBC – Native Canadian can do anything well, from the NHL to tennis and the NFL

Craig Sager–Turner –  His interviews and flashy jackets, part of the panoply. See Pop

Lisa Salters–ESPN – Ear and eye for news, played sports at Penn State, comes and goes quietly

Chris Schenkel –CBS-ABC – His mix: An emollient voice, adequate prep and an average delivery

Jon Sciambi--ESPN – Simply different in an unvarying world of baseball broadcasters

Ray Scott--CBS – Got $800 to do Super Bowls in the late 60s. Never used an agent. Should have

Dan Shulman--ESPN – Baseball, yes. Hoops became his thing too. Why not? He’s Canadian.

Phil Simms–CBS – He wasn’t funny and never flew off the handle. But I guess it wasn’t enough 

Jim Simpson–NBC-ESPN – The World is a storehouse of wonderful things – always – upbeat

Kenny Smith–Turner – Irreverent Chuck and unpredictable Shaq needy straight man Kenny

Bill Stern–NBC Radio Network- The truth didn’t matter as long as it was entertaining 

Dick Stockton–CBS-Fox – No shtick, no patented phrases, just straight forward play-by-play

Hannah Storm--ESPN, NBC – Can’t be better prepared. Pregnant twice while covering Jordan 

Hank-Stram–CBS – One of the better analysts on both TV and radio’s Monday Night Football

Pat Summerall–CBS-Fox – In retrospect, he made it big, despite a vapid and empty presentation

Michelle Tafoya–NBC: She: “The distinction between men and women in media is old and tired” 

Sam Taub–NBC Radio – Gave the fight game its language on radio when boxing was huge

Mike Tirico— NBC Sports – An iota or two above average, yet dependable at most he does

Bob Trumpy–NBC – Sustained his hoarse voice for years; No mistake who was behind the mic

Matt Vasgersian--ESPN – Just as he was warming up at ESPN, he was inexplicably gone

Lesley Visser–CBS – A spirited pioneer who broke down walls peacefully and others followed

Dick Vitale–ESPN – Will always be remembered for his generosity and popularizing the game

Jack Whitaker–CBS-ABC- Poetic and extemporaneous, saw events from a different perspective

Bob Wischusen –ESPN – In this homogenous announcing world, he puts his heart into the mic

Harry Wismer–Dumont – First NFL broadcaster, Did early title games on network TV

 

 

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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

The list is incredible and, yes, I’d note that Sirius XM promoted a question for Tom Brady from Vin Scully and said the GOAT’s got together. Well, that may overinflate Brady’s greatness (no applause for that, please), but, no question about Vin.

I had to chuckle about Red Barber being odd off-air. To make the list, most of them had to be a little bit odd on-air, which I don’t mean snarkily. Something had to stand out.