MORE LEGENDS OF THE PRESS BOX

Amid the hype of Vin Scully’s retirement, not much was said or written about another broadcast booth story.  Further down the California coast (as well as the National League Western Division) another legend called it quits.

Dick Enberg who was the voice of the California Angels from 1969-1978 and again for the 1985 season was the Los Angeles area’s other legendary voice of summer.  In 2010 Enberg would resume as a local broadcaster, this time further south in San Diego.  Dick hung up his headset on October 2, a day that will be remembered in Southern California broadcasting history.

Just as Scully’s retirement got me to think of all the local voices I grew up with, Enberg’s career and retirement made me reflect on so many more voices that I grew up with on a national level.  Enberg’s voice was a staple on both NBC and CBS’s NFL broadcasts.

Before there was Chris Fowler and Brent Musberger there was Keith Jackson.  Anyone in my age group can remember Saturday afternoons, or evenings in the fall that would include Keith Jackson.  Mr. Jackson and ABC for that matter WAS college football in the 1970’s.  Who can forget the catch phrase “Whoa Nellie!” when games got exciting.

Way before the advent of ESPN, TBS and other cable outlets, it was ABC, NBC, and CBS that carried the load of nationally televised sports.

In 1970 the newly merged National Football League entered a brave new world in scheduling.  The league, along with ABC Sports launched a weekly finale to the mainly Sunday football stage.  Monday Night Football was born.  Jackson, along with former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith joined ABC Sports boxing broadcast legend Howard Cosell in the booth.The following year former New York Giants great Frank Gifford would replace Keith Jackson as the play by play man.  Monday Night Football was such a success that it remained a staple on ABC until 2005.  In 2006 the Monday Night telecast moved to ESPN, ABC’s sister network.  Not only does it continue to flourish, it also gave rise to games on Thursday and Sunday nights.

Who can forget Meredith bursting into song with “turn out the lights the party’s over” when the game was sealed and time was running out?  Who can ever forget Howard Cosell breaking the story on December 8, 1980 that John Lennon had been murdered?  Al Michaels would succeed Gifford as the play by play man in 1986.

Speaking of Al Michaels, who can ever forget his call of the Miracle on Ice at the 1980 Winter Olympics?  With time winding down in the USA semi-final victory over the heavily favored Soviet Union Michaels would utter these unforgettable words.  “Do you believe in miracles….YES!”  That phrase goes right along side “one small step for man…one giant leap for mankind!” in American television lore.

Along with Scully, Enberg, Jackson, and Michaels there is a lesser known play by play man who has been the voice of NFL football longer than anyone.  Don Criqui was behind the mic calling NFL and AFL football from 1967-2013 for both NBC and CBS.  Criqui was also the voice of fourteen Orange Bowl games.

Current FOX lead broadcaster Joe Buck is a second generation broadcaster.  His father, Jack Buck was a broadcast legend for the St. Louis Cardinals as well as a national broadcaster for CBS in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.  Who can forget his famous call of Kirk Gibson’s walk-off home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.  “I don’t believe what I just saw! I don’t believe what I just saw!” was the call on CBS, while Vin Scully described it as “she is gone!’ on the Dodgers Radio Network.

Sports will continue on, and broadcasters will come and go.  This year, we saw two of the best in the business leave the booth for good.  So this is for you guys in Southern California, from a blogger born and raised in New York and living in South Florida.  Thank you Vin for telling me to pull up a chair.  Thank you Dick for years of trivia on Sports Challenge and so many utterings of “Oh My!”

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