The Best Broadcasters In Sports History
Four of the best friends that you've likely never met
Being a sports fan for the bulk of my life, many of my best memories of that genre is watching a game on TV and listening to the people describing the action, giving backgrounds and interesting info about the players and coaches, and being appropriately excited when the team they're covering wins or does something heroic.
Millions of fans have grown up with these men with the suits on the microphone, and have provided at least part of the soundtrack to their lives, to the point that even though they have likely never met them, they are considered friends.
I was recently giving some thought of who the best sportscasters were, and I came up with these four men, covering three sports:
BASEBALL: Vin Scully
This person, who has covered the Dodgers both in Brooklyn and Los Angeles since 1950 and is currently in his 62nd season with the club, is the one that I consider the greatest sportscaster of all time.
I understand that fans on the East Coast may prefer the Yankees' Mel Allen or the Phillies' Harry Kalas, and that Midwesterners swear by Jack Buck in St. Louis and Harry Caray in Chicago - who had the greatest 7th inning stretch of all time with the Cubs at Wrigley Field - but with all due respect, I'd take Vin Scully over any of those men, and not just because I'm a Dodger fan, either.
When the Dodgers moved to L.A. in 1958, it was Scully who ingrained the Southern California fans to Major League Baseball more than anyone else; with thousands of folks listening to him on their transistor radios his voice could be heard all over Dodger Stadium.
The overwhelming reason why I remain a Dodger fan, despite their recent shortcomings, is because of this man; his legacy was passed down from my grandparents to me, and it is my fervent wish to meet Scully one day - I admire him that much.
Add to that the fact that he called several World Series for NBC; who will ever forget him shouting, "Here comes Knight, and the Mets win it!" at the end of Game Six of that 1986 Fall Classic?
Simply put, there has never been anyone like Vin Scully, and there will never be anyone like him.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Keith Jackson
Being the fanatical fan of the college gridiron that I am, I - and millions of others across America - eagerly anticipated ABC's Game of the Week telecasts so I could hear this man spin his tales.
The down home style that he exuded, and the way that he called the action on the field as if he was hanging out with you at a barbecue, was always soothing to me. It's safe to say that a huge factor in college football exploding in the way it has, with record attendance and the Bowl Championship Series rivaling the Super Bowl in popularity, is Jackson, as he was an essential part of the sport's growth for nearly forty years.
Having called many epic games, including a host of Rose Bowls and BCS Title games as well as rivalry grudge matches such as UCLA-USC and Michigan-Ohio State, it was a sad day in sports when Jackson retired after the 2006 BCS Championship between Texas and USC at the Rose Bowl.
I knew right then that the college gridiron wouldn't be the same.
PRO FOOTBALL: Pat Summerall
I remember as a kid on Sundays tuning into CBS's NFL Game of the Week, and later on the NFL on Fox, and like Keith Jackson getting a soothing feeling whenever this man, along with John Madden as color commentator, was in the booth calling the game.
Summerall's expertise, as he was a former New York Giant, was what made those NFL broadcasts special, and was much more dignified, refined, and just plain better than the folks on ABC's Monday Night Football, with Howard Cosell and Don Meredith singing "Turn out the lights, the party's over!"
Cosell and Meredith just seemed less classy to me, which is what Summerall provided more than anything else over the course of his career, which included sixteen Super Bowls; along with Madden, he is one guy in the booth that I greatly miss.
BASKETBALL: Chick Hearn
Even if this Los Angeles Lakers great did not call an all-time record 3,368 consecutive games and provided Southern Californians with thrills and delights during his time with that iconic NBA club, starting in 1965 and continuing until his death in 2002, Francis "Chick" Hearn would still be the greatest basketball announcer of all time because of this quote that he always said near the end of a Laker win:
"This game is in the refrigerator! The door is closed, the lights are out, the eggs are cooling, the butter's getting hard, and the Jell-o is jiggling!"
And that's not even considering his other "Chickisms", such as...
"He's yo-yoing up and down...dribble drive, slaaam dunk!"
"He has two chances, slim and none, and slim has left the building."
To be blunt about it, Hearn is as an important part of Laker lore (and to millions of fans more) as Kareem, Magic, Kobe, the Laker Girls, and Jack Nicholson sitting court side giving the choke sign to opponents, not to mention the other celebrities like Denzel Washington and Dyan Cannon being regulars at games in the Forum and later at Staples Center.
The real legacy of this man, in my view, was that he, along with the Lakers, did much to bring a city as diverse - and sometimes polarized - as Los Angeles together; whenever that team has won the NBA title, there are no conflicts as virtually everyone in L.A. is immersed in purple and gold, and Hearn had much to do with that.
That's what I'll always remember when I think about that man.
There you have it, my list of what should be the Mount Rushmore of sports broadcasters.
I know that there are many others that fans are loyal to, but in my view these men behind the mike are head and shoulders above the rest.
And I'm sure there are plenty of folks that would agree with me on that.