Over time we came to know their voices much more than their faces, but the embodiment of the work of legendary sports announcers like Dick Enberg and Keith Jackson, who both recently passed away, lives on forever. With them, goes their own little part of an era.
Keith Jackson was 89 years old when he passed away on January 12, 2018, but for the longest time it seemed like he’d be in the broadcast booth forever, especially that of college football, his signature broadcast entity. Fans would tune in just to hear him say “Whoa, Nellie” when he got excited about a big play. A former U.S. Marine, Jackson became synonymous with college football and delivered his broadcasts with his own style of clear and unique diction that fit the game perfectly. He had big-time coaches like Joe Paterno and Woody Hayes join him in the broadcast booth and is credited with giving Michigan Stadium its “Big House” nickname.
In a career that began in 1952, he called some of the biggest Saturday games ever to be played, along with numerous bowl games. He retired and then un-retired a few times, with his last college football broadcast eventually being the 2006 BCS National Championship Game when Texas beat USC in a nail-biter.
Jackson did much more than college football, however. In fact, the only college season he missed was in 1971, when he was the first commentator for ABC’s Monday Night Football. He witnessed many historic sports moments; covering both the Summer and Winter Olympics in the 1970s and 1980s, both the Daytona and Indianapolis 500 in auto racing, and he was in the booth in 1978 for Bucky Dent’s famous home run for the New York Yankees against the Boston Red Sox. For ABC’s Wide World of Sports he introduced the sports world to icons like Evel Knievel and Sugar Ray Leonard.
Then there’s Dick Enberg, who passed away late in 2017 at the age of 82. Enberg’s smooth, tell-it-like-it-is delivery became an NFL staple during his years at NBC and CBS. Quite often, his broadcasting team would get the lead national game on a Sunday and he also called numerous Super Bowls. A true gentleman at the microphone, his style was perfect for sports like golf, tennis and even horse racing. He too made his share of contributions to the Olympics.
While he also did his share of baseball, including calling San Diego Padres games on the radio in the later part of his career, it was football that was Enberg’s specialty, and it will be all those Sunday afternoon football games that he’ll be mostly remembered for.
The old-school era of sports announcing continues to wane with the passing of such legends.