The top 10 sports broadcast calls of all time

The first week of April is usually full of sporting drama – March Madness ends just as the Masters begins. Both events are filled with riveting moments and both have a rich history of being broadcast live on television.

The 1979 NCAA championship game, forever known as Bird-vs.-Magic, is still the highest-rated basketball game ever televised (pro or college). The success of that game allowed the NCAA Tournament to go on its expansion binge and along with it, every single game being shown live on TV, producing some of the most unforgettable moments in sports.

The Masters is a pioneer in sports television, with tournaments broadcast live beginning in 1956, propelling Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus from great golfers into sporting icons.

Click here for more calls
Slideshow: The top 10 broadcasting calls

With these broadcasts came the inevitable memorable calls by the announcers. It’s a rare skill to summarize the occasion aptly and not be overwhelmed by it. Some announcers rise to the challenge, others fall victim to it. But either way, what they said at the spur of the moment, in complete spontaneity, would be preserved for posterity.

Vin Scully, widely acknowledged as the best baseball broadcaster of all time, in fact is also distinguished by his work on golf and football (did you know he called Dwight Clark’s catch for CBS?). Scully is also a master of knowing his medium, elegantly descriptive when on the radio (“2-and-2 to Harvey Kuenn, one strike away. Sandy into his windup, here’s the pitch. Swung on and missed, a perfect game.”), succinctly to the point on TV (“Little roller up along the first, behind the bag! It gets through Buckner, here comes Knight and the Mets win it!”). He never tries to talk over the crowd and yet speaks just enough to the demands of the moment.

Most announcers usually are not as controlled and serene as Scully. Many managed to ruin the moment by talking too much. Some simply just hollered incoherently. There are a select few, though excited at the height of the drama, uttered memorable one-liners that became just as famous as the moments themselves.

Who can forget Verne Lundquist’s “Yes, Sir!” when Nicklaus sank his birdie putt on 17 that all but sealed his historic sixth Masters victory 25 years ago? Or Gus Johnson, back in the day when Gonzaga was still a Cinderella, calling a Sweet 16 upset of Florida in 1999 – “The Slipper Still Fits!”

Sports television has been apart of our living rooms for half a century and there have been countless great games and great moments. But a certain few stick out in our minds – we can recite every single word of what was said at that moment – because those calls were so magical, so indelible, and sometimes, so hysterical. These are our top 10 broadcasting calls of all time:

The top 10:

1. Team USA defeats Soviet Union in 1980 Olympic Hockey: Al Michaels’ “Miracle” call
2. Bobby Thomson’s “shot” to win the pennant (1951): Russ Hodges’ call
3. Cal beats Stanford (“The Play” – 1982): Joe Starkey’s call
4. George Foreman knocks down Joe Frazier (1973): Howard Cosell’s call
5. Kirk Gibson’s HR in 1988 World Series: Jack Buck’s call
6. Tiger Woods’ chip shot on 16 at Masters (2005): Verne Lundquist’s call
7. Diego Maradona’s “Goal of the Century” in World Cup vs. England (1986): Victor Hugo Morales’ call
8. John Havlicek’s steal to seal Eastern Conference Finals for Celtics (1965): Johnny Most’s call
9. Doug Flutie’s “Hail Mary” (1984): Dan Davis’ call
10. Secretariat’s runaway Belmont win for Triple Crown (1973): Chic Anderson’s call

Slideshow: The top 10 broadcasting calls

Updated Wednesday, Apr 6, 2011