Top 50 network TV announcers: Nos. 21-50
21. Greg Gumbel
Gumbel defines the term nonintrusive. He anchors with aplomb and calls games with a quiet confidence, letting the action tell the story. He also switches seamlessly from studio to play-by-play; it’s no wonder he has earned so many high-profile assignments.
The older brother of Bryant Gumbel, Greg became the first African-American to call a Super Bowl in 2001.
22. Tim McCarver
The thinking man’s baseball announcer has pontificated from the World Series broadcast booth in nine straight Classics, 19 in all. It’s quite a record.
Studious and eloquent, McCarver makes ample use of replays to sharply diagnose every angle of the game. He sounds off freely and scholarly. Sports Illustrated once said, “When you ask him the time, he will tell you how a watch works.”
23. Jon Miller
Miller’s jolly voice, deliberate delivery, humor and love for the game are unmistakable. He effectively can weave a story into a broadcast and has developed a relaxed and conversational chemistry with partner Joe Morgan.
Miller also is known for his imitations of broadcasting immortals such as Vin Scully, Harry Caray and iconic Yankee Stadium announcer Bob Sheppard.
24. Mel Allen
Because World Series announcers in the ’50s and ’60s were generally chosen from the participating teams, “the Legendary Voice of the New York Yankees” called the Series more than anyone.
In addition to baseball, he was the voice of the Rose Bowl, which in the 1950s was the biggest football game of the year. He was in the broadcast perch for the ’52 game, which was the first coast-to-coast sports telecast, and for the ’62 game, the first televised in color.
From its inception in 1977 to 1995, Allen narrated “This Week in Baseball,” a popular television highlight show.
25. Joe Garagiola
Garagiola broke into broadcasting by calling Cardinals games with the legendary Harry Caray in St. Louis. From 1976 to 1982, Garagiola and ex-Yankee Tony Kubek, bantered, kibitzed and told war stories on NBC’s baseball coverage. For Garagiola, double plays were “pitchers’ best friends” and bunt hits were “line drives in the morning paper.”
Garagiola did play-by-play for six World Series and color for three.
26. Bryant Gumbel
One of the first prominent African-Americans in network sports, Bryant Gumbel is skillful and self-assured no matter the subject matter. He’s known for his sharp insight on NBC and HBO.
He also does not shy away from controversy.
“Try not to laugh when someone says these are the world’s greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the games look like a GOP convention,” he said before the 2006 Olympics.
27. Don Meredith
In 1970, “Dandy” Don Meredith brought an irreverence not heard before and perhaps not since. In the ABC “Monday Night Football” booth, the ex-Cowboys quarterback balanced the stern and irascible Howard Cosell with cheery humor and a laid-back demeanor.
He brought neighborly warmth, which the viewing constituency loved, from good ol’ boys in Texas to the hardy souls of the upper Midwest. And once a game’s outcome was secure, no matter what point of the game, Meredith would sing – to Cosell’s deep annoyance – “Turn out the lights, the party’s over, they say all good things must end.”
28. Joe Morgan
Since the 1990 inception of “Sunday Night Baseball,” Morgan and partner Jon Miller have formed a pleasing partnership and a comfortable fit.
Morgan is glib, anecdotal and opinionated but not overbearing. He reminisces, explains the deeper intricacies of hitting and makes constructive suggestions to improve baseball. Despite being equipped with advanced tools, Morgan keeps his analysis simple.
29. Phyllis George
With much fanfare, George broke the shackles of the gender gap in 1975 when she joined CBS’ “NFL Today.” Impervious to the brusque opinions of edgy host Brent Musburger and crusty handicapper Jimmy the Greek, she engaged gracefully.
Although CBS was accused of gimmickry, George distinguished herself as the progenitor of women network sportscasters.
30. Ray Scott
Scott, who worked four Super Bowls for CBS in the mid-1970s, might have been the first to understand that television play-by-play is about putting a caption with the picture. He accepted the fact that it was a color man’s medium. The Pennsylvania native set the standard for succinct and economic play calling. Measured phrases only – “Starr, Pitts, touchdown!”
31. Terry Bradshaw
A cross of edge and self-deprecation, Bradshaw brings humor and jocularity to the “NFL on Fox” set. Count on energy, praise and criticism every week. The Hall of Famer squirms and gesticulates wildly while kibitzing and engaging with his studio mates.
32. Jack Whitaker
A renaissance man and wordsmith, this Philadelphian did it all in his years at CBS and ABC: NASL Soccer, horse racing, the Masters, the Super Bowl and game shows. Whitaker always delivered eloquently. “[Jack] Nicklaus is galvanizing the patrons!”
33. Al McGuire
Before there was Dick Vitale, there was Al McGuire. Extemporizing through stream of consciousness, McGuire preached life lessons. Part nightclub act, part bartender, all genuine.
The country’s basketball lingo was ingrained with McGuire-isms. It was part of the coach’s charm. The “aircraft carrier” was the big center and “the ballerina in the sky” was a player who jumped high. The “French pastry” was a showy move and “cupcakes” were easy opponents.
34. Dick Stockton
Stockton never quite reached the top, but his durable 40-year career is the envy of many. It has been packed with unforgettable assignments, including the lead voice of CBS’ NBA coverage, lots of baseball, including a World Series, and many years of the NFL.
35. Tony Kubek
Kubek, a former player, combined with Joe Garagiola, bringing a critical edge, undaunted by baseball officials, sponsors or network executives. “I’m a purist,” he said. “I hope we never go to interleague play, and I don’t like the DH. I’ve said it over and over again; it’s a dumb rule.”
Kubek’s style might have fashioned a trend of color commentators that included the ex-players who followed, like Jim Palmer, Tim McCarver and Jim Kaat.
36. Chris Schenkel
A smooth baritone, Schenkel was identified with sports on network television for five decades. Schenkel voiced Giants games for 14 years on CBS and called the famous Colts-Giants overtime championship thriller in 1958.
37. Mike Emrick
This Michigan native is to hockey what the esteemed Vin Scully is to baseball – its consummate protagonist, persuasive and expressive.
Because of the challenges of following the puck on television, hockey play-by-play announcers provide more detail, much like on radio. Doc (he has a doctorate) innately engages viewers with captivating description, inflection and instinct.
38. James Brown
The knowledgeable and gregarious Brown was hired in the late 1980s by CBS and assigned NFL, NBA and Olympic telecasts. When Fox snapped the NFL’s NFC package away from CBS in 1994, the upbeat performer was invited to anchor the shows around the games. So for more than a decade and always with a smile, Brown graced our Sundays, orchestrating the colorful and opinionated bunch of Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Jimmy Johnson and, initially, Cris Collinsworth. Brown now is back at CBS in the NFL studio anchor chair.
39. Hubie Brown
Hubie Brown brought a unique teaching style to television in the 1980s, leaving vocal fingerprints that often are imitated but never duplicated. He continues to mirror the same instructive flair that has made his basketball clinic a hit.
Beginning with Magic and Bird and continuing through Jordan’s run of championships, this natural teacher turned the position of basketball analyst into colorful pedagogy. He has challenged viewers to understand the chess game and to crawl into the minds of the coaches.
40. Lindsey Nelson
From the 1950s to the 1970s, college football and Lindsey Nelson were inseparable. There were Rose Bowls and 25 years of the Cotton Bowl. Nelson did tons of NFL, too. In all, he dignified the airwaves for 33 football seasons (21 on CBS and 12 with NBC).
41. Jim Simpson
From the mid-’60s through the mid-’70s, sports’ golden years on network television, NBC dominated the landscape, owning the majority of sports rights. If top gun Curt Gowdy was doing the Rose Bowl, Simpson was doing the Orange Bowl. If Gowdy did the National League playoff, Simpson did the American League playoff. Unlike today with tons of channels and many overlapping games, there was not much to go around. Gowdy was a household name with Simpson not far behind.
42. Verne Lundquist
No one man could replace Keith Jackson as America’s voice of college football. It would require at least two esteemed names. Brent Musburger is one. Lundquist, CBS’ lead voice of the SEC, is the other. A fall Saturday isn’t complete until Lundquist chortles and presides happily from another hallowed stadium.
43. Jim Lampley
He’s done just about everything in a television career that began at age 25 in 1974. If he’s identified with one sport, it’s boxing, which he has called for decades, covering some 500 tussles and serving as blow-by-blow voice of some dandies like Riddick Bowe-Andrew Golota and Buster Douglas-Mike Tyson.
44. Ernie Johnson
Yes, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith are the centerpieces of TNT’s NBA pregame show, but this silky-smooth veteran of 19 years keeps the peace, steadies the combatants and keeps things moving. He’s the model host for a fluid show.
45. Don Criqui
Criqui’s unmistakable timbre has been ingrained on network television since 1967. The Buffalo native has voiced NFL play-by-play commandingly and put his signature on 14 Orange Bowl telecasts.
46. Tom Hammond
Off air, this pleasant Kentucky native has a restrained demeanor. On air, his tense delivery is riveting theater.
Whether it’s Notre Dame football, eight Olympic Games, the NFL or the NBA, this Dick Enberg protégé continues to stamp the peacock network’s sports broadcasts.
Hammond has become the voice of horse racing in America. His enthusiasm for the sport of kings manifests itself each spring when he calls the Triple Crown.
47. Bud Collins
Collins was tennis’ on-air symbol on television for 30 years. His uneven voice and instructive comments made him sound like the ex-coach that he was (Brandeis).
How impactful was Collins? NBC paid a three-minute tribute to him upon his retirement.
48. Ken Venturi
Venturi overcame a stuttering problem in his youth to become a golf legend, speaking authoritatively and persuasively as CBS’ golf analyst alongside Pat Summerall and Jim Nantz.
49. Jim Gray
Like him or not, Gray has given the sideline reporter position an edge and sense of purpose. His aggressive style took center stage in 1999, when he pressed Pete Rose on accusations that Rose had bet on baseball. Gray has had stints with CBS, NBC and ABC/ESPN, and he still works boxing for Showtime.
50. Harry Wismer
Pioneers and trailblazers deserve recognition, and Wismer was a broadcaster, promoter and owner. He later was instrumental in the formation of the American Football League and owned the New York Titans when the league opened in 1960.
David J. Halberstam is a broadcast sports historian and sales and media consultant. He is the author of “Sports on New York Radio: A Play-by-Play History” (1999; Masters Press/McGraw Hill).