The phrase that became Dick Enberg’s signature first entered his lexicon years before he ever sat behind a microphone.
“Oh My!” was an expression Enberg heard frequently from his mother while growing up on a Michigan farm. Belle Enberg often used it to express dismay after Enberg or one of his siblings misbehaved.
Soon after Enberg enrolled at Indiana as a graduate student in September 1957, he won an audition to do radio play-by-play during Hoosiers football and basketball games. Enberg believed he needed a catchphrase, his answer to Harry Caray’s “Holy Cow!,” Bill King’s “Holy Toledo!” or Red Barber’s “Oh Doctor!”
Among the phrases that Enberg tried out was the one that was a staple of his Midwestern upbringing. Enberg threw in an “Oh My!” whenever Indiana did something notable on the basketball court or the football field.
“My excited descriptions of the Indiana fast break were often punctuated with “Oh My!”, which was first used during one of those basketball games,” Enberg wrote in his 2012 autobiography. “One night, when the Hoosiers were on an up-tempo roll, it just came out of my mouth in one loud burst— ‘OOOOOHHHHH MY!!!’ I felt like it capped an exciting moment. The next day some of my friends on campus greeted me with a ‘Hi Dick … Oh My!’ They liked it!”
Enberg, long recognized as one of the most beloved and versatile sports broadcasters of his era, died Thursday at age 82. The hall-of-fame play-by-play man won a trophy case worth of awards during his six-decade play-by-play career during which he called everything from Wimbledon, to the Super Bowl, to the Final Four, to the Olympics.
“Oh My!” will forever be the phrase Enberg is best known for because he used it so often. He would throw it out anytime that anything significant happened in a game as a way of expressing enthusiasm, surprise or disappointment.
“Those two words have become my great friends as a broadcaster, describing the total range of athletic emotions,” Enberg wrote in his autobiography.
“At the very least, they serve to call back the television spectator who may have wandered off to the refrigerator. I’ve always tried to use it as an exclamation point, a signal that the play was unique or spectacular enough to warrant the viewer’s return to the TV set.”
“Oh My!” actually got Enberg in trouble early in his tenure as the play-by-play voice of the San Diego Padres from 2009-2016.
Some San Diego fans were unhappy Enberg dropped an “Oh My!” describing a spectacular late-inning catch by Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp that prevented the Padres from winning a game. Those fans felt Enberg’s trademark “Oh My!” should only have been used if the Padres got a clutch hit or a key home run. and not if the opposing team did the same.
“I was called into the office of management a couple days later and they said, ‘We’re getting some phone calls from Padres fans that you’re a little too friendly for the opposing team,'” Enberg said in December 2014 after being named the Forbes C. Frick award winner for broadcasting excellence.
Thankfully for Enberg, the controversy was short-lived. “Oh My!” remained a staple of his broadcasts until he retired last year.
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