My Top Ten Sports Announcers Since I’ve Been Listening…………By RC

As I sit night after night enjoying another Texas Ranger baseball game (unless they are beating up my Yankees) I am always so very impressed with the color commentary of the very knowledgeable Tom Grieve. His refreshingly honest analysis adds so much to the game itself and not to just the Texas Rangers. It is easy for the fan of any team to get worked into a frenzy over a great play, a bad call, or any other excitable moment but Tom Terrific always keeps everything in perspective. Since he played the game at the professional level he has a tremendous respect and appreciation of the game and how it is being played no matter which team the combatants are suited up for and representing………………

His honesty in his breakdown of the game is never to belittle or to create heroism; just a pure assessment. If he sees a pitcher making silly pitches or a batter taking out of control swings, he lets it be known and then explains his remarks. He is usually right on and I will say that the listener or viewer has usually thought the same thing before he actually speaks his mind. So he brings that welcomed knowledge and experience to the broadcast booth every night………………

I will not include Tom Grieve in my top ten but I did want to mention his professionalism and confidence as trademarks that I will use to name the rest of the folks on this list………………………

#1 Don Meredith. Maybe you have to be from Texas to really appreciate the talent of the Dallas Cowboy quarterback turned broadcaster. His Texas drawl was his trademark along with his lightning quick wit. He always had a presence of mind about him that allowed him to make comments on any situation happening on the field or in the stands. Plus, like Grieve, he had played the game professionally and his experience on one of the most adored teams of his time gave him an insight into the inner workings of a game that the regular fan could not really reach. He also worked with one of the most annoying of all sports announcers in Howard Cosell who was probably brilliant but was no match for Dandy Don with his humorous yet accurate responses to those of the self adoring commentary by Howard. So “Turn Out The Lights” on the rest of the field because the late great Dandy Don was the best………….

#2 Keith Jackson. Such a unique voice! If I heard his voice coming out of the tube, I stopped to listen because no matter which college football teams were playing Jackson could make them thrilling and interesting. The game could be a nail biter or a complete blowout and he could hold your attention for the entire game. I loved it when he was calling a Longhorn game simply because I knew it meant that it was a big game. He always got the biggest of games and never disappointed. He coined the phrase “the big uglies” referring to and giving seldom appreciation to the well-deserving linemen who battled in the trenches during the toughest of football games……………………..

#3 Bob Costas. I am not sure that my appreciation of Costas comes from the broadcast booth. His expertise lies in his work at a desk at the Olympics or back at the studio for a halftime report about a critical game at any level of any sport. Whether it is his immense knowledge of all sports, great preparation, or a combination of both, I just think that his ease on the national or world stage sets him apart as one of the great voices in some of the most crucial situations………………..

#4 Tim McCarver. Tim is always in the booth for baseball playoffs and big games during the course of the season. One of the main reasons that I like McCarver is because when he comes on the air, he always has a smile on his face and acts like a kid in a candy store because there is the possibility that he is about to call a game of major importance and he can hardly wait. I got to see him play and I will bet he was a great teammate because he seems to be a great teammate in the booth. He is much like Grieve at the next level. He keeps his cool during the course of a game and has that same incredibly honest approach………………..

#5 John Madden. This is probably my most controversial choice. Big John was always a favorite of mine because he would have the All-Madden team which usually featured those old workhorse slobber-knockers who seldom got the recognition that they deserved. He had a real appreciation for those players who were the glue that held the team together. His pows, wows, and whams or other descriptors always brought a chuckle from me as I listened to him get really stirred up over a sensational play. The guy never flew from site to site. He hated planes and would travel in his own bus. A Hall of Fame coach for the Oakland Raiders; he fit right into the world of the maverick Al Davis………………….

#6 Dick Vitale. That’s right baby Dick Vitale. When he shows up at courtside he is just so fired up being at the game. And he has an under-appreciated knowledge of the teams, the players on the team, the coach of the team, and most of all the universities and the personality of its fans. He always acts like a first time freshman at a college game. His genuine excitement for basketball is such a huge plus for the college game and no doubt helps set the stage for one of the greatest of all sporting events: March Madness…………….

#7 Dizzy Dean. Am I dating myself here? It will take a member of the “baby boomer” generation or the “Greatest Generation” to truly respect this pick. But back in the sixties Diz, along with his sidekick and a guy who could also very deservingly be on this list: Peewee Reese, brought baseball right into the living rooms all across America. For some reason he could make you feel that you were the one up to bat, or on the mound. He put you right in the stadium. His description of a player sliding into a base was his trademark call as he would announce in his booming voice that the player “slud” into the base. It drove English teachers crazy and made Peewee Reese laugh uncontrollably in the booth. And when Dizzy advertized Falstaff beer on a hot summer day he could also have every beer loving mouth in the country watering out of control………………………

#8 Pat Summerall. The former punter for the New York Giants had one of the smoothest voices on the air. He rarely ever broke that gentle tone yet had a sternness that left the listener hanging on every call. He too was a very knowledgeable broadcaster and his description of players or coaches was just the same as his play by play of the game. He had a knack for commanding the attention of his audience. He did this mainly because he always had such an authentic approach and a commitment to his listeners to be as accurate and colorful as possible without overreaching into a zone in which his personality did not belong. He battled alcoholism through much of his career and he and Mickey Mantle became close friends while living in Dallas after their careers in New York……………………

#9 Al McGuire. This former Marquette head coach and a national champion had great stories on the air, many about former players that he had coached. Every story was an attention-getter and never an ill-spoken word about any of those kids. By the time that he was finished with a broadcast he had made me feel ready to suit up and go to battle for him. It was like a recruiting speech during the entire game. His knowledge of the game and his ability to know instantly what was happening on the court was uncanny. It was as if he knew what was going to happen before it happened. And speaking of his stories about his players, he once quickly corrected a broadcast partner who criticized the college kids for going pro before their eligibility was finished. In defending the kids McGuire said that he had gone too far too many homes to recruit a kid who was so poor that when you looked in the refrigerator all that was there was the light. He never blamed them for taking the big bucks…………………

#10 Phyllis George. I can remember waiting anxiously for this former Miss America to make her debut on the broadcast scene, along with every other man or boy in the country. She was a raving beauty of which we all just wanted a glimpse. It never crossed my mind that she would be as accomplished a sportscaster, usually on the sideline, as she proved to be. She was in the know and her observation of the action was unbelievable. She gained respect very quickly and soon became highly respected in this male dominated profession. Her beauty became second nature…………………

These were the folks who through the years helped to turn my world. They had that sixth sense of putting the viewers and listeners right in the huddle or right in the middle of the action. I continue to have a deep appreciation for their talents and expertise. Hopefully the generations of today and those to come will be able to enjoy the play by play broadcast from some really great ones as well……………………..RC

About Ronnie Clifton

Ronnie Clifton was a Texas Football Coach for 29 years. In addition to football, Clifton also served as the head coach in basketball and both girls and boys track. “I loved being involved in and playing sports as a kid, and I soaked up every ounce of available information about any sporting event; I also love to write. What better combo for me than becoming the writer of a sports blog?”
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