Monday, July 17, 2017

R.I.P.: Hall of Fame Sportscaster Bob Wolff

Bob Wolff, who called Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series, the Giants-Baltimore Colts epic N.F.L. championship game in 1958 and the Knicks’ two N.B.A. title runs in a record-setting eight decades as a sports broadcaster, died on Saturday in South Nyack, N.Y.

He was 96, according to The NYTimes.

Wolff was behind the microphone from the radio age to the rise of cable television. He was cited by Guinness World Records in 2012 as having the longest career of any sports broadcaster.

He started out in 1939 while a student and former baseball player at Duke University, broadcasting games on a local CBS radio station. He became the first sportscaster for Washington’s WTTG-TV on the old DuMont network in 1946. A year later, he began doing television play-by-play for the usually lowly Washington Senators when most of the tiny black-and-white sets were in taverns and hotels.

Wolff teamed with Joe Garagiola on NBC-TV’s baseball Game of the Week in the early 1960s. He was a broadcaster for Madison Square Garden for more than 50 years on staff and as a freelancer, calling Knicks and Rangers games, college basketball and the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. On radio, he called the last half of Larsen’s perfect game for the Yankees against the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the Giants-Colts sudden-death overtime N.F.L. championship game.

In April 2013, Wolff donated some 1,400 video and audio recordings, representing about 1,000 hours of his broadcast work, to the Library of Congress. They included interviews with Jim Thorpe, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Joe Louis.

He was inducted into the broadcasting wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995. (At his induction ceremony, he played “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on his ukulele.) He received the Curt Gowdy media award from the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

Bob Wolfe with Babe Ruth
Wolff served in the Navy as a supply officer in the Pacific during World War II, ending his service as a lieutenant. He then became the sports director for WINX radio in Washington in 1946. A year later, when he was hired as the Senators’ first TV broadcaster, there were only a few hundred sets in Washington. He and his wife, Jane, did not own one, so she went to an appliance store to watch the games.

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