The Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame celebrated its 10th anniversary at the New York Hilton Midtown last night by honoring 10 industry icons. Hosted by CBS Sports announcer James Brown, the evening’s proceedings were both celebratory and touching. All table sales, totaling $195,000 this year, will once again be donated to the Sports Broadcasting Fund, which supports industry members in times of need.
This year’s class of legends comprises former Fox Sports broadcast-operations stalwart Andrea Berry, CBS Sports play-by-play man Verne Lundquist, The Switch Sports President and former MSG Networks President Joe Cohen, legendary baseball analyst Tim McCarver, CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus, Winged Vision founder and President Bob Mikkelson, ABC’s Good Morning America anchor and former ESPN anchor Robin Roberts, NBA on TNTsideline reporter Craig Sager, Pittsburgh Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney, and longtime Fox Sports baseball director Bill Webb.
Robin Roberts, The Inspiration at the Anchor Desk
The evening kicked off with one of the most beloved and down-to-earth figures in the business: Robin Roberts. She began her career on the national broadcasting stage in 1990 when she joined ESPN, quickly becoming a mainstay on SportsCenter. But her skills and depth as a reporter and anchor soon led her to a role as a cross-network star. Appearing on both ESPN’s SportsCenter and ABC’s Good Morning America, she was hired as a full-time co-anchor of the latter in 2005 and has been a steady presence as the show climbed to the top of the national morning-news ratings.
“I know that this honor was made possible by the opportunities that I was given — the many, many opportunities. All of us — man, woman, black, white, gay, straight — just want the same opportunities. You can wish, hope, and pray all you want — I’m a very spiritual person — but you know you need the help of others to make your dreams come true,” says Roberts. “Thank you to the Hall of Fame. Thank you to everyone who is here. Dream big, focus small, thank you, and blessings to all.”
Bill Webb, The Architect of the Modern-Day Baseball Telecast
Next up was top baseball director Bill Webb, who has called the shots for Fox Sports’ biggest major-league events. Few individuals have had a more significant impact on the look and style of baseball on television than Webb. Starting with the launch of Fox MLB in 1996, his credits include 17 World Series, 19 League Championship Series, and 18 All-Star Games. Fox MLB coverage has garnered 30 Sports Emmy Awards, 12 for production, with Webb in the director’s seat. In 2006, he was named lead director for New York Mets games on SportsNet New York, a position he still holds. He also served as lead director at ABC Sports from 1988 to ’96.
“Can anybody tell me who Bill Webb is? Because I have no idea,” he joked in accepting the honor. “As we all know, it takes a team effort to put on a show. Thank you very much for the recognition for being inducted into the Hall of Fame and congratulations to the other inductees. I love you all, and I know how much you work, so thank you.”
Dan Rooney, An Icon of Leadership, Influence, and Unity
In American professional sports, there are owners, and then there are icons who influence the growth and prosperity of their sport well beyond their own franchise. Dan Rooney is one of the most distinguished owners in the history of team sports. His Pittsburgh Steelers grew up with the NFL and were key to the league’s growth into today’s sports-television behemoth. Now chairman of the franchise, he has spent a lifetime making it one of the most successful in all of sports — winning six Super Bowls during his reign — and has been a key architect of the current NFL.
“Thank you very much. I have to say this is one of the greatest awards and I appreciate it,” said Rooney. “It means a lot to be here with the many friends that I have, especially Bill Cowher and the many others.”
Joe Cohen, Sports-Television Pioneer From Coast to Coast
Joe Cohen is among the most respected executive in the history of sports television, with career highlights including serving as president of MSG Network from 1979 to ’85 (and driving its launch of an HD service) and co-founding USA Network, Sports Channel L.A., and Sports Time Ohio. Currently president of The Switch Sports, he also developed a means to secure a pay-TV signal from piracy while CEO of HTN in the late ’70s, served as chairman of the L.A. Kings from 1993 to ’95, and oversaw MSG Network operations when it absorbed Fox Sports New York in 1989, making MSGN the home of all New York-based MLB, NHL, and NBA teams.
“After 45 years in the television business, I’m left with this observation: your family, friends, and collection of memories are invaluable,” he said. “Thank you to the virtual army of people who have supported me and without whom I wouldn’t be standing here today. It’s wonderful to be recognized by your peers for something that I’ve loved doing every day and I look forward to continuing for many more tomorrows.”
Andrea Berry, A Pioneer in Field Operations
Andrea Berry blazed a trail as one of the first female tech managers at CBS in the mid ’80s, pioneered field operations for Fox Sports in the ’90s and 2000s, and continually broke new ground as an African-American woman in a predominantly male industry. And through it all, she has remained one of the most humble, well-liked, and respected people in the business.
“I’ve received many awards and even garnered a few Emmys for our work in sports, but nothing humbled me more than this recognition,” said Berry. “I’ve had the best ride ever, and it still isn’t over. I’ve had the honor of working with the best and the brightest in the industry. We all know that staying on-air, telling a great story, and delivering a quality live show is our mission in life, but, in this business, truly never forget the people. People, not technology, are our greatest assets. And I thank every person that gave me permission to manage, mentor, and guide them throughout their careers.”
Berry also issued a call for diversity in the industry during her speech: “I want to thank every woman and person of color in this business who paved the way for me to have the opportunity to be my authentic self and to shine. I promise I will continue to push for every talented individual the same opportunities I had. As my dear friend Oscar nominee Viola Davis said during her 2013 Emmy acceptance speech, ‘The only thing that separates women and people of color from anyone else is, in fact, the opportunities they receive.’ So those of you in this audience who have the power to make this industry more diverse by offering tremendous opportunities, please make that your plan for years to come.”
Craig Sager, The Inspirational Standard-Bearer of Sideline Reporters
For more than two decades, Craig Sager’s loud suits and genial demeanor have become staples of the NBA on TNT. As Turner Sports’ NBA sideline reporter for 26 years, he has endeared himself to players, coaches, and fans alike with his easy rapport and insatiable energy — all while keeping viewers informed about the happenings on and off the court. Sager, who was unable to attend the ceremony as he continues to battle acute myeloid leukemia, was honored by Turner Sports President David Levy.
“I’m pleased to accept this award on behalf of my dear friend and colleague Craig Sager, but I’m really accepting the award for everyone at Turner Sports,” said Levy. “I know everyone would like to be up here accepting this award for him. To be inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame was very special to him, and we all wish he could be here accepting this instead of me.
“This is a terrific acknowledgement of his long and storied career,” he continued. “Craig is an inspiration to so many people. And he continues to courageously battle cancer. To me, the determination, grace, and will to live Craig has displayed during his battle with cancer will ultimately be his lasting impact. Tonight, please join me in sending good thoughts and good wishes to Craig and Stacy, who are watching. Al Michaels said, ‘Do you believe in miracles?’ Well, I can tell you everyone at Turner Sports believes in miracles.”
Tim McCarver, The Most Prepared Analyst in the Booth
Tim McCarver spent three decades as baseball’s premier television analyst, the only MLB analyst to have worked for all four major broadcast networks. He also served as an analyst for 28 consecutive MLB postseasons, including 23 World Series and 20 All-Star Games. During his career, he became known for prescient insights into the game and was a role model for ex-players looking to fold into a broadcast telecast.
“Thank you so much for the warmest words imaginable,” said McCarver. “[There is a song written by Joe Riposo] that has haunted a lot of athletes since they heard it: ‘Here’s to the Winners.’ That song has always been poignant to me. And this room tonight goes with the words to that song because there are only winners here tonight, and I’m certainly glad I’m one of them.”
Sean McManus, The Consummate Dealmaker
Twenty years ago, Sean McManus was named president of CBS Sports, beginning a run of leadership that included not only bringing the NFL back to the network in 1998 but also inking long-term contracts for top sports properties, such as the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Championship, the PGA, The Masters, SEC College football, and much more. He also spent five years as president of both CBS Sports and CBS News, only the second person ever (Roone Arledge was the first) to head both sports and news operations. Named chairman of CBS Sports in 2011, McManus oversees operations across all sports properties. In accepting his induction, he reminisced on his storied career in the business, including his early days as a child working alongside his father, legendary broadcaster Jim McKay.
“As many of you know, I was born under the sign of ‘the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,’ and I have been so lucky to literally grow up in sports television,” he said. “Congratulations to my other honorees. I’m honored to be part of this group; I’m humbled to be part of this group. … I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to my entire CBS Sports team. They are the best in the business and continue to set the standard in our industry. … None of this would be as satisfying or fulfilling without being able to share it with my family. I love you and please know you are the true lights of my life.”
Bob Mikkelson, The Standard-Setter for Aerial Coverage
If you’ve watched big-time football and big-time golf events, the odds are good that you have seen the work of Bob Mikkelson, president/founder of Winged Vision. He singlehandedly changed the way golf is covered, with the use of one blimp shot. He has the uncanny and not-to-be-duplicated ability to follow a golf ball from a moving platform, operating a pan, tilt, and zoom camera while telling the pilot where to fly so that his shadow isn’t in the shot. As a result, he captures a shot no one else can, giving the viewer the perspective of where the ball is relative to the hole. But capturing golf is not his only primary skill: he has provided a template for covering college and NFL football from above.
“It’s an honor to be inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame, especially to be inducted by a group of men and women that I respect so highly and to join the greats of the sports-broadcasting world. It’s very humbling,” said Mikkelson. “It has been quite a journey to get here tonight. … How lucky am I? I’d like to thank all of you for giving me the opportunity to have an unexpected but unique and fascinating career, one I hope lasts for years to come. And I hope each and every one of you at some point in your lives can have an evening like I’m having tonight.”
Verne Lundquist, The Affable King of Big Calls
The evening came to a close with one of the broadcast booth’s most lovable characters: Verne Lundquist. His warm style, laughter, and knowledge have made him a well-loved announcer among his fellow professionals and millions of sports fans. Few, if any, announcers have called as many iconic sports moments as he has. He has been on the national sports stage since 1974 and just completed his final season calling the SEC on CBS (something he has done since 2000). During his years at ABC Sports, CBS Sports, and Turner Sports, in addition to serving as the radio voice of the Dallas Cowboys, he has called more than 20 sports but is most celebrated for his role with CBS on SEC football, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, and The Masters.
“Just think of the week I’ve had: I get to do my final game last Saturday — Army vs. Navy — and then I get to be honored here tonight,” said Lundquist. “This is the culmination of an absolutely perfect season. I thank you, I’m humbled by it, and I’m very grateful.”
Brandon Costa, Karen Hogan, Ken Kerschbaumer, and Carolyn Braff contributed to this report.