Dick Enberg, a Hall of Fame broadcaster, died today at his La Jolla, Ca. home, according to his family. He was 82 years old.
If you grew up watching National Football League games, the passing of Enberg is a real mortality check. His pairing on games with Merlin Olsen didn’t get as much attention as, say the CBS team of John Madden and the late Pat Summerall, but Enberg brought an ease of vocal delivery and lent an authoritative feeling in his play by play work that somehow elevated the games he covered.
Enberg’s daughter, Nicole, said the family became concerned when he didn’t arrive on a scheduled flight to Boston on Thursday. He was found dead of an apparent heart attack at his home, his bags packed.
Enberg was one of the most omnipresent sports broadcasters, working for NBC, CBS and ESPN during his long career. His coverage embraced a wide spread of events, including several Super Bowls, UCLA basketball, major league baseball, and Wimbledon tennis.
Most recently, Enberg was the main play-by-play television voice of the San Diego Padres. He retired in 2016 after spending seven seasons with the team.
His career included such honors as the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award (2015), the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Rozelle Award (1999) and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Gowdy Award (1995).
But Enberg will best be remembered for his “Oh, my” exclamation, which usually came as a big play or a long home run unfolded. It perfectly captured the awe of the moment for fans, who probably were saying something similar at home as they watched. He was also known for his baseball catch phrase of “Touch ’em all” after a home run.
An Armada, Michigan native, he began his 60-year career as a jack of all trades at a small radio station. He eventually was given the weekend sports assignment, and began doing high school and college football game broadcasts.
He later became known for his broadcasting during UCLA’s long basketball reign. In his nine years with the team, they won eight NCAA titles. Enberg said the most historically important event he covered was “The Game of the Century,” Houston’s and Elvin Hayes’s victory over UCLA and Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) in 1968 that snapped the Bruins’ 47-game winning streak.
Enberg later recalled, “That was the platform from which college basketball’s popularity was sent into the stratosphere,” Enberg said. “The ’79 game, the Magic-Bird game, everyone wants to credit that as the greatest game of all time That was just the booster rocket that sent it even higher. … UCLA, unbeaten; Houston, unbeaten. And then the thing that had to happen, and Coach Wooden hated when I said this, but UCLA had to lose. That became a monumental event.”
Enberg teamed well with many broadcasting sidekicks, including Merlin Olsen, Al McGuire, Billy Packer, Don Drysdale and Tony Gwynn. He even worked a few games with UCLA coach John Wooden.
Survivors include his wife, Barbara, and daughter Nicole. Service information is pending. The San Diego Padres have reportedly offered the Enberg family use of Petco Park for a celebration of life.
Some Twitter reactions:
Kindest, most proactive possible treatment of newcomers in this business, for the length of his career. What a terrible loss https://t.co/MkYGx1LCnP
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) December 22, 2017
My heart aches tonight to hear of the passing of my friend, and former partner, Dick Enberg. A true professional. One of the best ever. He was a true gentleman. It was an honor to sit next to him for 7 years. RIP Dick. I will miss you. He always told me, “Love ya. Mean it!”
— Mark Grant (@Mudcat55) December 22, 2017
If there was a Mount Rushmore of LA Sports Announcers, Dick Enberg is on it with Chick Hearn, Vin Scully and Bob Miller. Rams, Angels, UCLA, NBC, and so much more. Was the first famous announcer I ever met, and he couldn't have been nicer. Definition of a gentleman. RIP.
— John Ireland (@LAIreland) December 22, 2017
RIP Dick Enberg. He began his career in Los Angeles calling UCLA basketball games as well as Los Angeles Rams and California Angels games. What a time to be a sports fan in Los Angeles with Chick Hearn, Vin Scully and Dick Enberg behind the microphone. https://t.co/GHcbidWV7p
— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) December 22, 2017
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