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i grew up watching this guy.
June 7, 2008, 10:55 am
Jim McKay, Longtime ABC Sportscaster, Is Dead
By Brian Stelter
Jim McKay, the longtime ABC sportscaster who hosted “Wide World of Sports” for more than thirty years, has died. He was 86.
ESPN, the sports partner for ABC, said Mr. McKay died of natural causes in Maryland.
As its title suggests, “Wide World of Sports” broadened the definition of sports for many Americans. Mr. McKay’s triumphant introduction to the program included the lines “the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat,” a statement that became well-known to television viewers. AOL’s FanHouse has posted a video of the introduction.
Roone Arledge, who later became the president of ABC Sports, called Mr. McKay and asked him to be the host in 1961.
“I knew him to be smart, literate, and quick on his feet — and there wouldn’t be any need for someone to write his copy. He was our man — if I could get him,” Mr. Arledge recalled in his posthumous memoir, “Roone,” published in 2003. Mr. McKay committed almost immediately, for $1,000 per show plus expenses.
In the book, Mr. Arledge called Mr. McKay a “mainstay of ABC Sports, one of our great and truly classy professionals.”
During his long broadcasting tenure, Mr. McKay received two Emmy Awards. In 1988, he was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
Mr. McKay was thrust into the role of news anchor early on Sept. 5, 1972, when Israeli athletes were taken hostage at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany. About to take a swim in the Sheraton’s pool when the call came, Mr. McKay “threw on clothes over his swim trunks and took his seat in the studio, where he would remain for most of the next sixteen hours,” the 1994 book “The House That Roone Book” recalled.
Mr. McKay memorably reported the news that eleven Israeli hostages had been killed. “They’re all gone,” he said.
The marathon coverage of the tragedy, orchestrated by the sports division and anchored Mr. McKay, earned plaudits. “The achievement carries a special significance in the world of American television, as another milestone in the emergence of a full-fledged third network force,” The New York Times said at the time.
Looking back, Mr. McKay called that day the most important of his career. “Suddenly, as I was walking from our headquarters to the memorial service, I was given a yellow slip saying ‘You were a great credit to your medium … and to yourself,’ signed Walter (Cronkite),” he told ABC in 2002.
Mr. McKay’s son, Sean McManus, is the president of CBS Sports and CBS News.
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