Bob Wolff, a venerable and prolific broadcaster, dies at 96

Bob Wolff-Babe Ruth
Bob Wolff, interviews Babe Ruth.

West Coast sports fans know little or nothing, most likely, of Bob Wolff, who died Saturday in South Nyack, N.Y., at the age of 96, but Wolff was one of the most prolific and, in many ways, one of the most loved sports broadcasters who ever lived.

Wolff was recognized in 2012 by Guinness World Records for having the longest sports broadcasting career of all time, spanning 77 years. Wolff and Curt Gowdy are the only broadcasters to be inducted into both the baseball and basketball halls of fame.

He once said, “If you added all the time up, I’ve spent about seven days of my life standing for the national anthem.”

Wolff called some big-time games, too, including Don Larsen’s perfect game for the New York Yankees in the 1956 World Series, and the Baltimore Colts’ overtime NFL championship win over the New York Giants in 1958, called “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” along with New York Knicks championships in 1970 and ’73.

He is also the only broadcaster to call the championships for all four U.S. pro sports — the World Series, the NFL Championship, the NBA Championship and the Stanley Cup finals.

bob-wolff-2
Bob Wolff died Saturday at 96. He had a 77-year sportscasting career.

Wolff started in 1939, helping a radio station broadcast games for the Duke University baseball team he was a member of until he broke his ankle. He served in the Navy as a supply officer during World War II. Afterward, he joined WINX Radio in Washington as its sports director and from there he became the first sportscaster for WTTG-TV in Washington in 1946 and became play-by-play announcer for the Washington Senators. He even moved with the team when it became the Minnesota Twins in 1961.

While the Senators were usually pathetic, Wolff was appreciated and the Washington Nationals named their broadcast booth for him in 2009. With the Senators, he tried not to remind his listeners how bad the team was.

“I’d look for human-interest stories all the time to keep people listening to the game,” Wolff told The New York Times in 2013. “I’d just say, ‘Well, folks, it’s 17-3,’ and they knew which team was losing.”

The Washington Post said that during his time in that city, Wolff did play-by-play for the Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland, along with national baseball and football broadcasts for the Mutual radio network, and even several inauguration parades.

In the early 1960s, Wolff passed on becoming an original member of the New York Mets’ broadcast team (the top spot went to Lindsay Nelson) and instead joined NBC to do its baseball Game of the Week with Joe Garagiola.

Wolff later started a long career with Madison Square Garden, even before it started its MSG Network. He broadcast Knicks games for 27 years and New York Rangers hockey for 20. He even had a 33-year run doing the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

At various times, Wolff voiced the Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the ECAC Holiday Festival, the Millrose Games and Gold Gloves boxing.

Toward the end of his career, Wolff did commentary the News 12 Long Island cable station, which he joined when it was founded in 1986. His final essay for the channel was in February.

WATCH CLOSELY

Roger Federer’s men’s championship at Wimbledon earned a 1.9 rating on ESPN, a 6% increase from last year’s 1.8 when Andy Murray won.

The NBA Summer League telecasts on ESPN had a 112% increase in viewership this year over last, with an average 783,000 viewers, compared to 369,000 in 2016. Six of the seven telecasts feature the Los Angeles Lakers, who were showcasing rookie Lonzo Ball. The top game, Lakers vs. Celtics, was seen by 1.1 million viewers, followed by Lakers-Clippers, 879,000; Lakers-Trail Blazers, 836,000; Lakers-Cavaliers, 780,000; and Lakers-Mavericks, 763,000.

UP & DOWN THE DIAL

Nationally televised baseball this weekend features Cardinals-Cubs at 1 p.m. PDT Saturday and Rangers-Rays at 4 p.m. Saturday on Fox Sports 1, Astros-Orioles at 10:30 a.m. Sunday on TBS, and Cardinals-Cubs at 5 p.m. Sunday on ESPN. … ESPN, by the way, has added Dodgers-Mets on Aug. 6 and Red Sox-Yankees on Aug. 13 to its Sunday Night Baseball schedule. …

The final Mike & Mike show on ESPN2 and ESPN Radio will be Nov. 17 and the new Golic & (Trey) Wingo show will debut Nov. 27, the network said. … The WNBA All-Star Game will be at 12:30 p.m. Saturday on ABC. Both coaches and four players will wear microphones during the game. … The CrossFit Games and CBS have signed a contract making CBS and CBS Sports Network the official home of the games. The first event is Aug. 5.

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