Pat Summerall Dies at 82
Pat Summerall, the resonant, succinct and no-nonsense voice of NFL broadcasting on CBS and Fox for more than 20 years, has died, The Dallas Morning News reports. He was 82.
Summerall, who was recovering from surgery for a broken hip, died Tuesday in his room at Zale Lipshy University Hospital in Dallas, a family friend told the newspaper.
An alcoholic who gave up drinking more than 20 years ago, Summerall had a liver transplant in 2004. The play-by-play man and former NFL kicker was best known for 21 seasons spent in a broadcast booth with John Madden, the bombastic former Oakland Raiders coach. But Summerall also worked 27 Masters golf tournaments starting in 1968 and 20 U.S. Open tennis events for CBS.
The colorful Madden was the first broadcaster Fox hired when it paid a whopping $1.58 billion in 1994 to outbid CBS for four years of rights to the NFL's National Football Conference slate of games. Madden insisted Fox hire Summerall as well.
“Pat was my broadcasting partner for a long time, but more than that he was my friend for all of these years. We never had one argument, and that was because of Pat," Madden said in a statement. "He was a great broadcaster and a great man. He always had a joke. Pat never complained, and we never had an unhappy moment. He was something very special. Pat Summerall is the voice of football and always will be.”
Summerall kicked for the Chicago Cardinals and New York Giants from 1952 to 1961, sending the Giants into the legendary NFL title game against the Baltimore Colts in 1958 at Yankee Stadium with a long field goal in a swirling snowstorm the previous week.
The Florida native began his broadcasting career on New York's WCBS-AM in 1961 as a replacement for Frank Gifford, another famous Giants player who was moving on to television.
Summerall went on to work a record 16 Super Bowls as a play-by-play man and analyst and be honored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his "exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football." He retired in 2002, but CBS had him introduce the Masters broadcast on Sundays in recent years, with his austere, baritone voice bringing back memories.
"Being reticent, that's the way I've always done it," he sold Sports Illustrated in 1987. "I've never been a very excitable person, and in many ways I think that helped me as a kicker. You get all uptight and excited, full of adrenaline, jumping up and down, you forget what it is you need to do, you forget to concentrate."
Summerall was born May 10, 1930, in Lake City, Fla., and attended the University of Arkansas on a basketball scholarship. He grew to be 6-foot-4 and became an all-Southwest Conference selection in basketball as well as football. He also played a season in the minor leagues as a first baseman in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
After graduating with a degree in education, he earned a master's in Russian history. During the NFL off-seasons when he wasn't playing, he taught English and history at a junior high school in Lake City.
Summerall began drinking heavily in his early years at CBS, and in 1981 the network broke up its No. 1 NFL team -- Summerall and Tom Brookshier, another former NFL player turned broadcaster -- in part because of their partying. One legendary story has the two leading a horse into the lobby of the Plaza Hotel in New York.
"The stories are well known," he told SI. "There were numerous times when Brookie would say, 'What happened last night?' and together we might be able to piece it together."
CBS then paired Summerall with Madden, choosing him over Vin Scully.
After the 1992 Masters, friends, co-workers and family members convinced Summerall during an intervention that he needed help to combat his drinking. He spent five weeks at the Betty Ford Center in Palm Springs and became a born-again Christian.