ESPN, NBC Sportscaster Jim Simpson Dies at 88

Jim Simpson - H 2016
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Jim Simpson - H 2016

The polished play-by-play man provided the fledgling cable network with instant credibility when he came aboard in 1979.

Jim Simpson, the longtime NBC sportscaster who gave then-fledgling ESPN an instant dose of credibility as one of the cable network’s first on-air hires, has died. He was 88.

Simpson died Wednesday in Scottsdale, Ariz., after a short illness, ESPN said.

Simpson worked for NBC from 1964-79 and was best known for handling the play-by-play for American Football League and later NFL games. Fifty years ago, he did the call for the first Super Bowl on NBC Radio.

He also hosted the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and handled many Orange Bowl contests, Six Super Bowls, six World Series and 16 baseball All-Star Games for the network.

The polished Simpson left for ESPN in 1979 and was frequently paired with colorful analyst Dick Vitale on college basketball games. They teamed on the first NCAA contest that ESPN televised.

“One night, a long time ago, [Simpson] and I were doing a game, a so-so game,” Vitale wrote in his 2003 book, Living a Dream. “Somebody came up to me and asked, ‘What game do you guys have coming up?’ I turned to the guy and said, ‘Aw, it’s just another game, man, just another game.’ Jim grabbed me and said, ‘There is no such thing as just another game.’ He was right.”

A native of Washington, D.C., Simpson started his career with radio and TV stations in the area and then worked for ABC, CBS and, after ESPN, TNT. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1997 Sports Emmys and was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame in 2000.

Survivors include his wife, Ann, five children and 18 grandchildren.

Twitter: @mikebarnes4