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Hickman died Wednesday in a hospital in Kissimmee, Florida, his wife, Sheila, told The Hollywood Reporter. He was diagnosed with cancer in February, shortly after he had retired to write a book and start a podcast, she said.
The Springfield, Illinois, native was the first person to appear on the Yankee Entertainment and Sports Network when it launched on March 19, 2002, and he served as its lead anchor for three years.
“Fred was a joy to work with and a joyful person,” New York Yankees announcer Michael Kay said in a statement. “A total pro that you felt comfortable with knowing he would lead you the right way on the air. He was the first voice ever heard on YES, and his professionalism put us on the right track, a track we are on all these years later.”
Hickman is perhaps best known for co-anchoring the news and highlights show Sports Tonight with the late Nick Charles on CNN starting in 1980, and he was among those hosting the first version of Inside the NBA on TNT for the 1989-90 season.
On Twitter, ESPN’s Hannah Storm paid tribute to Hickman, calling him “such a welcoming presence … always with a laugh, a quip, a story … and supremely talented.”
Born on Oct. 17, 1956, Hickman attended Springfield Southeast High School and graduated from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. After working on radio stations in Iowa and Illinois, he moved to television to begin a three-year stay at Springfield’s WICS in 1978.
After four years at CNN, Hickman exited in 1984 for a job covering the Detroit Tigers at NBC Detroit affiliate WDIV but returned to reunite with Charles in 1986 as co-anchors of a CNN/Sports Illustrated show.
After YES, he segued to ESPN and hosted SportsCenter and other programs through 2008. Later, he worked for Fox Sports South; stations in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Hagerstown, Maryland; and the Black News Channel.
In 2000, he made news when he was the lone NBA media member not to cast an MVP vote for Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal, selecting Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers instead.
In addition to his wife, whom he married in 2007, survivors include his children, Mack and Gabrielle.
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