, in broadcasting
, is a North American term and means the reporting of a sporting
event with a voiceover
describing the details of the action of the game in progress. In North America, in many sports, the play-by-play person is assisted by a color commentator
, and sometimes a sideline reporter
Nearly all professional sports teams and most collegiate teams have their own play-by-play announcers, who usually are the voice of the team on radio broadcasts and are often identified with the team as much as the players or coaches. In addition, television networks and cable channels will have their own stable of play-by-play announcers that work on the games of varying teams.
In the United Kingdom and elsewhere, the term "commentator" is used instead, but the function is much the same. An exception is Spanish word "relator", where "comentarista" is the word for color commentator.
Many play-by-play announcers will work in more than one sport.
Famous play-by-play announcers
Among the best known play-by-play announcers, listed by the sport where their work is best known:
- Jack Brickhouse, who covered the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox from 1948 - 1981 on WGN-TV. Brickhouse is also remembered for his coverage of the 1954 World Series, describing Willie Mays' famous catch in game one. Additionally, Brickhouse covered the Chicago Bears on WGN Radio and the Chicago Bulls on WGN-TV.
- Harry Caray, best known with the Chicago Cubs, but also worked for many years with the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago White Sox and Oakland Athletics. Also worked with the St. Louis Hawks of the NBA and University of Missouri football.
- Skip Caray, Harry's equally-known son, longtime voice on television and radio for the Atlanta Braves, among many other play-by-play duties with various cable channels owned by Ted Turner and successors.
- Chip Caray, Skip's son and Harry's grandson. The trio is the only three-generation team ever to work a single game together in any sport, having done so twice: on May 13, 1991, at a Cubs-Braves game, and in 1989 for an NBA game between the Orlando Magic and the Miami Heat. Chip Caray has worked full time with his father (currently, with the Braves). Chip took over play-by-play for the Cubs on WGN-TV after Harry's death, and left that job after the 2005 season to work with Skip again in Atlanta, where he since succeeded huis father after Skip's death in 2008. He also previously worked for the Magic, and also on national broadcasts (and in-studio hosting) for FOX Sports.
- Jack Buck, Caray's former color commentator, best known for his work with the Cardinals but also as a network announcer, and the radio voice for Monday Night Football. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
- Mike Shannon, Buck's color partner with Cardinals, who later replaced Buck on play by play.
- Joe Buck, Jack Buck's son, who does baseball and football for FOX Sports. The current TV Play-by-play man for the World Series.
- Herb Carneal, for the Minnesota Twins.
- Marty Brennaman, for more than three decades with the Cincinnati Reds, and also on national radio for the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
- Thom Brennaman, Marty's son, previously with the Cubs and the Arizona Diamondbacks, but leaving Arizona to work with his father and the Reds starting in 2007.
- Bob Uecker, better known for his comedic act and mediocre baseball career (the frequent topic of his comedy), but also for many years the play-by-play man for the Milwaukee Brewers.
- Red Barber, legendary voice for the Reds, Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees, among many other announcing jobs.
- Mel Allen, famous voice of the Yankees and New York Giants, as well as This Week in Baseball.
- Dizzy Dean, the famous player turned broadcaster, though often remembered for his malaprops on the air.
- Milo Hamilton, with the Houston Astros and before that the Braves; his radio call is often heard in recordings of Henry Aaron hitting his 715th home run in Atlanta.
- Vin Scully, who has worked more than half a century with the Dodgers, beginning in Brooklyn and then moving to Los Angeles. Scully has worked many national assignments, including the Major League Baseball Game of the Week on NBC for six seasons, and also the National Football League on both radio and television.
- Joe Garagiola, Curt Gowdy's longtime partner as color commentator on NBC's Game of the Week, who later replaced Gowdy on play-by-play. A top former player for the New York Yankees, Garagiola was also a co-host of NBC's Today Show and a game show host, and in recent years has done "play-by-play" (of sorts) for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
- Ernie Harwell, a 55-year career as a baseball broadcaster, 42 with the Detroit Tigers, with one of the best-known home-run calls, "That ball is loooong gone!", and his trademark called third strike of "He stood there like the house by the side of the road." As a broadcaster for the New York Giants, called Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World " on television.
- Russ Hodges, who did play-by-play for several teams, most notably the New York and San Francisco Giants. Hodges was at the microphone on local radio for Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World ". It was Hodges who cried, "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!..."
- Dave Niehaus has been the voice of the Seattle Mariners since the franchise's birth in 1977. His signature calls are "Fly Away" (for home runs) "Get out the rye bread and mustard grandma, it's Grand Salami Time" (for Grand Slams), My-oh-My (for any great play).
- Harry Kalas, winner of the 2002 Ford C. Frick Award, has broadcast Philadelphia Phillies games since 1971. He is also the voice of NFL Films and Campbell's Soup and GMC Truck as well as the voice for the self-guided tour of the United States Mint in Philadelphia. His signature call for home runs is "LONG DRIVE! Watch that baby...OUTTA HERE!"
- Keith Jackson, the decades-long voice of college football for ABC Sports. He also was the very first play-by-play man for Monday Night Football where he first worked with Howard Cosell, and also called NBA and MLB games for ABC.
- Pat Summerall, a top NFL player in his own right, but for many years partnered with John Madden on NFL games with CBS and FOX, and also on many golf telecasts.
- Al Michaels, the voice of Monday Night Football on ABC from 1986-2005, now does NBC's Sunday Night Football with John Madden. Michaels has also called the World Series and NBA Finals when he was with ABC. Was also one of the announcers of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" Winter Olympics hockey game, when an upstart American side upset the powerhouse team from the Soviet Union en route to a gold medal; coined the line, "Do you believe in miracles?"
- Pete Gross, the voice of the Seattle Seahawks from 1976 until his passing from cancer in 1992. Gross's signature "TOUCHDOWN SEAHAWKS" was beloved by Seahawks fans from Alaska to Southern Oregon. He was the second person inducted into the Seahawks Ring of Honor.
- Brad Nessler, voice of college football for ABC Sports. He usually calls prime time games on Saturday nights.
- John Madden, partner of Al Michaels, he is a color commentator and is known for sounding illogical when it comes to describing plays after they have occurred, even though he was a head coach for the Oakland Raiders and won a championship with them.
Note: Nearly every major college football program in the United States can boast a "legendary play-by-play man" whose tenure with the school runs many years. They are too numerous to list here.
List of current NFL announcers
Association football (soccer)
- JP Dellacamera, primary soccer announcer for Major League Soccer in the United States on ESPN. He also serves as play-by-play man for the Atlanta Thrashers of the NHL.
- Barry Davies, for 35 years the voice of the BBC Match of the Day, but also worked on many Olympic sports.
- Peter Jones, best known as the commentator who witnessed and broadcast the accounts of the Hillsborough disaster.
- Kenneth Wolstenholme, best known for his famous quote in the 1966 World Cup Final between England and West Germany: "Some people are on the pitch! They think it's all over... it is now!"
- John Motson, known as "Motty", a beloved commentator on the BBC's football coverage for over 30 years.
- Raymond Glendenning, longtime English football commentator who worked numerous World Cup matches, but also tennis, boxing, horse racing and even greyhound racing.
- "Bambino" Pons, the lively and emotional commentator of English football on Fox Sports Latin America, famous for singing the supporters' chants (and making some of his own up too) after a goal and banging the desk in tune to the music.
- Bill Roth, longtime voice of the Virginia Tech Hokies better known for his broadcasts of football games for the school.
- Chick Hearn, longtime voice of the Los Angeles Lakers. Holder of the record for most consecutive games broadcast and inventor of several basketball terms, including Slam Dunk
- Johnny Most, longtime voice of the Boston Celtics, remembered for many calls, including "Havlicek Stole the Ball".
- Neil Funk, Johnny Kerr, and Jim Durham, voices of the Chicago Bulls.
- Cawood Ledford, for many decades the radio (and sometimes television simultaneously) of the University of Kentucky Wildcats; he also broadcast their football games, as well as national radio broadcasts of the NCAA Men's Final Four and the Kentucky Derby.
- Tom Hammond, who has worked on college and Olympic basketball for NBC, as well as horse racing (though better known in that sports as a host instead of a race caller).
- Max Falkenstien, voice of Kansas Jayhawks basketball and football from 1946 until 2006, covering over 1750 basketball games as well as 650 football games.
- Bob Harris, voice of Duke Blue Devils basketball and football since 1976, his play-by-play of Christian Laettner's jump shot to defeat Kentucky, sending Duke to the Final Four accompanies the broadcast video more often than the television announcers.
- Woody Durham, voice of the North Carolina Tar Heels, has been broadcasting football and basketball games since 1971.
- Chuck Swirsky, voice of the Toronto Raptors, has broadcast since the late 1980s for WGN Radio. He left WGN for Detroit. He broadcasted in Michigan State both football and basketball games. He started his tenure with the Raptors in the 1998-1999 season. He is known in Toronto for his famous catch phrases such as, "Get Out The Salami and Cheese Mama!, This ball game is over!" When the Raptors are for sure to win a basketball game. Catch phrases like "Onions baby!, Onions!" was taken from legendary college basketball commentator Bill Raftery, he says it when a player from the Raptors makes a really tough shot. "You can ring it up from downtown , this one goes out to " is said when the Raptors make a three point shot from time to time, as he sends out love to his family and friends.
- Mike Gorman, Boston Celtics television play-by-play announcer, paired with color commentator Tom Heinsohn since 1982. Has also called games for Providence College, Big Monday on ESPN, and the NBA Playoffs on TNT.
- Foster Hewitt, the first and still best-known voice for Hockey Night in Canada for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
- Bill Hewitt, Foster's son, was also a HNIC play-by-play man.
- Bob Cole, who succeeded Bill Hewitt on HNIC.
- Mike Emrick, currently the voice of the New Jersey Devils and the primary announcer on the NHL on Versus and the NHL on NBC
- Gary Thorne, best known for his work as the lead play-by-play announcer of the NHL on ABC and ESPN National Hockey Night, currently the voice of the NCAA Frozen Four.
- Fred Cusick, hall of fame Boston Bruins play-by-play announcer for 44 seasons (1953-1997), was original New England Patriots radio announcer.
- Peter Maher, currently the voice of the Calgary Flames, Hockey Hall Of Fame inductee and Foster Hewitt Memorial Award winner.
- Rick Jeanneret, the play by play announcer for the Buffalo Sabres known for his exuberant play calling, one of the few announcers who currently simulcast TV and radio.
- Dan Kelly, radio and TV voice for the St. Louis Blues from their first game until his death in 1989. He was also the lead play-by-play announcer for the NHL on CBS. His sons, Dan Jr. and John are also play-by-play men in the NHL.
- Pat Foley, television play-by-play man for the Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL.
- Jiggs McDonald, formerly the Hall of Fame voice of the New York Islanders and several other teams.
- Mike Lange, currently the radio voice of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
- Sam Rosen, currently the television voice of the New York Rangers.
- Gene Hart, TV and radio voice of the Philadelphia Flyers.
- Danny Gallivan, the voice of the Montreal Canadiens for a generation.
- Jim Hughson, Current commentator for HNIC, former television and radio commentator for the Vancouver Canucks as well as national SportsNet games
- Chris Cuthbert, NHL on NBC NHL on TSN
- Dave Shea, former Bruins TV announcer on NESN; also called Hockey East games, the NCAA Frozen Four, and college football.
- Bob Miller, television voice of the Los Angeles Kings for 33 years.
- Chuck Kaiton, the radio voice of the Carolina Hurricanes and the Hartford Whalers.
- Tom Durkin, who has called many major races for NBC, including the Triple Crown and the Breeder's Cup.
- Dave Johnson, known for his race work on ABC and ESPN, known for his trademark phrase as the horses come to the top of the home stretch: "And down the stretch they come!"
- Chic Anderson, who caled Triple Crown races for many years on CBS, best remembered for his call of the record victory by Secretariat in the Belmont Stakes.
- Play-by-play announcers in cricket and other traditionally-English sports are usually referred to as commentators, but perform the same function. Additionally, cricket commentators will often rotate between play-by-play and color commentary, owing to the length of the game. (Some baseball radio play-by-play announcers will do the same.)
- Richie Benaud, generally known as the "Doyen of Cricket Commentary", the "Captain of the Nine Wide World of Sports Commentary Team" and "Living Legend." Presently handing over his role to Englishman Mark Nicholas on Australia's Channel 9. Famous especially for his dry wit and distinctive enunciation of scores such as 2/222.
- Henry Blofeld, famous for his work on Test Match Special for the BBC, but also worked with ITV and BSkyB.
- Jim Maxwell, Australian cricket broadcaster for more than 30 years, but also having worked in rugby league, rugby union, and Olympic Games.
- Christopher Martin-Jenkins, also known for his longtime Test Match Special work.
- Jonathan Agnew, Blofeld's frequent colleague, a former test cricketer for England in his own right and now a TMS commentator.
- Don Chevrier, who has done play-by-play for Olympic and other major curling matches in Canada and the United States for many years, primarily with NBC in the U.S. in the years just before his death.
Some play-by-play announcers are hard to pin down to a specific sport.
- Don Wittman, a long time announcer with the CBC has covered many sports over his 40-year career. He has worked as a commentator for 18 Olympics, 10 Commonwealth Games, 5 Pan American Games, nearly every World Track and Field Championship, World Hockey Championships, World Junior Hockey Championships, and 35 Grey Cup Games. He has announced for HNIC, including 4 Stanley Cup finals. He has also been known as the voice of curling in Canada since 1961.
- Brent Musburger, now with ESPN on ABC but for many years synonymous with CBS Sports and its coverage of the NFL and the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Musburger's main work now is in college football, but he can be found working nearly any sport.
- Dick Enberg, who has worked for NBC, CBS and ABC as well as individual teams (such as the Los Angeles Angels and the Los Angeles Rams calling basketball, football, and even tennis, both at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, and has even been a game show host (Sports Challenge and Baffle).
- Al Michaels, well known for his work on Monday Night Football and now working with NBC Sunday Night Football. Michaels has announced virtually every major sport, including NBA basketball, Major League Baseball, and ice hockey on both the NHL and Olympic level. His call of the "Miracle on Ice" win by the U.S. hockey team in the 1980 Winter Olympics — "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" — is legendary in sports broadcasting. Michaels was once the radio play-by-play man for the Cincinnati Reds, and was replaced by Marty Brennaman when he moved on.
- Marv Albert, who has worked many network and local-team assignments in basketball, football and ice hockey. He has been the play-by-play voice for the New York Knicks of the NBA and the New York Rangers of the NHL, numerous NFL games, and the regular play-by-play voice for Westwood One radio broadcasts of Monday Night Football. He is also the #1 announcer for TNT's NBA coverage. Albert's son, Kenny, and brothers Steve and Al are also play-by-play announcers for various teams and/or networks. He was the voice of the NBA on NBC during Michael Jordan and the Bulls' dynasty of the 90's (except 1998), and had some very memorable calls, including during the 1991 NBA Finals when Jordan switched hands in the air during a layup.
- Curt Gowdy, whose name is still linked to NBC's Game of the Week, but who also was the primary play-by-play man for the Boston Red Sox for years, and also worked on NFL and American Football League games including Super Bowl I. He worked so many different sports that he was called the "broadcaster of everything."
- Bob Costas, who has covered virtually every major sport for NBC as a play-by-play man and studio host, and even hosted his own late-night talk show on that network.
- Bill King, announcer for the Oakland Athletics of baseball, the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders of football, and the San Francisco/Golden State Warriors of basketball. Probably the best-known announcer in the San Francisco Bay Area, he was also famous for his catchphrase "Holy Toledo!".
- Chris Schenkel, who has covered many events for ABC Sports like football, boxing, NASCAR, and most famously, Bowling (known as the Pro Bowlers Tour), in which he covered until 1997.
- Bill Hillgrove began broadcasting with the University of Pittsburgh men's basketball team in 1969 and is the primary play-by-play man for most of the school's athletic programs. In 1994, he was handpicked by Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney to take over play-by-play duties for the Steelers, and has since called for both Pitt and the Steelers, calling Super Bowl XXX and Super Bowl XL in the process.
- Eli Gold, longtime radio commentator for NASCAR racing and University of Alabama sports, primarily football. Early in his career, he frequently did play-by-play for hockey, and was also sports anchor for WBRC-TV in Birmingham, Alabama.
Play-by-play announcers are also well known in professional wrestling
, where their main job is to put over
the action in the ring by not only calling the maneuvers and action in the ring, but by recapping the angles
and other goings on that have occurred. They often support the face
in the match and are joined by color commentators
, who take up for the heel
- although this can change as circumstances dictate (Jerry Lawler always talked badly about the "Right To Censor" stable, and would always defend Jim Ross when a wrestler disliked a comment he made and tried to fight him). Current well known announcers in professional wrestling include Jim Ross
, Joey Styles
, Mike Tenay
, and Michael Cole
, and some "legends" in the field are Gordon Solie
, Lance Russell
, the late Gorilla Monsoon
, and even World Wrestling Entertainment Chairman Vince McMahon
, who started his on screen career doing play-by-play as a face announcer being foil to the likes which included Jesse Ventura
Ford C. Frick award-winning announcer Jack Brickhouse was well known as a professional wrestling announcer in the 1950s.
Former Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers broadcaster Bill Mercer is also an established wrestling announcer in his own right; best remembered as the voice and associated producer of World Class Championship Wrestling. It was Mercer who, along with Mickey Grant and Gary Hart, came up with the World Class name, when the promotion was being retooled from its former name Big Time Wrestling.
is also used to refer to theatre
-going types who remain in the audience for extended days, weeks or months watching any play hosted there. Famous examples of these so-called 'play-by-players' include Eva Moore
and her father.
Play By Play (http://www.play-by-play.com/) is also a long-running NYC theatre organization used to fill unsold seats in Broadway and Off-Broadway shows.