Definitions

play angles

Play-by-play

[pley-bahy-pley]
Play-by-play, 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:

Baseball

American football

  • 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.

See also

List of current NFL announcers

Association football (soccer)

Basketball

  • 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.

Ice hockey

Horse racing

  • 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.

Cricket

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.

Auto racing

Curling

  • 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.

Multiple sports

Some play-by-play announcers are hard to pin down to a specific sport.

Pro wrestling

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.

Canadian football

Theater parlance

Play-by-play 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.

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