Legendary sports broadcaster Keith Jackson passes away at the age of 89

Jackson was a broadcaster for years in Seattle. He graduated in 1954. A professor named Bert Harrison helped steer him into the booth, and in 1952 he called the Stanford-WSU game for KWSC radio - launching a 54-year career. He practiced broadcasting as a youngster growing up on a farm there - "My grandma once told my mama, 'The kid's walking insane around the cornfield, talking to himself.' I was calling ballgames." - but it wasn't until he was in college at Washington State that he saw it as a possible career. After graduation, Jackson worked for KOMO-AM and KOMO-TV.

Jackson's final game for ABC was a game fitting of his broadcast career. The highlight of his tenure with ABC News Radio was covering the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco with Walter Cronkite.

Keith Jackson's legend as one of the greats voices in sports has continued since his retirement and will only get stronger now as time goes on!

There are plenty of fine television announcers calling college football today, but none has the voice that can produce the visceral effect that Jackson's did. His down-home, baritone delivery was punctuated by such memorable phrases as "big uglies" (large linemen), "fum-blllllllllllllllle!" and his best known exclamation, "Whoa, Nelly!" Jackson has also left an impression by naming the Rose Bowl the "Granddaddy of Them All" to nicknaming Michigan Stadium "The Big House". His final game was January 4, 2006, with Texas defeating USC in the national championship game.

Keith Jackson, a widely-recognized sports broadcaster died Friday, his family told ESPN.

He was the original play-by-play man on Monday Night Football, until Roone Arledge's love affair with Frank Gifford was requited - a transition which, even if handled badly, at least spared Jackson the indignity of further fencing with Howard Cosell. His words were woven into the fabric of college football, his passion into the DNA of the sport. He and Celtics legend Bill Russell called National Basketball Association games on ABC for four years. In 1972 Mark Spitz won seven gold medals in swimming, and in 1980 Eric Heiden won five individual gold medals in speedskating.

When Jackson retired 12 years ago, he told the New York Times, "I'm 77 and I feel it", adding he hated the on-air mistakes that started to creep into his usually flawless work.

In between, Jackson covered an incredible amount of events.

While he was best known for college football but in his 40 years at ABC Sports he did much, much more.

Jackson was referring to the ESPN sports host who doubled as a standup comic and was one of the leading Jackson impersonators. He had broadcast 15 Rose Bowls. From the aforementioned 2006 Rose Bowl, to the "hold the phone" call as Miami cornerback Glenn Sharpe was called for a penalty to give the Buckeyes new life in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl Jackson was there on the call and calm under pressure.

  • Julie Sanders


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