Sports Broadcasting Hall of Famer Dick Enberg Dies at 82
Few sports broadcasters count both a master’s degree and a doctorate among their credentials, but superior education is just one qualification that made Dick Enberg a special talent. Enberg, one of the most versatile announcers ever to take the microphone, passed away yesterday at his La Jolla Home. He was 82.
“All of us at CBS Sports are saddened to hear of the passing of our friend and colleague Dick Enberg,” said CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus, in a statement. “There will never be another Dick Enberg. As the voice of generations of fans, Dick was a masterful storyteller, a consummate professional and a true gentleman. He was one of the true legends of our business. His passion, energy and love for the game will surely be missed. Our deepest sympathies go out to Barbara and his entire family.”
A Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame inductee in 2009, Enberg brought a professor’s logic to his preparation, and lent his voice to every major sporting event — from the Olympic Games to the Super Bowl — over the course of his 50-plus-year career.
Most recently, Enberg had worked for the San Diego Padres for seven seasons as the team’s primary play-by-play television voice. He retired in 2016.
In a statement released by the San Diego Padres, the team said: “We are immensely saddened by the sudden and unexpected passing of legendary broadcaster Dick Enberg. “Dick was an institution in the industry for 60 years and we were lucky enough to have his iconic voice behind the microphone for Padres games for nearly a decade. On behalf of our entire organization, we send our deepest condolences to his wife, Barbara, and the entire Enberg family.”
Enberg began his broadcasting career far from the spotlight. Sitting in the bleachers of a high school football game between Mt. Pleasant and Shepherd, MI, Enberg was the play-by-play man, as well as the analyst, engineer, and lead technician.
Before refining his skills in the broadcast booth, Enberg did plenty of homework. A graduate of Central Michigan University, he earned a master’s degree and a doctorate from Indiana University, where he also served as the first-ever football and basketball play-by-play announcer for the Indiana University Sports Network. He then made his voice heard at the front of the classroom, as an assistant professor at California State University at Northridge.
“He was a teacher by trade, and, consequently, he knows what it is like to prepare for and take a test,” said Billy Packer, Enberg’s long-time NCAA basketball broadcast partner, in a 2009 interview with SVG. “His interest as a former teacher in acquiring knowledge and not overburdening you with his knowledge is the ultimate preparation.”
The professor lent his voice to the Northridge dugout as well as its classrooms, working as an assistant coach for the baseball team. To encourage his players for a base hit, Enberg and the coaching staff would yell out, “Touch ’em all!,” the phrase that Enberg later adopted as his home-run call.
Arriving at his signature expression, however, was a lesson in preparation.
“All good announcers have a punch line,” Enberg said in a 2009 interview with SVG. In 1957, however, options were limited — “Oh, doctor,” “Holy cow,” and “How about that,” were already taken (by Red Barber, Harry Caray, and Mel Allen, respectively).
“In the Midwest, ‘Oh, my’ is a common expression,” Enberg continued. “My mother used it often, and you can use it in many different inflections. After about three weeks of using it, my pals in graduate school would see me and say, ‘Enberg, Oh my!’ And I said, that’s going to be a good friend.”
That good friend was with Enberg for more than 50 years, at both NBC and CBS. The former radio and television voice of the California Angels, UCLA basketball, and the Los Angeles Rams went on to call NFL and NCAA football; NBA and NCAA basketball; four Olympic Games; the Australian, French, and U.S. Opens and Wimbledon; the Masters, U.S. Open golf, and PGA Championships; the World Series; heavyweight boxing; gymnastics; figure skating; Breeders’ Cup horse racing; and track and field.
“Dick can not just cover an event but weave a story around it,” said legendary ABC/NBC producer/director Don Ohlmeyer, in a 2009 interview with SVG. “He’s fantastic at being able to put an event in its historical context. For an event like Wimbledon, there was always that air of respect in his voice without in any way being obsequious, and that’s a tough thing to pull off.”
According to ESPN, Enberg is survived by his wife Barbara, five children, and three grandchildren.
Carolyn Braff and Karen Hogan Ketchum contributed to this report.