Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame Ceremony Honors Legends Behind, in Front of the Camera
The Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame entered its second decade on Dec. 12 with a star-studded induction ceremony at the New York Hilton Midtown. Ten industry icons from in front of and behind the camera were honored during a touching ceremony, hosted by ESPN’s Bob Ley, that featured plenty of raucous laughs and heartfelt tears. For the sixth year, all table sales — totaling more than $175,000 — were donated in support of the SVG Sports Broadcasting Fund, which supports sports-broadcasting industry members in times of need.
This year’s roster of honorees comprises ESPN on-air personality Chris Berman, Sportvision founder and augmented-reality pioneer Stan Honey, seminal play-by-play voice Brent Musburger, CBS Sports college-basketball analyst Bill Raftery, graphics innovator Linda Rheinstein, former MLB Commissioner Allan “Bud” Selig, Fox Sports jack-of-all-trades executive Jack Simmons, sportscasting trailblazer Lesley Visser, ESPN storytelling stalwart John A. Walsh, and renowned production exec Michael Weisman.
CLICK HERE to read each inductee’s full profile.
Bill Raftery, The Coach Who Became a Cross-Generational Legend Behind the Mic
The night kicked off by honoring one of the most beloved personalities in all of college basketball: Bill Raftery. The former college coach’s career as a basketball analyst has spanned more than 32 years and includes being a mainstay for CBS and others for events like the NCAA Tournament, Final Four, the Big East Championship, Big Ten Championship, ACC Championship, and SEC Championship, as well as NBA games for the New Jersey Nets. A two-time Emmy Award-winning analyst with playing and coaching experience, Raftery combines keen analysis and opinion with unsurpassed enthusiasm and unique catchphrases.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to work for pretty much everyone, [including] a lot of friends in the room from CBS, Fox, Turner, and ESPN — there’s so many to mention — but I thank all of you for your support and friendship over the years,” he said at his induction. “When you are in the television business, you have two families: your spouse and children and those people who you are with on the road. … I am grateful to all of them, as well as their associates, for teaching and nurturing me. … Thank you. It’s been a pleasure to be part of this great business.”
Stan Honey, Master Innovator, Navigator, Collaborator
A major figure in technological innovation in sports television, Honey co-founded Sportvision in 1998 and led development of the yellow first-down line widely used in NFL and college-football broadcasts, the ESPN K-Zone baseball pitch-tracking and -highlighting system, and the Race/FX tracking and highlighting system used in NASCAR. Prior to co-founding Sportvision, Honey worked as EVP, technology, for News Corp. from 1993 through 1998. He also holds eight patents in navigation technology and 21 in tracking and television special effects.
“Successful systems, in my experience come from the close cooperation and communication between the technical teams … and experts in sports that know the important stories to tell and how to tell them. That cooperation between the folks that know what’s possible to do and the folks that know what’s important to do [is] where all the important systems come from,” said Honey. “Somebody recently asked me what I was most proud of in my life. … The thing that I am most proud of in my life is that I have been able to collect a group of technical professionals and drag them around with me for the last 40 years and find important problems for that team to work on.”
Brent Musburger, An Iconic Voice Always Up to the Big Moments
Musburger’s on-air career hit the national stage in 1975, and, for more than 40 years, he was a mainstay in living rooms across America while working for ESPN, ABC Sports, and CBS Sports. Musburger’s résumé includes play-by-play or hosting responsibilities (TV or radio) for Super Bowl, College Football Championship, Final Four, The Masters, Rose Bowl, Little League World Series, FIFA World Cup, Indianapolis 500, NBA Finals, MLB Playoffs, US Open tennis, and Belmont Stakes.
“Thank you very much to all those who gave me this honor. It is so much appreciated,” Musburger said remotely from Las Vegas. “It seems like such a short time ago that I started out at CBS in Chicago. And I remember the great Vin Scully once reminded the All-Stars at an All-Star break during midsummer, ‘Guys really appreciate it because it is such a short distance from the All-Star Game to Old-Timers game.’ Believe me, here tonight, I understand exactly what Vinny was saying.”
Linda Rheinstein, An Innovator Ahead of Her Time
Rheinstein began her career at the age of 17 as a Datavision operator for VTE and was soon a driving force in graphics design, reshaping the concept of what makes for a great sports graphic. She was the first female graphics operator in the industry and a leader in live graphics, postproduction, and special effects during the late ’70s and ’80s, when many of those technologies matured and became a key part of every sports production. In the ’90s, she helped Fox Sports create its initial graphic look.
“For those of you who know me, speechless is not a word usually used to describe me, but, well, here you have it,” Rheinstein said. “I am blown away, humbled, and honored to be included in this incredible group of Hall of Famers. Thank you, one and all.”
Allan ‘Bud’ Selig, Steward of America’s Pastime and Unlikely Digital Pioneer
Selig was the ninth commissioner of Major League Baseball, serving as acting commissioner from 1992 to 1998 and then as official commissioner until 2015. During his tenure, he implemented and expanded the use of instant replay and oversaw the launch of the MLB Network and the growth of MLB.com into one of sport’s most powerful entities. Selig also oversaw baseball through the introduction of the wild-card playoff format and was instrumental in organizing the World Baseball Classic in 2006. Selig, a firm believer that baseball is an American social institution, recounted the key moments that changed not only baseball but also our country:
“This honor means a great deal to me and my family,” he said. “On my last day as commissioner in January 2015, I spoke before the New York Baseball Writers Dinner and told them, ‘What you see here before your eyes is a little boy’s dreams that came true.’ That remains true today, and I look at how lucky I’ve been the past 55 years. This has been quite a remarkable journey, and being inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame is yet another beautiful and appreciated honor.”
Jack Simmons, The Linchpin of Fox Sports’ Success
Simmons began his career in the NBC New York mailroom in 1970 and recently retired from Fox Sports, where he had been SVP of production operations. In 1987, he was named manager of planning for NBC Sports Operations and joined Fox in 1994 as director of production at the then-fledgling network. Truly a jack of all trades, Simmons was always up for any challenge and now works to help veterans join the sports-TV industry.
“This business has given me amazing experiences,” he said. “I’ve spent time with Muhammed Ali and John Wooden. I’ve worked at Super Bowls, World Series, and Heavyweight Championships. I’ve visited troops at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, the DMZ in Korea, and Walter Reed Medical Center. I recently got to touch the Play Like a Champion Today sign at Notre Dame, and tonight I’m in a room filled with champions. Thank you all very much, and God bless you.”
Lesley Visser, Sportscasting Trailblazer
A pioneer in sports broadcasting, Visser has had that word attached to much of her career and is the most highly acclaimed female sportscaster of all time. Among her firsts are being the only woman to be recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the 2006 recipient of the Pete Rozelle Radio and Television Award, the first female NFL analyst on TV, and the only sportscaster in history (male or female) who has worked on Final Four, NBA Finals, World Series, Triple Crown, Monday Night Football, the Olympics, the Super Bowl, the World Figure Skating Championships, and the U.S. Open network broadcasts.
“To my entire broadcasting family, thank you,” she said. “I thank everyone I work with because no one lands on Normandy by themselves. Thank you. I am humbled.”
John A. Walsh, Journalist, Storyteller, Innovator
Walsh joined ESPN in 1988, and his fingerprints are on many of the network’s largest initiatives and launches. He retired in 2015, closing out his career as EVP and executive editor. He was instrumental in developing ESPN’s journalistic enterprise, including SportsCenter, Outside the Lines, and many other ESPN news/information products and networks. He also led creation of ESPN The Magazine and The ESPYs and, for many years, drove the editorial direction of ESPN.com, ESPN Radio, and more.
“To everyone out there that works at ESPN and for all those that watch ESPN, I have one word: booyah!” he joked in opening his speech — a reference to the late, great Stuart Scott. “I come here to thank everybody. … The hallmarks of ESPN were collegiality, consciousness, and competitiveness. And, to this day, that’s what makes ESPN, for over 30 years, the network that it is.”
Michael Weisman, Producer Extraordinaire
Weisman’s career has plenty of highlights, including winning 24 Emmys and working on 23 World Series and MLB Championship Series and 20 Super Bowl and NFL Championship games. He was the youngest-ever producer and executive producer at NBC Sports. But his real legacy is the impact he has had with his ability to develop talent in front of and behind the camera. He’s the man who put Bob Costas in a studio role and created the announcer-coach position for Marty Glickman. In addition, he was part of the organizing team for the 1994 World Cup in Los Angeles and joined Fox Sports when it launched its baseball coverage in 1996.
“I’m delighted to receive this honor with such an accomplished group,” said Weisman. “I’m grateful for my friends, my colleagues, and my career, but I’m most proud that my family knows they were always and still are my priority.”
Chris Berman, A Booming Presence at ESPN
One of the faces atop ESPN’s Mount Rushmore closed out the evening: Chris Berman took the stage. Hired in October 1979 as a little-known 24-year-old sports anchor one month after ESPN’s launch, he transformed the role of studio host — and often play-by-play voice — over the next 38 years. He became one of America’s most respected, popular, and, in many ways, beloved sportscasters of his era. Blending his genuine enthusiasm, knowledge, and wit, Berman has embodied ESPN’s dedication to entertaining and informing sports fans for nearly four decades.
“To quote a rock-and-roll legend, ‘What a long, strange trip it has been.’ That’s for sure,” he said. “When I got into this business, you always hope you have the respect of those you work with and for. You always hope that you earn the respect from colleagues who are doing the same job as you at other places over time. What I hoped — and I didn’t know — that we would get is the respect of those that you cover. … What tonight’s honor in the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame says is ‘Maybe I did it.’ Maybe we achieved that. I’d like to accept this award on behalf of those that I have worked with and everybody I continue to work with at ESPN. … You’ve made me look pretty good for 38 years.”
Ken Kerschbaumer, Brandon Costa, and P.J. Bednarski contributed to this report.