Best Announcers of All-Time

Today through Saturday, I’ll be scarce on the blog. My sister is getting married and I’m not going to be blogging much. In fact, I won’t blogging at all. The Viewing Picks and the posts you’ll see for the next three days have been done ahead of time. But I don’t want to lose you the loyal reader so I’m going to provide as much original content as possible so you’ll have these to tie you over until I return, most likely on Monday.

Even if news breaks, I won’t be able to blog, but know that I’ll be thinking of you while I’m gone.

This post is going to list the best announcers of all-time. I’m going to list these by sport, then do them by play-by-play and analysts. In some cases, I’ll also list local announcers. Of course, you’ll disagree with me because that’s what people do on the internet. And you can debate away.

Let’s start with the lists and go from there.

BASEBALL

Best Play-by-Play
1. Vin Scully – Los Angeles Dodgers/NBC Sports/CBS Radio
2. Ernie Harwell – Detroit Tigers/California Angels/CBS Radio
3. Curt Gowdy – Boston Red Sox/NBC Sports/CBS Radio
4. Jack Buck – St. Louis Cardinals/CBS Radio/CBS Sports
5. Jon Miller – Boston Red Sox/Baltimore Orioles/San Francisco Giants/ESPN/ESPN Radio

At age 82, Vin has still got it. He doesn’t need a partner and continues to be the best baseball broadcaster. Ernie Harwell was a baseball historian and could weave tales with the best. Curt Gowdy was one of the first all-around broadcasters on network TV, calling baseball, football, basketball and the Olympics. Jack Buck’s call of Kirk Gibson’s home run in the 1988 World Series is one of the most iconic calls in the history of the sport. Jon Miller is one of the best announcers of his generation.

Best Analysts
1. Tony Kubek – NBC Sports/TSN/MSG Network
2. Don Drysdale – California Angels/ABC Sports
3. Jim Palmer – ABC Sports/MASN
4. Jerry Remy – NESN
5. Jim Kaat – CBS Sports/MSG Network/YES/MLB Network

Tony Kubek was the best network analyst, bar none. Tim McCarver and Joe Morgan don’t even come close and don’t hold candles to Tony. And even in the 1990’s some thirty years being removed from the game, Kubek continued to teach viewers on the game. Don Drysdale gave great insights on pitching. Jim Palmer was the better and less verbose half of the ABC analysts teamed with Al Michaels. Jerry Remy is one of the best local analysts and could be on the networks if he so chose. And Jim Kaat continues to be an excellent analyst.

Best Local TV/Radio Teams
1. Harry Kalas/Richie Ashburn/Andy Musser/Chris Wheeler – Philadelphia Phillies
2. Ned Martin/Jim Woods – Boston Red Sox
3. Skip Caray/Pete Van Wieren/Ernie Johnson, Sr./Don Sutton – Atlanta Braves
4. Ernie Harwell/Paul Carey – Detroit Tigers
5. Jon Miller/Fred Manfra – Baltimore Orioles
6. Sean McDonough/Jerry Remy – Boston Red Sox
7. Marty Brennaman/Joe Nuxhall – Cincinnati Reds
8. Chuck Thompson/Bill O’Donnell – Baltimore Orioles
9. Harry Caray/Steve Stone – Chicago Cubs
10. Dick Enberg/Don Drysdale – California Angels

I’ve listened to a lot of baseball growing up and one of my thrills was to find the 50,000 watt AM stations carrying baseball. While I loved the Red Sox, I always enjoyed listening to the Phillies team on WCAU. Ned Martin and Jim Woods were the best radio broadcasters the Red Sox have ever had. Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren were comfortable listens on Braves games on TBS.

Boxing

Play-by-play
1. Howard Cosell – ABC Sports
2. Jim Lampley – HBO Sports
3. Tim Ryan – CBS Sports
4. Marv Albert – NBC Sports
5. Bob Papa – HBO Sports/Versus/ESPN/NBC Sports

Seriously, there wasn’t anyone better than Cosell calling a heavyweight championship fight. Jim Lampley is great now. Tim Ryan was tremendous doing CBS fights in the 1980’s. Many probably don’t know Marv Albert used to call a fight every Sunday on NBC SportsWorld in the 80’s. Bob Papa is a very good announcer now for HBO.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

Best Play-by-play
1. Dick Enberg – NBC Sports/CBS Sports
2. Brent Musberger – CBS Sports/ESPN
3. Curt Gowdy – NBC Sports
4. Jim Nantz – CBS Sports
5. Verne Lundquist – CBS Sports

Nothing needs to be added to this list. Enberg did UCLA basketball in its heyday when the school was winning championships and went to NBC where he was teamed with Billy Packer and Al McGuire as the one of the best broadcasting tandems ever. The others on the list can speak for themselves.

Best Analyst
1. Billy Packer – Raycom/NBC Sports/CBS Sports
2. Al McGuire – NBC Sports/CBS Sports
3. Clark Kellogg – ESPN/CBS Sports
4. Quinn Buckner – CBS Sports/ESPN
5. Len Elmore – CBS Sports/ESPN

I used to love Billy Packer on the games up until the 21st Century when he seemed to become disinterested, bitter, crotchety and cranky. During his early career, he was very good in finding the nuances to college basketball and picking up trends, but he seemed to forget that in his later years. His overall body of work was good enough to be on top.

Best Local Play-by-play
1. Cawood Ledford – Kentucky
2. Woody Durham – North Carolina
3. Bob Harris – Duke
4. Paul Keels – Ohio State University
5. Gene Deckerhoff – Florida State University

I did the same for college basketball as I did for baseball, finding games on the radio. In addition, Cawood Ledford called the Final Four on radio for NBC and CBS Radio well into the 1980’s. Excellent announcer and still beloved by old school Kentucky fans. Woody Durham is a legend among Tar Heel fans.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Best Play-by-play
1. Keith Jackson – ABC Sports
2. Ron Franklin – ESPN
3. Brent Musburger – CBS Sports/ABC Sports/ESPN
4. Verne Lundquist – CBS Sports
5. Tom Hammond – NBC Sports

Keith was the best hands down. Ron Franklin is still great. Brent can spot a big story from a mile away. Uncle Verne on SEC games is as comfortable a fit as you can get.

Best Analyst
1. Frank Broyles – ABC Sports
2. Pat Haden – CBS Sports/NBC Sports
3. Gary Danielson – ABC Sports/ESPN/CBS Sports
4. Dan Fouts – ESPN
5. Ara Parseghian – ABC Sports/CBS Sports

NBA

Best Play-by-play
1. Marv Albert – NBC Sports/TNT
2. Dick Stockton – CBS Sports/TNT
3. Mike Gorman – Comcast SportsNet New England
4. Brent Musburger – CBS Sports
5. Mike Tirico – ESPN

Marv is probably the best ever at calling the NBA.

Best Analyst
1. Doug Collins – NBC Sports/TNT
2. Hubie Brown – USA Network/CBS Sports/TNT/ESPN
3. Bill Walton – NBC Sports/ESPN
4. Charles Barkley – TNT/TBS
5. Kenny Smith – TNT/TBS

NFL

Best play-by-play
1. Al Michaels – ABC Sports/NBC Sports
2. Dick Enberg – NBC Sports/CBS Sports
3. Pat Summerall – CBS Sports/Fox Sports
4. Charlie Jones – ABC Sports/NBC Sports
5. Don Criqui – NBC Sports/CBS Sports

Al Michaels is another announcer who can call multiple sports well, except for the NBA which he seemingly didn’t care for. But the NFL has become his calling and he’s the best.

Best Analyst
1. John Madden – CBS Sports/ABC Sports/NBC Sports
2. Hank Stram – CBS Sports/CBS Radio
3. Merlin Olsen – NBC Sports/CBS Sports
4. Dan Dierdorf – ABC Sports/CBS Sports
5. Phil Simms – ESPN/NBC Sports/CBS Sports

Seriously, could anyone be ranked over Madden?

NHL

Best Play-by-play
1. Mike Emrick – ESPN/NBC Sports
2. Dan Kelly – CBS Sports/USA Network
3. Bob Cole – CBC
4. Chris Cuthbert – CBC/NBC Sports/TSN
5. Jiggs MacDonald – SportsChannel America

For the longest time, I felt the late Dan Kelly was the best in calling hockey (I never heard Foster Hewitt), but Mike Emrick has surpassed him in this decade. Four out of the five I’ve listed have been honored with Foster Hewitt Memorial Award by the Hockey Hall of Fame and deservedly so. Cuthbert should be soon.

Best Analyst
1. John Davidson – MSG Network/Fox Sports/ESPN/NBC Sports/Versus
2. Harry Neale – CBC
3. Ed Olcyzk – NBC Sports
4. Mickey Redmond – CBC/Fox Sports Detroit
5. Don Cherry – CBC

JD’s got into the Hall of Fame last year and I’m surprised it took that long. Harry Neale was very good until his later years, but is still doing decently for MSG Buffalo on Sabres games.

Best Local Play-by-play
1. Bob Wilson – Boston Bruins
2. Ron Weber – Washington Capitals
3. Chuck Kaiton – Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes
4. Mike Lange – Pittsburgh Penguins
5. Pat Foley – Chicago Blackhawks

Again, four of out of five here are in the Hockey Hall of Fame, Weber being the most recent this year. Pat Foley should be honored. Bob Wilson really gave me my love for hockey while calling Bruins games. Ron Weber educated fans on hockey in DC. Chuck Kaiton had to endure some really bad teams in Hartford before finally calling a Stanley Cup in Carolina. Only Mike Lange can say, “You can scratch my back with a hacksaw,” or “Lord Stanley, Lord Stanley, give me the brandy,” or “Tell Granny the bingo game is over.” Pat Foley is back with the Blackhawks after being exiled to the AHL Wolves. He should be in the Hall of Fame too.

TENNIS

Best Play-by-play
1. Dick Enberg – NBC Sports/CBS Sports/ESPN2
2. Jim Simpson – NBC Sports/ESPN
3. Tim Ryan – NBC Sports/CBS Sports
4. Cliff Drysdale – ESPN
5. Pat Summerall – CBS Sports

Best Analyst
1. John McEnroe – USA Network/NBC Sports/CBS Sports/ESPN2/7 Network/BBC Sport
2. Mary Carillo – USA Network/CBS Sports/NBC Sports/ESPN2
3. Bud Collins – NBC Sports/ESPN2/Tennis Channel
4. Tracy Austin – USA Network/7 Network/BBC Sport
5. Tony Trabert – CBS Sports

HOSTS

1. Bob Costas – NBC Sports/HBO Sports/MLB Network
2. Jim McKay – ABC Sports
3. Brent Musburger – CBS Sports/ABC Sports/ESPN
4. Ernie Johnson, Jr. – Turner Sports
5. James Brown – Fox Sports/CBS Sports
6. Howard Cosell – ABC Sports

So that will do it for this set of lists. Coming up later today, the Most Influential Sports Series of All-Time.

Ken Fang

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013. He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television. Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

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