If I were to ask sports fans to name the most accomplished sports announcers of the last 60 years chances are Bob Wolff would not be one of the choices. Wolff never achieved the notoriety of some of the more famous sports broadcasters of the last 60 years or so, like, for instance, Vin Scully, Jack and Joe Buck and Harry Caray in baseball, Pat Summerall, Keith Jackson, Curt Gowdy and John Madden in football and Marv Albert in basketball, but, in my opinion, his career compares favorably with any and all of them. Perhaps, the reason he has been somewhat overlooked is he did most of his work on radio, and his tv work was mostly regional. Read on and decide how his career stacks up with the big boys.
Robert Alfred Wolff was born on November 29, 1920 in NYC. He attended Duke University on a baseball scholarship and graduated with Phi Beta Kappa and Omicron Delta Kappa honors. Unfortunately, his nascent baseball career ended early in college when he suffered a broken ankle. However, Wolff did pretty well for himself in his next career – sports broadcasting.
Wolff began this career in 1939 while still an undergraduate. Ultimately, he became the longest running broadcaster in tv and radio history. His career spanned nine decades – NINE! In addition, he was arguably the most versatile broadcaster in history. He “called” contests in baseball, football, basketball and the Westminster Dog Show, among other sports.
Below please find the highlights of his unique and remarkable career:
- He was the tv and radio voice of the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins from 1947 – 1961.
- He “called” games on all the major tv networks as well as the Mutual Broadcasting System and Armed Forces Radio. He announced the NBC Game of the Week from 1962 – 1965. Also, he broadcast several major Bowl Games, such as the Rose and Sugar Bowls,
- He “called” two of the most famous and significant games in history – the Yankees’ Don Larsen’s perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1956 World Series and the 1958 NFL Championship Game where the Baltimore Colts beat the NY Giants in overtime in the so-called “Greatest Game Ever Played.” It may not have been the “greatest,” but it certainly was the most significant as it has been largely credited for putting the NFL on the map.
- In the NBA he broadcast games for the NY Knicks and Detroit Pistons. In addition, he was the Knicks’ tv announcer for both their 1970 and 1973 championships.
- In the NHL he broadcast for the NY Rangers.
- In the NFL he did games for the Baltimore Colts, Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns.
- In the North American Soccer League he broadcast games for the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
- As an employee of Madison Square Garden he broadcast the National Horse Show, college hockey and basketball, women’s tennis, bowling, gymnastics and boxing. You name the sport, and he did it.
- Wolff was one of only two persons (the other being Dale Arnold) to have broadcast games for each of the four major American sports leagues plus soccer.
Wolff’s amazing longevity can best be illustrated by the fact that he was able to interview the likes of Jim Thorp, Babe Ruth, Connie Mack, Tris Speaker Ty Cobb and Ted Williams. One can say, Wolff covered athletes whose career spanned the entire 20th century, plus part of the 21st. Amazing! He has been honored by both the baseball and basketball Halls of Fame, the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame and the MSG Walk of Fame.
Wolff continued to work well into his 90s for News 12 Long Island. Why? In his own words: “I enjoy it. If I didn’t do it, what would I do to have fun?”
Wolff passed away on July 15 at the age of 96, leaving a wife, two sons, a daughter, nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Rest in peace Bob. You were one of a kind, and you will be missed.