CBS Broadcasting Legend Humbled at Gotham Hall
It might be easy for Verne Lundquist, who is now in his 50th year of sports broadcasting, to gloat about his long list of radio and television achievements. But that wouldn't be his style.
Truly humbled, and always reverential to his predecessors, Lundquist graciously received the seventh annual Vin Scully Lifetime Achievement Award at Gotham Hall in New York City on Thursday night.
The 73-year-old Lundquist began his acceptance speech by thanking members of his longtime CBS Sports crew, including college football partner Gary Danielson, sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson and the chairman of their sports division, Sean McManus. But then Lundquist's attention turned to the award's namesake.
"If you are in the business of radio/television, there's no better way to begin a work week than by receiving a call and hearing the wonderful, rich baritone voice of Vin Scully saying, 'Congratulations, and welcome to the club,'" said Lundquist. "That happened to me in December. I was overwhelmed then, and I'm overwhelmed tonight."
Scully, the longtime voice of the Dodgers and a proud alumnus of Fordham University and WFUV radio -- which distributes the awards and hosts the event each year -- presented a video message to Lundquist beforehand from his familiar broadcast perch in Dodger Stadium.
"[Lundquist has] done so many sports, so many. How do you define that? He has done 20 different sports. In fact, I think Verne owes it to all of us that during his acceptance speech, he should name 20 different sports," mused Scully. "You fulfill every definition of a national and successful sportscaster. We welcome you with open arms."
Lundquist didn't follow Scully's joking orders, but he does indeed have quite the eclectic broadcasting resume. Born in Minnesota, and a graduate of Texas Lutheran University, he began his sportscasting career as the radio voice for the Dallas Cowboys from 1967-84. Lundquist shortly thereafter moved to CBS, where one of his duties was calling figure skating at the 1992, '94 and '98 Winter Olympic Games.
Lundquist has experience broadcasting national NFL and NBA games, and he continues to cover the Masters and PGA Championship. Today, his talents mostly serve the college arena. During the fall and winter, Lundquist handles lead play-by-play with Danielson for CBS Sports' coverage of SEC football. And in the spring, he calls college basketball with longtime friend and analyst Bill Raftery. In 2007, Lundquist was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame.
Considering the list of other Vin Scully Award winners, Lundquist believed this to be the highest award he has ever received. Former honorees include Scully himself, longtime national announcer and now San Diego Padres voice Dick Enberg, Ford C. Frick award winner and longtime Detroit Tigers radio voice Ernie Harwell, and NFL broadcasting legends Pat Summerall and Al Michaels. Last year's award went to Bob Costas, host of MLB Network's "Studio 42 with Bob Costas," whom Lundquist believes "is the most naturally gifted broadcaster of our generation."
And while Lundquist has a distant relationship with baseball, he fondly recalled attending his first Major League game, between the Chicago Cubs and Brooklyn Dodgers at Wrigley Field.
"Don Newcombe was pitching, Roy Campanella was behind the plate, Gil Hodges, Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Carl Furillo , Duke Snider … and in the dugout, a couple of young puppies named Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax," remembered Lundquist. "We had seats right beyond the first-base line. I remember early in the game looking over my left shoulder and peering up into the broadcast booth, and that's the first time I ever saw Vin Scully. He was 29 years old."
Lundquist had a deeply inspirational broadcasting moment some 30 years later, still from Scully. Lundquist gave the audience a distinct play-by-play -- just as Scully did -- of Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, when the Dodgers' hobbled Kirk Gibson slapped a game-wining home run over the right-field wall. Lundquist marveled at the fact that Scully -- after exclaiming, "She's gone!" -- didn't say a word as Gibson rounded the bases and gave his curtain call, letting the crowd and the moment sing.
"Only when Gibson went back into the dugout and disappeared into the tunnel, and the crowd noise began to subside, did Scully speak, and he said, 'In a year of the improbable, the impossible has occurred.' It's the best call I ever heard," said Lundquist.
Letting the moment ring seemed to be the theme of the night, which concluded with recording icon Mavis Staples on stage.
"When you think of Verne Lundquist and Vin Scully, your mind conjures up legendary calls and plays that last forever," said Raftery, who introduced Lundquist. "They both let you remember the athlete and the play, [and it is] never, never, about them. Their soul is intertwined in the event they are covering. That's what makes Vin Scully, Vin, and what makes Verne Lundquist, Verne."
Lundquist closed by echoing his partner's thoughts.
"I've tried to always remember that the game is the thing," he said. "And when it's done well, sports television is the ultimate collaborative endeavor."