Richard Alan Enberg (January 9, 1935 – December 21, 2017) was an American sportscaster. He provided play-by-play for various sports on numerous radio and television networks (including NBC, CBS, and ESPN), and for individual teams, over the course of an approximately 60-year career.
Enberg was well known for his signature on-air catchphrases “Touch ’em all” (for home runs) and “Oh, my!” (for particularly exciting and outstanding athletic plays). He also announced or hosted the Tournament of Roses Parade for many years, sometimes with the help of family members. Enberg retired from broadcasting in 2016.
Early life and education
Enberg was born in Mount Clemens, Michigan. Following high school in nearby Armada, he played college baseball and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1957 at Central Michigan University. During this time, he was employed at WSAM in Saginaw, Michigan, then a Detroit Tigers radio affiliate. Enberg then went on to graduate school at Indiana University, where he earned master’s and doctorate degrees in health sciences. While at Indiana, Enberg voiced the first radio broadcast of the Little 500, the bicycle racing event popularized in the film Breaking Away. He was also the play-by-play announcer for Indiana Hoosiers football and basketball games, and in 1961 called his first NCAA basketball tournament event, the championship game between Cincinnati and Ohio State. From 1961 to 1965 he was an assistant professor and baseball coach at Cal State Northridge, then known as San Fernando Valley State College. Enberg is also a member of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity.
Career in Los Angeles
In the late 1960s, Enberg began a full-time sportscasting career in Los Angeles, working for KTLA television (anchoring a nightly sports report and calling UCLA Bruins basketball) and KMPC radio (calling Los Angeles Rams football and California Angels baseball). After every Angels victory, he would wrap up his broadcast with, “And the halo shines tonight,” in reference to the “Big A” scoreboard at Anaheim Stadium and the halo at the top, which would light up for everyone in the area to see, particularly from the adjacent freeway. Enberg was named California Sportscaster of the Year four times during this period.
In the 1960s, Enberg announced boxing matches at L.A.’s Olympic Auditorium.
In 1968, Enberg was recommended by UCLA athletic director J. D. Morgan to be the national broadcaster for the syndicated TVS Television Network to cover the “Game of the Century” between the Houston Cougars, led by Elvin Hayes and the UCLA Bruins, led by Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). The “Prime Time” nationally televised game demonstrated that college basketball had a national “Prime Time” audience and stands as a seminal contest in the evolution of nationally televised evening college basketball broadcasts. Enberg continued to call the occasional UCLA game for TVS through the early 1970s, usually teaming with Rod Hundley.
In the 1970s, Enberg called the 1979 NCAA Championship game between Michigan State, led by Magic Johnson, and Indiana State, led by Larry Bird. He also hosted the syndicated television game show Sports Challenge, and co-produced the Emmy Award-winning sports-history series The Way It Was for PBS.
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head”
In the 1970 opening conference game in Pauley Pavilion, Oregon went into a stall against the UCLA Bruins. Enberg had run out of statistics and began to fill his radio broadcast with small talk. The movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid had just been released, and Enberg was humming the tune to “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head“, but did not know the words. Two nights later, at the Oregon State game, many students brought the lyrics to the song. Enberg promised that he would sing the song if UCLA won the conference championship. He sang the song following the final game of the season. The event was recorded in the Los Angeles Times and was later recounted in the book Pauley Pavilion: College Basketball’s Showplace by David Smale. During the 2006 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship broadcast, there was a short feature on the event.
In 1973, Enberg hosted the game show Baffle, which lasted just a year before being cancelled in 1974. A year later, producer Monty Hall hired Enberg to host the shorter-lived Three for the Money.
In 1975, Enberg joined NBC Sports. For the next 25 years, he broadcast a plethora of sports and events for NBC, including the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the U.S. Open golf championship, college football, college basketball, the Wimbledon and French Open tennis tournaments, heavyweight boxing, Breeders’ Cup and other horse racing events, and the Olympic Games.
Enberg replaced Curt Gowdy as lead play-by-play announcer for the NFL on NBC in 1979, and would pick up the network’s telecast of the Rose Bowl Game in 1980. He would be in the booth in Pasadena every year until ABC picked up the broadcast in 1989.
The NFL on NBC
While on The NFL on NBC, Enberg called eight Super Bowls (alongside the likes of Merlin Olsen, Bob Trumpy, Phil Simms, and Paul Maguire), the last being Super Bowl XXXII in January 1998. Enberg also anchored NBC’s coverage of Super Bowl XIII (called by Curt Gowdy) in 1979. He also called three Canadian Football League games in 1982 during the NFL strike.
Among the notable games called by Enberg was the Week 3 51-45 shootout between the Jets and Dolphins and the 1987 playoff game between Denver and Cleveland.
Major League Baseball on NBC
According to his autobiography, Oh My!, Enberg was informed by NBC that he would become the lead play-by-play voice of Major League Baseball Game of the Week beginning with the 1982 World Series (for which he served as pregame host and shared play-by-play duties with Joe Garagiola alongside analyst Tony Kubek) and through subsequent regular seasons. He wrote that on his football trips, he would read every Sporting News to make sure he was current with all the baseball news and notes. Then he met with NBC executives in September 1982, and they informed him that Vin Scully was in negotiations to be their lead baseball play-by-play man (teaming with Garagiola while Kubek would team with Bob Costas) and would begin with the network in the spring of 1983.
According to the book, Enberg wasn’t pleased about the decision (since he loved being the California Angels‘ radio and television voice in the 1970s and was eager to return to baseball) but the fact that NBC was bringing in Scully, arguably baseball’s best announcer, was understandable. Enberg added that NBC also gave him a significant pay increase as a pseudo-apology for not coming through on the promise to make him the lead baseball play-by-play man. Enberg would go on to call some cable TV broadcasts for the Angels in 1985, citing a desire to reconnect with the sport.
Enberg hosted NBC’s pregame shows of the 1985 National League Championship Series with Joe Morgan. It was Enberg who broke the news to most of the nation that Vince Coleman was injured before Game 4. NBC even aired an interview with one of the few people who actually saw the incident, a Dodger batboy. Enberg was also in Toronto to do the pregame for Games 1 and 7 of the 1985 American League Championship Series alongside Rick Dempsey (who was still active with Baltimore at the time).
NBC planned to use Enberg as one of its announcers for The Baseball Network coverage in 1994, but the players’ strike that year ended the season before he had the opportunity to call any games.
As NBC’s voice of the Wimbledon tennis championships, the last tournament for him being in 1999 (alongside Bud Collins and, later, John McEnroe), Enberg regularly concluded the network’s coverage of the two-week event with thematically appropriate observations accompanied by a montage of video clips.
Enberg was hired by CBS Sports in 2000, serving as a play-by-play announcer for the network’s NFL, college basketball, and US Open Tennis coverage. For several years he also contributed to CBS’s coverage of The Masters and PGA Championship golf as an interviewer and essayist.
Another enduring element of Enberg’s broadcasting legacy is his ability to provide warm and poignant reflections on the sporting events he covers. Enberg Essays, as they came to be known, were a regular feature of CBS’s coverage of college basketball’s Final Four.
On March 27, 2010, Enberg called his final college basketball game for CBS, an East Regional tournament final featuring the Kentucky Wildcats versus the West Virginia Mountaineers. After becoming the Padres’ play-by-play announcer, Enberg said he hoped to continue calling late-season NFL games for CBS, but his name was omitted from the network’s announcing roster for 2010. He continued to call the US Open for CBS through 2011.
Enberg returned to call one match and serve as an essayist during the 2014 US Open, to help commemorate CBS’s last year covering the event before ESPN took over in 2015.
2009 US Open controversy
On September 14, 2009, Juan Martín del Potro defeated Roger Federer to win the Men’s US Open Championship. Enberg hosted the post-match ceremony during which del Potro requested to address his fans in Spanish. Enberg declined the request saying that he was running out of time but went on to list the corporate sponsored prizes del Potro won. A couple of minutes later, Del Potro made the same request again and only then Enberg relented saying “Very quickly, in Spanish, he wants to say hello to his friends here and in Argentina“. An emotional del Potro finally spoke a few sentences in Spanish to a cheering crowd. Many viewers expressed disappointment with Enberg and CBS over the interview. A CBS executive later defended Enberg, noting that the contract with the United States Tennis Association required that certain sponsors receive time during the ceremony.
Beginning in 2004, Enberg served as a play-by-play announcer for ESPN2‘s coverage of the Wimbledon and French Open tennis tournaments, adding the Australian Open the following year. Enberg came to ESPN on lease from CBS, where he already called the US Open, the one Grand Slam tournament not covered by ESPN until 2009. At the 2004 French Open, Enberg called a match per day and also provided his “Enberg Moments”. At Wimbledon in 2004, he participated in a new one-hour morning show called Breakfast at Wimbledon. ESPN asked CBS for permission to use Enberg during the summer of 2004 at both the French Open and Wimbledon. Enberg then surprised his new bosses by volunteering for the 2005 Australian Open in January 2005. “I’ve never been to Australia,” he said. “At my age then , to be able to work a full Grand Slam is something I’d like to have at the back of my book.” Enberg stopped calling the French Open after 2009 due to his Padres commitments, though he continued to call the Wimbledon and Australian Open tournaments over the next two years. In June 2011, it was reported that his ESPN contract had ended and that the 2011 Wimbledon tournament would be his final one for the network.
San Diego Padres
In December 2009, Enberg was hired as a television play-by-play announcer by the San Diego Padres, signing a multi-year deal to call 110–120 games a season for channel 4SD. Enberg primarily teamed with Mark Grant on the Padres’ telecasts.
In his debut season as a Padres broadcaster, Enberg took some criticism from fans over a perceived lack of enthusiasm for the home team. Told that he was regarded by some viewers as getting “too excited” over plays by opposing players, Enberg responded, “I find that a real compliment.” He did move to placate the critics, however, by limiting the use of his signature home run call of “Touch ’em all!” to Padres home runs.
In 2012, Enberg returned as play-by-play voice of the Padres as they moved their telecasts from 4SD to Fox Sports San Diego, in the first year of a 20-year deal between the team and the newly formed network. On September 23, 2015, Enberg indicated he would call Padre games for one more season in 2016, then retire.
On May 21, 2016, Enberg served as a special guest play-by-play broadcaster for the Detroit Tigers in their home game with the Tampa Bay Rays, calling the game on Fox Sports Detroit alongside analyst Kirk Gibson. The Tigers were Enberg’s boyhood team, as he lived in the Detroit area. Enberg also called a weekend series for the Tigers post retirement, an interleague series between the Tigers and the Dodgers, August 18–20, 2017 for FSD and one game for FS1.
Enberg’s last game with the Padres was October 2, 2016. In his last week on air, he made a guest appearance with Los Angeles Dodgers announcer Vin Scully, who was retiring after a 67-year career on the same day as Enberg.
In 2006 and 2007, Enberg called Thursday night and postseason NFL games for Westwood One radio. Also in 2006, he began narrating a documentary style television series for Fox Sports Net called In Focus on FSN. For Fox Sports Net, he called his final college basketball game on November 11, 2012 aboard the USS Midway along side Steve Kerr.
In addition to his career in sports broadcasting, Enberg hosted three game shows besides the aforementioned Sports Challenge: The Perfect Match in 1967, Baffle on NBC from 1973 through 1974, and Three for the Money on NBC in 1975. He also lent his voice to the animated CBS cartoon series Where’s Huddles? (1970), the film Rollerball (1975), and the American-dubbed version of the animated UK Christmas special Robbie the Reindeer: Hooves of Fire (2002); made appearances in the films Two-Minute Warning (1976), Gus (1976), Heaven Can Wait (1978), The Longshot (1986), The Naked Gun (1988), and Mr. 3000 (2004); and appeared as himself in episodes of such television programs as The King of Queens and CSI: NY. In addition, Enberg was seen in a series of commercials for GTE during the 1980s and early 1990s, and was the voice of the announcer in the classic Talking Football tabletop game from Mattel.
Enberg has garnered many awards and honors over the years, including 13 Sports Emmy Awards (as well as a Lifetime Achievement Emmy), nine National Sportscaster of the Year awards from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association (and induction into that organization’s Hall of Fame), five Sportscaster of the Year awards from the American Sportscasters Association (which also ranked Enberg tenth in its 2009 listing of the Top 50 Sportscasters of All Time), the Pete Rozelle Award from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Curt Gowdy Award from the Basketball Hall of Fame, the Ford Frick Award from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Enberg is the only sportscaster thus far to win Emmys in three categories (broadcasting, writing, and producing), and in 1973 became the first U.S. sportscaster to visit the People’s Republic of China.
Enberg was inducted into Central Michigan University’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 1993. The university named an academic center for him in 2007. A student-athlete award in Enberg’s name is presented annually to a Central Michigan student.
Enberg was raised in Armada, Michigan and was responsible for the naming of the Armada High School yearbook, the Regit (Tiger spelled backwards), a name it has to this day. A hallway in the Macomb Academy of Arts and Sciences, which is run by Armada school district and shares the building with its administration office, was named after him.
UCLA named its Media Center in Pauley Pavilion after Enberg in 2017 in his honor.
Indiana University awarded Enberg an honorary doctorate of humane letters in 2002. He would be inducted into the Indiana University Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in the fall of 2006.
Enberg also received honorary doctorates of humane letters from his alma matter Central Michigan University in 1980 and Marquette University in 2009, and gave the addresses at both universities’ May commencement ceremonies.
In 1997, the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) honored Enberg with an award in recognition of his longtime support of the organization’s Academic All-America program. The Dick Enberg Award is given annually to a person whose actions and commitment have furthered the meaning and reach of the Academic All-America Teams Program and/or the student-athlete while promoting the values of education and academics. Past recipients include President Gerald D. Ford, Coach Mike Krzyzewski, Coach Pat Summitt, Coach Joe Paterno, et al. Enberg continues to be an avid supporter of the program, often lending his voice to video presentations related to CoSIDA’s annual Academic All-America Hall of Fame ceremony.
In 2006 Enberg was Awarded the Ambassador Award of Excellence by the LA Sports & Entertainment Commission for his involvement in the community.
For his contributions to the Rose Bowl game and parade through the years, Enberg was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame on December 31, 2011.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame named Enberg the 2015 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in baseball broadcasting. He was presented with the award in a ceremony during the Hall’s induction weekend on July 25, 2015. Enberg is only the second American sportscaster (after Curt Gowdy) to be selected for broadcasting awards from each of the Halls of Fame in professional football, basketball and baseball.
On August 20, 2017 the Detroit Sports Media named Enberg the 2017 recipient of the DSM Ernie Harwell Lifetime Contribution Award for a lifetime of service to the sports broadcasting community.
Dick Enberg’s surname is of Swedish origin. While working at Saginaw, Michigan radio station WSAM early in his career, Enberg considered changing his name professionally to “Dick Breen” after being told that “Enberg” was too Jewish-sounding.
During an ESPN television broadcast from the Wimbledon tennis championships on June 24, 2010, Enberg said his father was born in Finland, and changed his name from the Finnish “Katajavuori” to the Swedish equivalent Enberg on arrival in the U.S. as he felt it would be a simpler name. The surname means “juniper mountain.” Enberg said it pleased him that Jarkko Nieminen was doing so well as Finland is close to his heart and it is a small nation with few tennis facilities. The story of his surname is also detailed in his autobiography, Oh My!.
Enberg is the father of actor Alexander Enberg, actor-musician Andrew Enberg, and daughter Jennifer Enberg by former wife Jeri Taylor. He is currently married to Barbara (née Hedbring) and they have one son, Ted Enberg (who like his dad, is a sportscaster), and two daughters, Nicole and Emily.
Enberg penned a one-man theatrical play titled COACH, as a tribute to his former television broadcast partner and late friend, Al McGuire, the extraordinary college basketball coach and commentator. It debuted at Marquette University‘s Helfaer Theater in 2005. It drew positive reviews as an accurate portrayal of the eccentric coach. At the 2007 NCAA Final Four in Atlanta, Enberg presented three performances of COACH at the Alliance Theater. Those attending the April 1 matinée included Hall of Famers coach Dean Smith (whom McGuire defeated in the 1977 NCAA Championship in Atlanta) and former UCLA All-American center Bill Walton. The play was then performed at Hofstra University, near Al’s old neighborhood on Long Island in New York. It has since been booked in San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, Portland, Maine, North Carolina and Indiana. The most recent performance was at the New York Athletic Club in Manhattan. Actor Cotter Smith portrays McGuire in the one-man show.
Enberg has served as Chairman of the American Sportscasters Association since 1983. He is also a Board Member for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which is named after Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive back Ronnie Lott and is given annually to college football’s Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year.