Pat Summerall, broadcasting great, former Giant, dead at 82
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Nearly a half-century later, he still could see Pat Summerall lining up in the snow at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 14, 1958, and making an improbable 49-yard field goal to beat the Browns, 13-10, forcing a first-place tie and a playoff between the teams the next week. The Giants won that one, too.
So yes, young fans, Summerall was a player, spending 10 years in the NFL from 1952-61, and without him there would have been no "Greatest Game Ever Played'' between the Giants and Colts for the 1958 title.
But Summerall, who died Tuesday at 82, forever will enjoy a legacy even among fans with no memory of him on the field, thanks to a long, iconic career as one of the voices of the game during its meteoric rise in popularity after the '58 finale that his kick helped make possible.
As his longtime partner, John Madden, put it Tuesday, "Pat Summerall is the voice of football and always will be.''
Starting in 1962, he went from a Giants color analyst to play by play on national broadcasts for CBS and Fox, paired with Tom Brookshier starting in 1974 and Madden in '81, a partnership that lasted 21 years. He also worked the Masters and the U.S. tennis Open. Along the way, he became a fixture in American living rooms and bars, known as a minimalist and voice of calm in a TV world full of yellers.
Without Summerall as his straight man, it is hard to imagine Madden evolving into America's avuncular analyst. "Pat was my broadcasting partner for a long time, but more than that he was my friend for all of these years,'' he said in a statement. "We never had one argument, and that was because of Pat.''
During a joint appearance on Sirius XM Satellite Radio in 2012, Madden explained Summerall's role in their partnership: "I tend to be a rambler, and Pat could punctuate anything I said. That gave me a real confidence I could go anywhere, any way. Sometimes a play would start and I wouldn't be finished and he could, in two or three words, sum up what I'd been saying in five minutes.''
Summerall suffered from health problems during and after his years as a full-time broadcaster, some related to alcoholism. He gave up alcohol in 1992 after a stay at the Betty Ford Center, but his damaged liver required a transplant in 2004.
Through it all, he was hugely popular among his colleagues, in football and broadcasting. Summerall retired from Fox after 2002 but later did NFL games for Fox and ESPN. He called the Cotton Bowl for Fox from 2007-10. He died of cardiac arrest in a Dallas hospital, where he was recovering from a broken hip.
"We're running out of Giants,'' said Frank Gifford, an old teammate and fellow broadcaster.
Wellington Mara died in 2005, but his son John, now the Giants' president, confirmed the special place Summerall has in Giants -- and broadcasting -- lore.
"Pat will always be a great Giant,'' Mara said in a statement. "He was one of my father's favorites, and his kick in the snow against the Browns in 1958 is one of the most memorable plays in our franchise's history. Pat was a true gentleman and the voice of the NFL for generations of fans.''