Dick Enberg died Thursday at age 82, but oh my what a run he had as one of the most recognizable voices of sports in the late 20th century.
Enberg’s daughter, Nicole Enberg Vaz, confirmed the death to The Associated Press. She said there was concern when Enberg didn’t arrive on his flight to Boston on Thursday. She said he was found dead at his home near San Diego with his bags packed. According to The Associated Press, Enberg’s wife, Barbara, was already in Boston.
Vaz said the family believes Enberg died of a heart attack, but there was no official word.
“It’s very, very, very shocking,” Vaz, who lives in Boston, told The Associated Press. “He’d been busy with two podcasts and was full of energy.”
Over a six-decade career, Enberg brought a cheerful, Southern California-by-way-of-the-Midwest vibe to an array of major events across the world and across the television dial, including at NBC, CBS and ESPN, before retiring in 2016. His signature call was “Oh my!” when he covered events.
“All of us at CBS Sports are saddened to hear of the passing of our friend and colleague Dick Enberg,” CBS sports chairman Sean McManus said in a statement. “There will never be another Dick Enberg.
“As the voice of generations of fans, Dick was a masterful storyteller, a consummate professional and a true gentleman. He was one of the true legends of our business. His passion, energy and love for the game will surely be missed. Our deepest sympathies go out to Barbara and his entire family.”
Enberg grew up in Michigan and attended Central Michigan University, then graduate school at the University of Indiana, where he first dabbled in sports broadcasting by calling the famed “Little 500” bicycle race as well as Indiana football and basketball.
In 1961, while still a grad student, he called the 1961 NCAA men’s basketball final between Cincinnati and Ohio State — a telecast not seen live outside of Ohio.
By the mid-1960s, he had moved to California, initially as an assistant professor of health science and baseball coach at Cal State-Northridge, then known as San Fernando Valley State.
It was in Los Angeles that he became a full-time sportscaster, calling everything from UCLA basketball to Los Angeles Rams football to California Angels baseball.
To borrow a phrase from his home run call, he touched ’em all in his career.
One of his first big national events came in 1968, when he called the “Game of the Century” between Elvin Hayes’ Houston team and Lew Alcindor’s UCLA from the Astrodome, a key moment in college basketball’s evolution as a major attraction.
Enberg displayed his versatility by hosting game shows in the ’70s that included “Sports Challenge,” “Baffle” and “Three for the Money,” and he made numerous appearances — in the flesh or with his voice — in movies, TV shows and commercials, as recently as the Fox program “Pitch” in 2016.
Enberg also wrote a one-man play called “McGuire,” a tribute to Al McGuire, his former NBC partner, who along with Billy Packer formed an iconic trio on NBC’s coverage of college basketball. Enberg was on hand when the play was performed at Hofstra in 2008.
Among his numerous high-profile events were eight Super Bowls, the last after the 1997 season. In September of 1986, he worked the Jets’ 51-45 victory over the Dolphins, one of many memorable games he worked alongside partner Merlin Olsen at NBC.
Enberg joined NBC in 1975, but moved to CBS in 2000, where he continued to call NFL games, and was the lead announcer for U.S. Open tennis, a job he held until 2011, plus a guest appearance at the ’14 Open, CBS’ last before ESPN took over.
For that occasion he contributed an essay looking back at CBS’ history with the event.
“They’ve asked me to take 47 years and condense it into four or five minutes,” Enberg told Newsday then. “I enjoy writing, and that’ll be a nice challenge.”
He also called major tennis tournaments for ESPN.
Baseball always was his favorite, though, starting with attending his first major league game in Detroit, as a Tigers fan in 1947.
Throughout the 2010s, Enberg was the local play-by-play man for the San Diego Padres, a job he left after 2016, a retirement overshadowed by the simultaneous departure of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Vin Scully.
Enberg had a sense of humor about being obscured by Scully’s farewell. He was honored before the Padres’ final home game that season, including a video tribute from Scully himself.
“Now I’ve got to think of something brilliant to say,” Enberg said. “No one can be as elegant as Scully.”
But that was not Enberg’s thing. The homespun charm forged on a farm in Michigan miles from the nearest potential playmate his age never left him after all the years of California glitz.
Enberg won 13 Sports Emmy Awards and numerous other honors, including recognition by the football, baseball and basketball Halls of Fame.
He is survived by his second wife, Barbara, five children and three grandchildren.