Duke

Late broadcasting icon Bob Wolff began his career in Durham with Duke baseball

In this Friday, April 26, 2013 file photo, former Washington Senators broadcaster Bob Wolff waves to the crowd during a pre-game ceremony to honor him, before a baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the Cincinnati Reds at Nationals Park in Washington. Bob Wolff, the only sportscaster to call play-by-play of championships in all four major North American professional team sports, has died, Saturday, July 15, 2017. He was 96.
In this Friday, April 26, 2013 file photo, former Washington Senators broadcaster Bob Wolff waves to the crowd during a pre-game ceremony to honor him, before a baseball game between the Washington Nationals and the Cincinnati Reds at Nationals Park in Washington. Bob Wolff, the only sportscaster to call play-by-play of championships in all four major North American professional team sports, has died, Saturday, July 15, 2017. He was 96. AP

Long before Bob Wolff called Don Larsen’s World Series perfect game, Alan Ameche’s overtime touchdown for the Baltimore Colts in the 1958 NFL championship game and loss after loss for the old Washington Senators, he broadcast Duke baseball games for WDNC.

Having come to Duke to play baseball for coach Jack Coombs, Wolff injured his ankle as a sophomore and instead joined the broadcast team as a student in 1939.

That began what the Guinness Book of World Records called history’s longest broadcasting career. Wolff died on Saturday at his home in South Nyack, New York. He was 96.

Wolff continued working through this year, delivering sports commentaries for News 12 Long Island, a cable-only station. His last broadcast was in February.

A native New Yorker born on Nov. 29, 1920, Wolff grew to become one of sports broadcasting’s iconic voices.

A 1942 Duke graduate, Wolff’s career took him from Durham to Washington, D.C., with an interruption for World War II when he was a U.S. Navy supply officer in the Pacific.

He was the first sportscaster for Washington, D.C., television station WTTG. He also became the first television play-by-play voice for the lowly Washington Senators, a job he kept through the team’s transformation to the Minnesota Twins in 1961. He returned to New York the following year and spent 50 years broadcasting events at Madison Square Garden, from Knicks basketball and Rangers hockey to the Westminster Dog Show.

Nationally, he called the last half of Larsen’s perfect game on Oct. 8, 1956, in the World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. He carefully avoided saying the words “no-hitter” or “perfect game” until the final out was recorded.

Two years later, he was behind the mic at Yankee Stadium when the Colts and New York Giants NFL championship game went into sudden death overtime.

He teamed with Joe Garagiola on NBC Game of the Week baseball telecasts in the 1960s.

Steve Wiseman: 919-419-6671, @stevewisemanNC

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