Sportscaster, CMU alumnus Dick Enberg dead at 82
His warm voice was as iconic to the world of sports as James Earl Jones' Darth Vader lines are to the "Star Wars" franchise.
Today, Dick Enberg's name carries with it a gravitas and dignity. His accolades include several Sportscaster of the Year awards, Emmys and a number of awards from Central Michigan University — where he played baseball and graduated from in 1957. But at that time, few people knew of Enberg.
Over the next several decades, the Armada, Michigan native would rise to fame for his play-by-play commentary for basketball, baseball, football and tennis.
Enberg's voice could be heard on ESPN, CBS and NBC calling contests from horse racing to the coveted tennis matches at Wimbledon.
Now that voice has fallen silent.
A national icon, sports broadcaster and philanthropist, Enberg died Dec. 21. He was 82.
Enberg's wife, Barbara, told the San Diego Union-Tribune the family believes it was a heart attack. He was set to fly back to Boston to meet with his family, who grew concerned when Enberg failed to arrive on schedule.
He was later found dead in his home in La Jolle, California, bags packed.
Enberg's attorney, Dennis Coleman, released a statement on behalf of the family following his death saying the family "is grateful for the kind thoughts and prayers of all of Dick's countless fans and dear friends."
"At this time we are all still processing the significant loss," Coleman said. "We ask for prayers and respectful privacy in the immediate aftermath of such untimely news."
Word of Enberg's death broke just as the Central Michigan football team was preparing for kick-off at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Fans, who had gathered at Wayside/O'Kelly's for a watch party that day, mourned the loss of the famed alumnus.
Enberg's full-time broadcasting career began in the late 1960's in Los Angeles, calling UCLA Bruins basketball and anchoring a nightly sports reports for the KTLA television station. During this time, he also worked for radio station KMPC, calling Los Angeles Rams football and California Angels baseball.
Enberg was named California Sportscaster of the Year four times for his work with the stations. He was also the recipient of a number of professional awards including 13 Sports Emmy Awards, nine National Sportscaster of the Year awards from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, five Sportscaster of the Year awards from the American Sportscasters Association and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
CMU awarded him an honorary degree in 1980. Enberg earned a bachelor's degree from CMU in 1957. In addition to playing on the baseball team, Enberg also served as student body president.
He was inducted into the CMU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1993.
Former CMU football coach and athletic director Herb Deromedi said Enberg remained a huge booster for men's and women's athletics, long after his graduation from the university.
"(Enberg) was always supportive of me as a coach and as an administrator. I've always appreciated the loyalty he demonstrated toward the university. He was always telling people he was a graduate of Central Michigan University," Deromedi said in a University Communications press release. "He was a national figure, and in his many, many accomplishments, he brought national recognition to the university.
"He was our spokesperson."
Enberg's work calling UCLA games brought him national attention. NPR reported that Enberg considered his time calling "The Game of the Century" between UCLA and the University of Houston Cougars in 1968 the "most historically important event he covered."
In his obituary posted in the Los Angeles Times Enberg is credited as being the "most versatile and enthusiastic sports announcer of his era." During his tenure he called nearly every sport under the sun: college basketball, NFL, boxing, tennis, golf, Olympics, Rose Bowls and Super Bowls and Breeders’ Cup horse racing.
"He also was an author, a longtime fixture at Pasadena’s Tournament of Roses parade, the host of several sports-themed TV game shows and was still calling San Diego Padres baseball games into his 80s," the obituary stated.
The afternoon of Enberg's death, Central Michigan Life visited a bust of the alumnus, which stands near the entrance of McGuirk Arena. Below it was a white piece of paper, laid on the floor, which in black marker scrawl read: “Thank you, Dick Enberg (1935-2017)."
“Education was very, very good to me,” Enberg said, written on the statue’s plaque. “Like many of you, CMU accepted a perfect nobody and allowed him to be a somebody. And so it is and will be for many of you today. Oh My!!”
Enberg is survived by his wife, Barbara, and six children.