Jack Whitaker, a sportscaster for CBS and ABC who called Super Bowl I and Secretariat’s Triple Crown triumph, has died. He passed Sunday morning in his sleep in Devon, Pennsylvania of natural causes at age 95.
Starting his career in the late 1950s at Philadelphia’s WCAU-TV after graduating from St. Joseph’s University in that city, Whitaker went on to a storied career in sports broadcasting that included football, golf and horse racing.
Perhaps his biggest triumph was surviving the Omaha Beach landing three days after D-Day. He was wounded by a blast from an artillery shell and later was again wounded in combat. He was honorably discharged in 1945.
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CBS Sports broadcaster Jim Nantz released a statement on Sunday praising the broadcast legend.
“When I first met Jack Whitaker in 1986 at Pebble Beach, I felt like I had just been introduced to Ernest Hemingway,” Nantz said. “I grew up watching him deliver contemplative and contextual prose with his famous short essays, bringing class and dignity to his industry. He was enormously proud to have called Super Bowl I for CBS and was the last surviving network commentator from that landmark game. I spoke to him this week after hospice came to his home and his mind was still brilliantly sharp right to the end.”
CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus also gave a statement. “There will never be another Jack Whitaker in sports broadcasting.”
“His amazing writing ability, on-air presence and humanity are unmatched. His unique perspective on sports ranging from horse racing to golf to NFL football was extraordinary,” McManus said. “My father and Jack shared an incredible respect for each other and had the warmest of friendships that lasted for decades. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jack’s family.”
Whitaker was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2012.
Whitaker is survived by his wife, Patricia, daughters Marybeth Helgevold (Chuck), Ann Hanan (Bob); sons Gerry Whitaker, Jack Whitaker III and Kevin Whitaker (Rachelle). He was predeceased by his son, Geoffrey Whitaker. He had 11 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren.