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 > Little League Online > Media > Little League News Archive > 2008 > Little League International Mourns the Passing of Former ABC “Wide World of Sports” Host Jim McKay - June 9

Little League International Mourns the Passing of Former ABC “Wide World of Sports” Host Jim McKay - June 9

Little League International Mourns the Passing of Former ABC “Wide World of Sports” Host Jim McKay - June 9

Jim McKay Jim McKay

Mr. McKay Called 11 Little League Baseball World Series Championship Games

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – Little League International joins the worldwide sports community in mourning the passing of former ABC Sports personality Jim McKay.

Mr. McKay, born James Kenneth McManus in Philadelphia on Sept. 24, 1921, passed away on Saturday. He was 86.

Starting in 1961, Mr. McKay hosted the groundbreaking “ABC’s Wide World of Sports” for more than 40 years. The weekend series, which featured Mr. McKay’s utterances of the now iconic phrases, “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sports,” and “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” introduced viewers to all manner of sports events, including the Little League Baseball World Series.

“Mr. McKay’s influence on television extends beyond the realm of sports and is historic in many ways,” Stephen D. Keener, President and Chief Executive Officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, said.

“During his visits to the Little League Baseball World Series, Mr. McKay appreciated, understood and related to the relevance of the Little League program,” Mr. Keener said. “With his ability to marry the athletic prowess of the teams on the field with the community aspects of our program, Mr. McKay helped Little League establish the television presence it enjoys today. Our deepest condolences go out to Mr. McKay’s family.”

As the adventurous host of “Wide World of Sports,” he is estimated to have traveled more than five million miles to cover a vast array of athletic competitions, including boxing, skiing, soccer, gymnastics, track and field, figure skating, rodeo, barrel jumping, horse racing, cycling, demolition derby and Eiffel Tower climbing.

Mr. McKay covered 12 Olympics, 10 for ABC, including the 1972 Summer Games in Munich, Germany, where he was the anchor when events turned grim with the news that Palestinian terrorists had kidnapped 11 Israeli athletes.

“Jim was a colleague of mine and a good friend to all of us,” Dennis Lewin, Chairman of the Little League International Board of Directors and the former Senior Vice President of Production for ABC Sports, and later, the Senior Vice President of Broadcasting for the National Football League, said.  “I worked with Jim for 30 years. His impact on the television business is almost beyond description.

“Jim had a style and way about him that made all listeners very comfortable,” Mr. Lewin said. “He put everything into perspective when telling the story. What he brought to an event was a sense of humanity, place, and time that few can really do today.”

Mr. McKay’s work at Munich won him an Emmy Award for news coverage, the first for a sportscaster, and the George Polk Award. Through the years, he won 12 more Emmys. His most recent work included commentary from the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City and writing and narrating a documentary about himself for HBO.

In 1953, the Little League World Series was televised for the first time, by CBS, and Mr. McKay traveled to Williamsport, Pa., to call the game. In 1963, “Wide World of Sports” televised the Little League World Series for the first time and Mr. McKay was again at Howard J. Lamade Stadium to call the action. From 1964 to 1985, Mr. McKay was the play-by-play voice for 11 Little League World Series Championship games.

Among the baseball immortals calling the games with Mr. McKay were Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Carlton Fisk, Jim Palmer and Bill Veeck.

 Moving to Baltimore when he was 13, Mr. McKay received a bachelor’s degree from Loyola College in 1943. He served in the Navy for three years (1943 to 1946), and in 1946 took his first civilian job as a police reporter for The Baltimore Evening Sun.
He later was shifted to the newspaper’s new television station as a broadcaster, writer and producer. In 1950, when he moved to CBS in New York to host a local daily 90-minute variety show, where he was told that his new name, at least for TV, would be Jim McKay, to suit the title, “The Real McKay.”
Mr. McKay is survived by his wife, Margaret Dempsey; a son, Sean McManus, who is president of CBS news and sports; a daughter, Mary Guba; and three grandchildren.