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Play-by-play, in broadcasting, is a North American term and means the reporting of a sporting event with a voiceover describing the details of the action of the game in progress. In North America, in many sports, the play-by-play person is assisted by a color commentator.

Nearly all professional sports teams and most collegiate teams have their own play-by-play announcers, who usually are the voice of the team on radio broadcasts and are often identified with the team as much as the players or coaches. In addition, television networks and cable channels will have their own stable of play-by-play announcers that work on the games of varying teams.

In the United Kingdom and elsewhere, the term "commentator" is used instead, but the function is much the same. An exception is spanish word "relator", where "comentarista" is the word for color commentator.

Many play-by-play announcers will work in more than one sport.


[edit] Famous play-by-play announcers

Among the best known play-by-play announcers, listed by the sport where their work is best known:

[edit] Baseball

[edit] American football

  • Keith Jackson, the decades-long voice of college football for ABC Sports. He also was the very first play-by-play man for Monday Night Football where he first worked with Howard Cosell, and also called NBA and MLB games for ABC.
  • Pat Summerall, a top NFL player in his own right, but for many years partnered with John Madden on NFL games with CBS and FOX, and also on many golf telecasts.
  • Al Michaels, the voice of Monday Night Football on ABC from 1986-2005, now does NBC's Sunday Night Football with John Madden. Michaels has also called the World Series and NBA Finals when he was with ABC. Was also one of the announcers of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" Winter Olympics hockey game, when an upstart American side upset the powerhouse team from the Soviet Union en route to a gold medal; coined the line, "Do you believe in miracles?"

Note: Nearly every major college football program in the United States can boast a "legendary play-by-play man" whose tenure with the school runs many years. They are too numerous to list here. kjpj

[edit] Association football (soccer)

[edit] Basketball

[edit] Ice hockey

[edit] Horse racing

  • Tom Durkin, who has called many major races for NBC, including the Triple Crown and the Breeder's Cup.
  • Dave Johnson, known for his race work on ABC and ESPN, known for his trademark phrase as the horses come to the top of the home stretch: "And down the stretch they come!"
  • Chic Anderson, who caled Triple Crown races for many years on CBS, best remembered for his call of the record victory by Secretariat in the Belmont Stakes.

[edit] Cricket

Play-by-play announcers in cricket and other traditionally-English sports are usually referred to as commentators, but perform the same function. Additinally, cricket commentators will often rotate between play-by-play and color commentary, owing to the length of the game. (Some baseball radio play-by-play annoucers will do the same.)
  • Richie Benaud, generally known as the "Doyen of Cricket Commentary", the "Captain of the Nine Wide World of Sports Commentary Team" and "Living Legend." Presently handing over his role to Englishman Mark Nicholas on Australia's Channel 9. Famous especially for his dry wit and distinctive enunciation of scores such as 2/222.
  • Henry Blofeld, famous for his work on Test Match Special for the BBC, but also worked with ITV and BSkyB.
  • Jim Maxwell, Australian cricket broadcaster for more than 30 years, but also having worked in rugby league, rugby union, and Olympic Games.
  • Christopher Martin-Jenkins, also known for his longtime Test Match Special work.
  • Jonathan Agnew, Blofeld's frequent colleague, a former test cricketer for England in his own right and now a TMS commentator.

[edit] Auto racing

  • Paul Page, longtime radio and television voice for the Indianapolis 500, but now works many other open-wheel races for ABC/ESPN.

[edit] Curling

  • Don Chevrier, who has done play-by-play for Olympic and other major curling matches in Canada and the United States for many years, now working primarily with NBC in the U.S.

[edit] Multiple sports

Some play-by-play announcers are hard to pin down to a specific sport.

[edit] Pro wrestling

Play-by-play announcers are also well known in professional wrestling, where their main job is to put over the action in the ring by not only calling the maneuvers and action in the ring, but by recapping the angles and other goings on that have occured. They often support the face in the match and are joined by color commentators, who take up for the heel - although this can change as circumstances dictate. Current well known announcers in professional wrestling include Jim Ross, Joey Styles, Mike Tenay, and Michael Cole, and some "legends" in the field are Gordon Solie, Gorilla Monsoon, and even World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Vince McMahon, who started his on screen career doing play-by-play.

[edit] Canadian Football

[edit] Theater parlance

Play-by-play is also used to refer to theatre-going types who remain in the audience for extended days, weeks or months watching any play hosted there. Famous examples of these so-called 'play-by-players' include Eva Moore and her father.