Sunday, September 11, 2005
Radio and television career spanned 6 decades
INDIANAPOLIS -- Sportscaster Chris Schenkel, whose easygoing
baritone won over fans during a more than six-decade broadcasting
career in which he covered everything from bowling to the Olympics,
died Sunday following a long battle with emphysema. He was 82.
Schenkel's wife, Fran, said she and the couple's two sons were
at her husband's side when he passed away early Sunday at Lutheran
Hospital in Fort Wayne, Ind., where he had been hospitalized for
two weeks after undergoing surgery for a bleeding ulcer.
"He was a very, very sincere, loving man who loved what he
did," said Fran Schenkel, noting that they celebrated their 50th
wedding anniversary in January.
Schenkel's radio and television career included virtually every
major sports competition and several pioneering broadcasts.
He was the first to cover The Masters on television,
in 1956; the first to call a college football game coast to coast
on ABC; and the first to serve as live sports anchor from the
Olympics, in Mexico City in 1968.
His career highlights included calling gymnast Nadia Comaneci's
perfect 10 at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, and calling the 1958
NFL championship game between the Baltimore Colts and New York
He was also the longtime voice of the Professional Bowlers
Association, entertaining a generation of viewers with his Saturday
George Bodenheimer, the president of ESPN, Inc. and ABC Sports,
called Schenkel a pioneering sportscaster and a "true gentleman."
"Everyone at ABC and ESPN mourns the loss of a great friend and
colleague. Chris was a pioneer in sports television and was the
pre-eminent play-by-play announcer to a generation of sports
fans," Bodenheimer said in a statement. "More importantly, he was
a true gentleman, beloved by all. He treated everyone with respect
Schenkel was born Aug. 21, 1923, on his parents' farm in Bippus,
Ind., one of six children. His parents, second generation German
immigrants, managed a grain and feed business.
He attended Purdue University and fought in the Philippines
during World War II and later in Korea, as an infantry platoon
leader. He returned home to find a radio job in Richmond, Ind.,
before moving into television in Providence, R.I.
In 1947, he assumed TV play-by-play duties for Harvard
University football. Schenkel was hired by CBS in 1952 and began a
13-year run as the television voice of the New York Giants that
included calling the 1958 NFL championship game with Chuck
Thompson. He joined ABC Sports in 1965.
Schenkel also had a long association with the Indianapolis 500.
During the 1971 race, Schenkel, astronaut John Glenn and Tony
Hulman, the late owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, were
passengers in the Dodge Challenger pace car when it skidded into a
bleacher full of photographers.
Twenty-two people were injured, including Schenkel.
Schenkel was inducted into 16 halls of fame, including the
National Sportscasters and Sportswriters and College and Pro
Football halls, and he won an Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement
During the past couple of years, Fran Schenkel said her husband
received numerous letters from soldiers serving in Iraq whom she
said apparently had seen some of his film appearances. Aside from
his work on sports documentaries, Schenkel portrayed himself in
several films, including the 1996 comedy "Kingpin."
"They must have been showing a lot of his films in Iraq. We got
a lot of mail from the soldiers over there. They'd ask for a
picture and we'd send them and write back to the boys," Fran
Schenkel said. "He felt very good about it."
In addition to his wife, Schenkel is survived by sons Ted and
John, daughter Tina and several grandchildren.