The death of sports announcer Pat Summerall a few days ago has brought many tributes to his style, the soft authoritative nature of his voice, and hsi long career away from the playing field and in the broadcast booth. But before there was Pat Summerall there was Ray Scott.
Ray Scott had one of those clear, naturally dramatic voices that carried with it the drama of the game unfolding on the field below. The drama wasn’t forced. No one ever accused Ray Scott ove over-acting in his descriptions of football games—we remember him most for his Green Bay Packer broadcasts although he broadcast a lot of other sports in his time.
Scott never needed to talk all the time in the booth. He didn’t like to talk the obvious when the viewer could see it. In short, he didn’t do radio on TV. Viewers could see a runner or a receiver dashing across the 50, 40, 30, 20, 10,5, TOUCHDOWNNNNNNNNN!
We saw one of his most famous calls. It might have been in the second AFL-NFL Championship Game (it wasn’t yet known as the Super Bowl) when the Packers’ quarterback, Bart Starr, threw a 62-yard touchdown pass to Boyd Dowler. We could see it and we didn’t need anything more than the five words the electric voice of Ray Scott told us: “Starr…..Dowler…..Touchdown, Green Bay.” It was television, not radio. He told us only what we needed to know and because he didn’t clutter up his play-by-play with descriptions of the obvious, the play remains crisp in memory.
Ray Scott died in 1998, in his late 80s. His career in the broadcast booth is unknown to a generation or two of sports fans and contemporary announcers. He was in his 20s when he called his first game, on local radio.
You have to be getting up in years to remember the fourth network in the early days of television–DuMont, which did the first coast-to-coast telecast of the NFL Championship Game in 1951. The play-by-play announcer was Ray Scott.
His big break came in 1956 when he was hired to work the ABC telecast of the Sugar Bowl and was paired with the legendary Bill Stern, an institution in sports broadcasting for a couple of decades. The game matched Pitt and Georgia Tech and Scott was the regular radio broadcaster for the Pittsburgh games. Stern was the top sports announcer for ABC then. But Stern, who had lost a leg in a car crash several years earlier had become addicted to painkillers, including morphine. Stern was so badly affected by the drugs that he was taken off the air shortly after the broadcast began and Scott did almost the entire game, a performance that attracted the attention of CBS. The network hired him in 1956 to do the Packer games. Scott broadcast almost all of the games in the Lombardi era. As the Packer’s announcer, he broaddcast the first half of the famous NFL championship game that was dubbed the “Ice Bowl.” The announcer for the second half was the Cowboys’ announcer—Jack Buck. Frank Gifford did the analysis.
Scott became the lead CBS football announcer in 1968. His partner in the booth was Paul Christman, the great University of Missouri All-American, a pairing that was highly-praised for the two years they were together. Christman died at the age of 51 in the spring of 1970. His replacement was Pat Summerall. When Scott and CBS agreed to part ways in ’74, Summerall began the play-by-play career for which he is so fondly remembered today. But before Pat Summerall became the dominating announcer he is remembered as being, he studied for four years beside Ray Scott.
Scott later was the play-by-play announcer for the Kansas City Chiefs for a couple of years in the mid-70s. His later career took him to several other pro football teams.
He was on the first broadcast team of the Minnesota Twins after they moved from Washington in 1961. When a new Washington Senators team was created, Ray Scott broadcast their games. And he did some games for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Scott broadcast four Super Bowls and seven NFL championship games while with CBS. He broadcast every major bowl game except the Cotton Bowl. He was the lead announce for six Masters golf tournaments and two British Opens. When the LPGA hit TV, Ray Scott was in the booth.
It would be good for young people wanting to become sportscasters (and, we must note, sports broadcasters are a dime a dozen–you can hear them all over your radio dial on Fall Friday evenings) to think of Ray Scott. If those great sportscaster wanna-bes ever do television, they might remember the man who did not feel it was necessary to tell viewers what they were seeing. One newspaper article I came across in helping recall Scott remembered the simplicity and the clarity of another of Scott’s calls in a Packers-Giants game:
“Starr barking signals . . . Hornung and Taylor set behind Starr . . . (pause for play to start) . . . Taylor . . . six yards to the Giants’ 23 . . . tackled by Sam Huff . . . brings up second and 4 . . ”
He knew that saying too much during a television broadcast robbed the game of its natural excitement. He knew how to do television on television, not radio on television. We don’t know how he would fare in these days when there might be a game on the field but there’s a show in the broadcast booth. But we do know that we don’t recall any of the television football play calls from this era of almost constant booth-talk. But indelibly etched in our memory is the day Ray Scott said everything I needed to hear and not one word more when he said only,
“Starr…..Dowler…..Touchdown, Green Bay.”