Hot Topic Sports Waves

Top five local sports anchors since 1970

(Washington Post)
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By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Complete rankings are at washingtonpost.com/sports

Compiling a Letterman-like list of our favorite local lead sports anchors since 1970 is no easy task, with plenty of worthy (and countless unworthy) candidates. So here's one man's opinion on the most memorable anchors:

-- 5. Steve Buckhantz. He grew up in Arlington and came back to the Washington market in 1984 as a sports anchor with Channel 5, where he broke one of the biggest Washington sports stories in recent memory, the retirement of Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs following the 1992 season. Buck had often dabbled in play-by-play whenever time allowed, and for the last 13 years he's been the television voice of the Wizards, with his signature "dagger!" call signaling a coup de grace, end-game moment.

-- 4. Frank Herzog. He came to the Washington market in the early 1970s and has worked for most of the last four decades as a reporter, weekend man and sports anchor at both Channel 7 and Channel 9. He also was the radio play-by-play man when the Washington Bullets won the 1978 NBA championship and served as the radio voice of the Washington Redskins for 23 years until he was sadly dismissed in 2004 after 23 years of "touchdown, Washington Redskins." He spent the past few years as a newscaster with WTOP before his recent retirement from the airwaves.

-- 3. Glenn Brenner. The former pitcher in the Phillies organization came to Channel 9 in 1977 and mostly made us laugh hysterically with his irreverent style and loosey-goosey on-air demeanor. Brenner never took himself or his subject matter all too seriously, producing a highly entertaining sportscast that included his "weenie of the week" feature and a local nun picking NFL winners against the point spread. After running in the 1991 Marine Corps Marathon, he learned he had a malignant brain tumor that led to his tragic death in 1992 at the height of his popularity.

-- 2. George Michael. Now hear this. Once a rock-and-roll DJ and hockey play-by-play man, he came to Channel 4 in 1980 and began creating a sports juggernaut that helped the station dominate the ratings for most of his 27-year tenure. A demanding taskmaster overseeing the largest TV sports staff in town, he peppered his six- and seven-minute long sportscasts with highlights from NASCAR, pro rasslin', rodeo and Jack Russell terrier races and hosted a variety of Redskins-related studio shows, as well as the popular late-night "Sports Machine," a nationally syndicated highlight show that was a slickly produced precursor to ESPN's "SportsCenter." He also helped train several generations of directors, producers and on-air personalities now working around the country, perhaps his greatest legacy. Michael died last December after a long battle with leukemia.

-- 1. Warner Wolf. He began his broadcasting career handling intercom announcements at Washington's Coolidge High School in the 1950s. He did sports on WTOP radio, including play-by-play for the old Washington Senators, before moving over to Channel 9 as the sports anchor in 1965. Wolf was a pioneer in the use of film and taped highlights, and will forever be remembered for his catchphrase "let's go to the videotape." He offered "boo of the week" and "play of the week" features and had a wide variety of signature utterances as in "hey man, boo . . . gimme a break . . . if you had the Redskins and 27 points . . . . you lost!!!" Wolf left Channel 9 in 1975 to work for ABC Sports, then became a fixture in the New York market doing local sports on the ABC and CBS affiliates. He came back to Washington to replace Brenner in 1992, but poor ratings led to his dismissal in 1995. He went back to New York, and can still be heard doing sports for Don Imus's nationally syndicated radio show.


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