Jack Whitaker, a television sportscaster who covered the first Super Bowl, Secretariat’s Triple Crown victory in horse racing, and who delivered poetic essays on golf and other sports, died Aug. 18 at his home in Devon, Pa. He was 95.
CBS Sports announced his death. No cause was disclosed.
Mr. Whitaker began his broadcast career in Pennsylvania and later spent 22 years at CBS and more than a decade at ABC.
During the 1960s, he anchored CBS’s coverage of major golf tournaments and was the host of a Sunday program called “CBS Sports Spectacular,” which presented a variety of sporting events.
A onetime play-by-play broadcaster for the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants, Mr. Whitaker covered the inaugural Super Bowl game in 1967. He announced many major horse races, including Secretariat’s 31-length victory at the Belmont Stakes in 1973 to win the Triple Crown.
Mr. Whitaker also covered baseball and several Olympics, but he was perhaps best known for his nuanced broadcasts of golf tournaments. He was especially drawn to the British Open, which he sometimes covered while wearing a tweed jacket and cap. He described the venerable tournament, first contested in 1860, as “golf at its most simple, its most pure, its most magnificent.”
After covering the Masters Tournament in 1966, Mr. Whitaker was removed as the play-by-play announcer because he referred to the crowd around the 18th green as a “mob scene” instead of the preferred term of the tournament’s organizers at the Augusta National Golf Club: “patrons.”
“It was very crushing,” he told Sports Broadcast Journal in 2018. “I was heartened though by some of the backlash and some nice pieces by columnists in the newspapers. Being around golf, you learn quickly that you lose more than you win. It teaches you to take your knocks and move on to the next shot.”
Mr. Whitaker worked for ABC from 1982 until his retirement in 1993, often delivering ruminative essays that touched on history and the connection of sports to the human spirit.
“I’d like to bring sports into the thinking process,” he told Sports Illustrated.
John Francis Whitaker was born May 18, 1924, in Philadelphia. During World World II, he was in an Army unit that went ashore at Normandy three days after D-Day. He was wounded in battle twice.
After the war, he graduated from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and worked at a radio station in Pottsville, Pa. He began his television career in Philadelphia in the early 1950s, covering sports and weather and occasionally acting in station-produced Westerns. He joined the broadcast team of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles in 1956.
Mr. Whitaker published a memoir in 1998 and was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2012.
He was married three times, including to tennis star Nancy Chaffee, who died in 2002. Survivors include his wife, Patricia Whitaker; five children; 11 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren.
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