Golf. The Olympics. Boxing. The NBA. Baseball, both locally in Los Angeles and San Diego and nationally at NBC. And, just in case the whole sports thing didn’t work out, Enberg hosted a few short-lived game shows in the 1970s.
Enberg, who died Thursday at age 82 at his home in Southern California, did all that and did it well, mastering the art of preparation for whatever event he was called to work.
Though horse racing wasn’t Enberg’s claim to fame, he did that, too, and in 1989 he was tasked with calling the Breeders’ Cup for NBC. Enberg spent the week leading up to the event preparing meticulous notes on all the horses, jockeys and owners. But when he returned to his hotel room the night before the races, his prep work was nowhere to be found.
“That was the most anxious I’d ever seen him in his life. He was hyperventilating,” his wife, Barbara, told the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2016. “We ended up calling the night maid staff to see if they threw them out. We went down and went through the trash. I was worried he was going to have a heart attack, he was worrying so much. But we came back to the room and pulled the blinds back and there was a little bay window. The maid must have moved them there while cleaning.”
Said Dick Enberg, “I was ready-to-cry kind of panicked.”
Known on a superficial level for his “Oh my!” and “Touch ’em all!” catchphrases, Enberg was hailed for his kindness by other broadcasters upon news of his death. The word “gentleman” made its way into many of the tributes.
John McEnroe, Enberg’s partner in the tennis broadcast booth for years and his behavioral polar opposite, continued this line of thinking.
“I’ve been around a fair amount of people, and I don’t think I’ve met anyone who’s as nice a person, as professional a person,” he told the Union-Tribune in 2016. “Even though he disagreed with the way I acted while I was playing sometimes, he made an effort to figure me out as a person and work better together [as broadcasters] and have fun. …
“If people ask me the top tennis players, when I throw out [Rod] Laver, [Pete] Sampras, Rafa [Nadal], Roger [Federer], I would put him in the same category,” McEnroe said. “He’s a Mount Rushmore guy.”
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