Jack Whitaker, whose long career as a sportscaster included calling the first Super Bowl for CBS, has died at the age of 95.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Whitaker left college to serve in World War II, and when he returned home discovered that radio stations were popping up across America. He quickly found work in that field and soon got a job calling play-by-play on Philadelphia Eagles games.
By the mid-1960s, Whitaker was one of the top football announcers in the country and was tabbed by CBS to call the newly formed championship game between the NFL and the AFL. Whitaker recalled years later that no one believed at the time that the Super Bowl would become America’s signature sporting and cultural event.
“I am absolutely amazed. I can’t believe it,” the 91-year-old Whitaker said in 2016. “Our whole culture has changed, and with it, sports has changed. And so has the Super Bowl.”
Whitaker didn’t much care for the way the Super Bowl changed.
“My impression of the Super Bowl today is two exhausted teams playing second fiddle to the halftime show and the TV commercials,” he said. “And that is supposed to be our biggest sports day of the year.”
In addition to the Super Bowl, Whitaker called sports including baseball and the Olympics, he was on the call when Secretariat won the 1973 Triple Crown, and he may be best remembered for referring to the crowds watching Jack Nicklaus at the 1966 Masters as a “mob scene,” which the famously snooty Augusta National Golf Club found so offensive that he was removed from later Masters broadcasts.
Whitaker won an Emmy for Outstanding Host or Commentator in 1979, an Emmy for writing in 1990 and the Lifetime Achievement Emmy in 2012.