Monday, June 9, 2008

Jim McKay

Jim McKay passed away on Saturday, June 7th. How ironic that he should leave this world on the day of the Belmont Stakes, on the day there was a possibility of a triple crown winner. Jim McKay was known for covering horse racing, well, every sport really. He was the host of ABC's Wide World of Sports from 1961-1998. I grew up with this program because my brothers and father loved to watch sports, any sports. Surely you remember "The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat". This was a fantastic program for introducing people to sports other than football, baseball and basketball. You might see swimming or skiing or gymnastics.

He was the sportscaster who covered the tragedy at the 1972 Munich Olympics. He was by the pool when he learned of the hostage situation and he was on the air within an hour, wet bathing suit still under his clothing. He was on the air covering the situation for 16 hours straight without a break. At the tragic end he simply stated, "They're all gone."

He was born in Philadelphia as James Kennth McManus on September 24, 1921. His father was transferred to Baltimore when he was fifteen years old. He attended Loyola High School and then Loyola College and then served in the Navy during WWII. He returned to Baltimore to work as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun. They recruited him to work at the new TV station, WMAR because he was involved in the drama club in college. His voice was the first ever heard on television in Baltimore.

He changed his last name to McKay when he moved to New York to host a show they wanted to call "The Real McKay". He didn't argue with anyone about it, he accepted it as part of the job. He had a talent for making it seem like he was talking directly to you over the air. He won several awards for his broadcasting and is in the sports broadcaster's hall of fame. He was known as being a very modest person. He died at his home in Monkton, MD of natural causes.

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