By Tim Jimenez, Molly Daly, and Ed Benkin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Bill Campbell, long known as “the dean” of Philadelphia sportscasters, passed away Monday at the age of 91.
His career spanned eight decades. Most recently, he had been a contributor to KYW Newsradio and CBSPhilly.com.
Campbell was still in high school when he kicked off his broadcasting career as a radio announcer in Atlantic City in 1940.
“He would actually introduce people like Frank Sinatra at Steel Pier and he was a teenager at the time,” said Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer, author of Bill Campbell: The Voice of Philadelphia Sports.
The following year he moved to Lancaster, Pa. for an announcing opportunity and to cover minor league baseball. After serving in the US Armed Forces, Campbell moved to Philadelphia.
In 1946 he became sports director for WCAU Radio and, later, WCAU-TV.
During his career, Campbell did play-by-play for four professional sports teams in the city (Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, and Philadelphia Warriors) along with the Big Five and Penn Relays.
“He was the essence of, I guess you could say, ‘color radio,’ ” noted Harry Donahue, recently retired KYW Newsradio anchor and voice of Temple football and basketball. “Because when you listened to him, it wasn’t just the voice, but you got the feeling of what was going on.”
“Bill Campbell was the broadcaster that so many people of my generation grew up worshiping,” said longtime voice of the Eagles, Merrill Reese.
Campbell called Eagles’ games from 1952 to 1966, highlighted by the team’s last championship.
“Sixty-seven thousand people, standing, standing! What an electrifying finish to a great season and a great game!” Campbell proclaimed on December 26, 1960.
Campbell was the Phillies’ play-by-play broadcaster from 1962 to 1971. The highlight (or lowlight) was the historic 1964 collapse.
“We think about the great moments. Like when he called a Richie Allen homerun with more gusto and drama than anyone could imagine,” said Reese.
Campbell’s most memorable work may have come on the hardwood. As the voice of the 76ers and Warriors, he witnessed Wilt Chamberlain’s larger-than-life career. On March 2, 1962, Campbell’s voice was the only one to paint the picture of Chamberlain’s historic 100-point game in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
“He made it! He made it! He made it! The Dipper does it! He made it!” Campbell exclaimed that night. “The most amazing scoring performance of all time. One hundred points for The Big Dipper!”
Campbell also hosted a talk show on WIP, provided commentaries for KYW Newsradio and had a blog on CBSPhilly. Campbell has been honored as Broadcaster of the Year by The National Sports Broadcasters Association. He received the Philadelphia Sportswriters award for outstanding service in 1989.
In 2005, Campbell received the prestigious Curt Gowdy Media Award at the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame. He is a member of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Sports Halls of Fame, and was the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia’s “Person of the Year” in 2008.
“He was not only an iconic broadcaster, but an iconic person. I’m gonna miss him dearly,” said Carchidi.
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