Al Michaels (born November 12, 1944) is an American television sportscaster.
Now employed by NBC Sports after nearly three decades (1977–2006) with ABC Sports, Michaels is perhaps best known for his many years calling play-by-play of National Football League games, including nearly two decades with Monday Night Football. He is also known for famous calls in other sports, including the Miracle on Ice at the 1980 Winter Olympics and the earthquake-interrupted Game 3 of the 1989 World Series.
Early life and education Edit
Michaels was born to a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York, to James Samuel Michaels and Lila Roginsky/Ross. He grew up as a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. Coincidentally, at the time the Dodgers left Brooklyn, Michaels's family also moved to Los Angeles in 1958.Michaels attended Alexander Hamilton High School in L.A., with Joel Siegel, Michele Lee and Michelle Phillips, and was a baseball player. He graduated in 1962 and later attended Arizona State University, where he majored in radio and television and minored in journalism. He worked as a sports writer for ASU's independent student newspaper, The State Press. He also is a member of Sigma NuFraternity.
Early career Edit
Michaels's first job in television was with Chuck Barris Productions, choosing women to appear on The Dating Game. His first sportscasting job came in 1964, when he was hired to do public relations for the Los Angeles Lakers. Later, he was hired by the team to serve eight games as a color commentator but fired after the first four, after Laker play-by-play announcer Chick Hearn disapproved of him. Michaels, who had worked on the team's media guide, was also considered to be the first color commentator of the Los Angeles Kings, where he would have been with Jiggs McDonald. That assignment went to Ed Fitkin instead.
Michaels resumed his professional broadcasting career in 1968, calling the games of the Hawaii Islanders baseball team in the Pacific Coast League. He also called play-by-play for the University of Hawaii's football and basketball teams as well as high school football games, and was named Hawaii's "Sportscaster of the Year" in 1969. In 1970, Michaels appeared as attorney Dave Bronstein in an episode of Hawaii Five-O called "Run, Johnny, Run" (Air date: January 14, 1970); the episode also featured a young Christopher Walken.
In 1971, Michaels moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he became the lead announcer for the Cincinnati Reds of Major League Baseball. In1972, the Reds won the National League Championship Series and advanced to the World Series. Michaels helped cover the Fall Classic for NBC Sports, and also was the network's play-by-play man for the hockey coverage at the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan.
In 1973, two days before he was assigned to call the regular-season NFL finale between the Houston Oilers and Cincinnati Bengals, Bill Enis died from a heart attack at the age of 39. NBC proceeded to bring Michaels in to replace Enis in the booth with Dave Kocourek.
In 1974, Michaels left the Reds for a similar position with the San Francisco Giants, and also covered basketball for UCLA, replacing Dick Enberg on the Bruins' tape-delayed telecasts of their home games, during a period when UCLA was in the midst of an 88-game winning streak. He left NBC that year and announced regional NFL games for CBS Sports in 1975. He called the no-hitter by John Candelaria on August 9, 1976. He signed with ABC Sports in January 1977.
ABC Sports (1977–2006) Edit
Michaels initially joined ABC as the back-up announcer on Monday Night Baseball in 1977. The following year, he was promoted to the network on a full-time basis. He became the lead announcer replacing Keith Jackson in 1982. Over the next three decades, Michaels covered a wide variety of sports for ABC, including Major League Baseball, college football, college basketball, ice hockey, track and field events, horse racing, golf, boxing (such as the 1985 Marvin Hagler/Thomas Hearns fight), figure skating, road cycling, and many events of the Olympic Games as well as the Olympic trials.
Episodes of Wide World of Sports featuring Michaels early in his ABC career have been featured at least two occasions on the ESPN Classic comedy series Cheap Seats. At one point on Cheap Seats, Michaels's then dark, curly hairstyle drew sarcastic comparisons toQuiet riot lead singer Kevin DuBrow.
While at ABC, he aired many prominent events including serving as the studio host for the Stanley Cup Finals. Also, he served as host for the yearly Tiger Woods Monday night specials that aired in July or August.
The Miracle on Ice Edit
Two of Michaels's more famous broadcasts were of the 1980 Winter Olympics ice hockey medal round match between the United States and the Soviet Union, and the attempted third game of the 1989 World Series.
In 1980, an unheralded group of college ice hockey players from the United States won the Gold Medal at the Olympic Winter Games. The medal round match on February 22—which, contrary to popular belief, did not yet assure the team of the gold medal—was of particular interest, as it was played against a heavily favored squad from the Soviet Union, and was in front of an incredibly excited pro-American crowd in Lake Placid, New York. Michaels's memorable broadcast of this game, including his interjection—"Do you believe in miracles? YES!"—as time expired on the 4–3 U.S. victory, earned the game the media nickname of The Miracle on Ice.
Most assume that the game was broadcast live (indeed, CTV, which held Canadian rights to the game, aired it live); but in reality, the game started at 5:05 pm Eastern Standard Time and ABC decided against pre-empting local and network news (on the East Coast) to carry the game live. Instead, most of it—including the entire third period—was broadcast within the regularly scheduled, prime-time telecast from 8:30 to 11 pm Eastern time (and on a six-and-a-half-hour delay on the West Coast from 8:30 to 11 pm Pacific Standard Time). Despite being on tape, the game was one of the highest-rated programs of the 1979–80 television season and remains the most-watched ice hockey game in the history of American television.
Michaels, along with broadcasting partner Ken Dryden, recreated their Olympic commentary in the 2004 movie Miracle. Although Michaels and Dryden recreated the bulk of their commentary for the film, the closing seconds of the game against the Soviet Union used the original ABC Sports commentary from 1980. Gavin O'Connor, the director of Miracle, decided to use the last 10 seconds of Michaels's original "Do you believe in miracles? YES!" call in the film because he felt he couldn't ask him to recreate the emotion he experienced at that moment. Thus they cleaned up the recording to make the transition to the authentic call as seamless as possible.
He later recalled, "When I look back, obviously Lake Placid would be the highlight of my career. I can't think of anything that would ever top it. I can't dream up a scenario."
Ironically, Michaels was only on this particular assignment because he had done one hockey game, eight years prior. The game in question was the gold medal game (the Soviet Union vs. Czechoslovakia) of the 1972 Winter Olympics (on NBC) in Sapporo, Japan. Other announcers on the ABC Sports roster such as Keith Jackson, Frank Gifford, and Howard Cosell had never done a hockey game before. Michaels recalled this during a Real Sports interview in January 2009. Michaels also apparently beat out WABC-AM and New York Islanders commentator George Michael for the assignment.
Memorable baseball moments Edit
1972 NLCS Edit
Even though the events of October 17, 1989 in San Francisco are widely considered to be the most dramatic baseball-related moment of Michaels's career, he had several others that were memorable.
In the 1972 National League Championship Series, the defending World Series Champion Pittsburgh Pirates faced the Cincinnati Reds. In Game 5, with both teams tied at two games apiece, the Pirates led 3–2 in the bottom of the ninth inning and were three outs away from advancing to the World Series. But Pirates closer Dave Giusti unraveled. He surrendered a game-tying home run to Johnny Bench before allowing back-to-back singles to Tony Pérez and Denis Menke before being relieved by Bob Moose, who almost worked out of the jam by recording two outs. But with pinch-hitter Hal McRae at the plate, Moose lost his footing and uncorked a wild pitch sending George Foster, who was pinch running for Pérez, home with the pennant-clinching run and setting off a massive celebration at Riverfront Stadium.
1985 World Series Edit
Main article: 1985 World Series
Perhaps Michaels's first historic call with ABC Sports while covering Major League Baseball occurred in what is now known by many as the Don Denkinger game. The Kansas City Royals trailed the St. Louis Cardinals 3–1 in a series that was panned for being low-scoring and dull. After a Royals win in St. Louis forced the action back to Kansas City, the sixth game was also low scoring. However, this contest grew into a tense pitcher's duel.
In the bottom of the 9th, pinch hitter Jorge Orta led off for the Royals against Cardinals pitcher Todd Worrell with Kansas City trailing 1–0 and hit a ground ball to first baseman Jack Clark. Clark threw over to pitcher Worrell, who was running over to cover first base in time to beat the speedy Orta and did. Yet first base umpire Don Denkinger still called Orta safe at first. Steve Balboni then hit a pop-up to first which Jack Clark missed for an error, keeping Balboni's at-bat alive, and he promptly singled to put men on first and second.
The infamous and controversial leadoff single by Orta and the Jack Clark error eventually led to the Royals loading the bases and putting the tying run on third base and the winning run on second with one out for Dane Iorg. Iorg hit a 2-run single and the Royals came back to win 2–1. The Royals went on to win Game 7 11–0 and complete the comeback after being down 3 games to 1. However, it was Denkinger's dubious 'safe' call, and not Iorg's hit, Clark's error, Jim Sundberg's heroics (for his difficult slide past catcher Darrell Porter for the winning run) or the Game 7 blowout that were most remembered in years to come.
1986 American League Championship Series Edit
In 1986, Michaels was also on hand for what he says was "the greatest of all the thousands of games I've done." On October 12 atAnaheim Stadium, Michaels along with Jim Palmer called Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. The California Angelsheld a 3 games to 1 lead of a best-of-seven against the Boston Red Sox. In the game, the Angels held a 5–2 lead going into the ninth inning. Boston scored two runs on a home run by Don Baylor, closing the gap to 5–4.
When Donnie Moore came in to shut down the rally, there were two outs, and a runner on first base, Rich Gedman, who had been hit by a pitch. The Angels were one out from their first-ever trip to the World Series. But Dave Henderson hit a 2–2 pitch off Moore for a home run, giving the Red Sox a 6–5 lead. The Angels were able to score a run in the bottom of the ninth, pushing the game into extra innings. Moore continued to pitch for the Angels. He was able to stifle a 10th inning Red Sox rally by getting Jim Rice to ground into a double play. Nevertheless, the Red Sox were able to score off Moore in the 11th-inning via a sacrifice fly by Henderson. The Angels could not score in the bottom of the 11th, and lost the game 7–6.
The defeat still left the Angels in a 3 games to 2 advantage, with two more games to play at Fenway Park. The Angels were not able to recover, losing both games by wide margins, 10–4 and 8–1. Game 7 of the 1986 ALCS ended with Calvin Schiraldi striking out Jerry Narron.
Despite the fact that ABC Sports and ESPN had been under the same corporate umbrella (the Walt Disney Company) since 1996, Michaels never served as a regular commentator for ESPN Major League Baseball. The only time that Michaels appeared in an ESPN booth of any kind was as a guest commentator on Wednesday Night Baseball in 2003 as part of ESPN's Living Legends Series. Michaels joined Gary Thorne and Joe Morgan, whom he worked with on ABC's 1989 World Series coverage and served as ABC's #2 baseball team behind Michaels, Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver in 1989, for a game at Dodgers Stadium between the Los Angeles Dodgers andCincinnati Reds.
1989 World Series Edit
Main article: 1989 World Series
On October 17, 1989, Michaels was in San Francisco, preparing to cover the third game of the 1989 World Series between the home team, the Giants, and the visiting Oakland Athletics. ABC's network telecast began with a recap of the first two games, both won by Oakland. Soon after Michaels handed off to his broadcast partner, Tim McCarver, who started assessing the Giants' chances for victory in the game, the Loma Prieta earthquake struck (at approximately 5:04 pm local time). Michaels exclaimed "I'll tell you what—we're having an earth—" as the network feed cut out. When ABC restored audio via telephone 15 minutes later, Michaels quipped, "Well folks, that's the greatest open in the history of television, bar none!" Michaels then reported from the ABC Sports production truck outside Candlestick Park on the earthquake, for which he later was nominated for an Emmy Award for news broadcasting. Michaels relayed his reports to Ted Koppel, who was stationed at the ABC News bureau in Washington, D.C.
According to Tim McCarver, when the earthquake hit, he, Michaels and Jim Palmer immediately grabbed a hold of what they perceived to be the armrests. In reality, the announcers were clutching on each other's thighs and they were each left with bruises the next day. Years later (on a 1999 SportsCenter retrospective about the 1989 World Series earthquake), Al Michaels would boldly admit his strong belief that had the earthquake lasted much longer than 15 seconds, he would have been killed. Michaels added that the only time that he really had been scared during the earthquake was when he moved in a position which he perceived to be backward. The three announcers were sitting on a ledge with their backs turned and no bracing behind them.
But Fantasy land is where baseball comes from anyway and maybe right about now that's the perfect place for a three-hour rest.
Monday Night Football Edit
Main article: Monday Night Football
Michaels's longest-running assignment was that of the lead play-by-play announcer on ABC's Monday Night Football telecasts, a position he held for 20 seasons beginning in 1986. Before that, his most notable NFL assignment for ABC was hosting (along with Jim Lampley) the pre-game coverage of Super Bowl XIX. In 1988, Michaels called his first Super Bowl. Three years later, Michaels was on hand to call the thrilling Super Bowl between the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills. Bills kicker Scott Norwood missed a potentially game-winning field goal, and thus, ensured the Giants victory.
The trio of Michaels, Dan Dierdorf (who joined MNF the year after Michaels's first), and Frank Gifford lasted until the 1997 season, when Gifford was replaced following disclosure of an extramarital affair. During the 1980s, Gifford would fill-in for Michaels on play-by-play whenever Michaels went on baseball assignments for the League Championship Series (1986 and 1988) or World Series (1987 and1989).
Former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason (who had personal conflicts with Michaels and therefore, left after the 1999 season) replaced Gifford in 1998, and Dierdorf was dropped after that season. Unexpectedly, comedian Dennis Miller joined the cast in2000 along with Dan Fouts. In 2002, following Miller and Fouts' departure, John Madden joined Michaels in a well-received pairing.
NBA on ABC Edit
Main article: NBA on ABC
After disastrous ratings in the 2003 NBA Finals, ABC decided to revamp their lead NBA broadcast team. Brad Nessler was reassigned to the second broadcast team, where he was joined by Sean Elliott and Dan Majerle. Michaels was hired to replace Nessler as lead broadcaster of the NBA.
For the first several weeks of the 2003–2004 season, Michaels had no partner. However, Doc Rivers, a critically acclaimed analyst when he worked with Turner Sports, became available after a 1–19 start by his Orlando Magic. Rivers was hired weeks before ABC's Christmas Day season opener. He and Michaels worked that game together, one of only six they did together during the regular season (all other games Rivers worked were with Brad Nessler). During the playoffs, the team worked every single telecast, including the 2004 NBA Finals, which saw great improvement in television ratings. During the 2004 NBA Playoffs, Doc Rivers was hired by the Boston Celtics. Though Rivers continued to work games with Michaels throughout the rest of the playoffs, ABC would have to find a new lead analyst for the2004–2005 season.
Early in the 2004–2005 season, ABC found a new partner for Al Michaels. Memphis Grizzlies coach Hubie Brown, a broadcasting legend with CBS, TBS, and TNT, was forced into retirement due to health reasons and was soon after hired to replace Doc Rivers. Michaels and Brown began their partnership on Christmas Day 2004, working the highly anticipated Shaquille O'Neal-Kobe Bryant game. After that game, the two did not do a game together again until March 2005. Michaels became sporadic in NBA coverage, doing two games in early March, and then three more games in April. Brown worked every week of ABC's coverage, broadcasting some games with veteran broadcaster Mike Breen. For the 2005–2006 season, Al Michaels and Hubie Brown were slated to remain as ABC's number one broadcast team. The duo worked that year's Christmas Day game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat and were expected to work the NBA Finals together as well. However, due to Michaels's impending departure to NBC, that plan did not come to fruition.
Replacing Michaels on The NBA on ABC was Mike Breen, who became the lead broadcaster for an over-the-air NBA package for the first time in his career. Breen worked 2006 NBA Finals with Hubie Brown, as well as all the main games ABC broadcast that year. This gave ABC its first consistent lead broadcaster since Brad Nessler, as Breen (unlike Michaels) did games every week.
Besides his inconsistent work, Michaels (despite being initially seen as adding credibility to ABC's NBA broadcasts in contrast to his predecessor, Brad Nessler) was criticized for apparently lacking the kind of enthusiasm and confidence (for instance, Michaels initially reacted to Amar'e Stoudemire's block of Tim Duncan's shot during the 2005 playoffs by calling it a "great, great contested shot") expected of a No. 1 play-by-play voice. Barry Horn of the Dallas Morning News said that Michaels was simply "not a basketball guy". Meanwhile,Bill Simmons said during the 2005 Finals that Michaels "shows up for these games, does his job, then drives home thinking, "'Only five weeks to the [NFL] Hall of Fame Game, I'm almost there!'"
Leaving ABC for NBC Edit
In 2003, he was quoted as saying, "ABC Sports has been my professional home for the last 26 years, and I am delighted that will continue to be for several more..." after signing a long-term contract extension.
In 2005, it was announced that Monday Night Football would be moving from ABC to ESPN beginning with the 2006 season, and partnerJohn Madden announced he would be joining NBC Sports, which had acquired the rights to Sunday Night Football games. Despite speculation that Michaels might be joining NBC as well, Michaels stated that he would continue as the MNF play-by-play announcer, stating, "I feel like I'm a creature of Monday night. I'm home and I'm staying home." Plans were for Michaels to be teamed with Joe Theismann (who would be coming over from Sunday Night Football) on the Monday night telecasts.
At the time, then-ABC Television President Alex Wallau said, "For 26 years Al has played a pivotal role here at ABC Sports, and for 17 of those years he's been the face and voice synonymous with television's most successful sports franchise, Monday Night Football... It's Al's outstanding play-by-play coverage, coupled with his breadth of knowledge, experience and enthusiasm, that keep MNF fans invigorated, excited and coming back for more."
Also, then-ABC Sports President Howard Katz said, "Al Michaels has been invaluable to the Network and we are thrilled to have him remain in our family. [...] Al is the consummate professional and makes everyone around him better."
However, in the weeks leading up to Super Bowl XL, it was widely speculated that Michaels was attempting to get out of his contract with ESPN to join Madden at NBC. By this time, it was clear that NBC's Sunday Night Football would be the NFL's premier prime-time package, with ESPN's Monday Night Football relegated to secondary match-ups similar to that network's previous Sunday night telecasts. Michaels added fuel to the fire by refusing to state his future plans, and he couldn't "respond to rumors ... because that would become a distraction." On February 8, 2006, ESPN announced that its Monday Night Football team would consist of Mike Tirico on play-by-play, with Theismann and Tony Kornheiser as analysts. ESPN explicitly stated that Michaels would not return to either Monday Night Football broadcasts or ABC's NBA broadcasts (on which Michaels had been lead NBA play-by-play man).
NBC Sports (2006–present) Edit
On February 9, 2006, NBC confirmed that Michaels would be joining Madden at the network to broadcast football on Sunday nights, thus ending Michaels's 20-year run on Monday Night Football and almost 30 years of service with ABC. In exchange for letting Michaels out of his contract with ABC and ESPN, NBC Universal sold ESPN cable rights to Friday coverage of the next four Ryder Cups, granted ESPN increased usage of Olympic highlights, and sold to parent company Disney the rights to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a cartoon character developed by Walt Disney himself (which he lost in 1928) but previously owned by Universal Pictures (now NBC Universal).NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol explained, "We earn nothing from those rights; they've had no value in the United States."
Michaels had a bemused take on the "trade." After it was noted to Michaels that the Kansas City Chiefs gave the New York Jets a draft pick as compensation for releasing coach Herman Edwards from his contract, Michaels stated, "Oswald is definitely worth more than a fourth-round draft choice. I'm going to be a trivia answer someday." However, in an article with the magazine Game Informer, Warren Spector, a designer on the game Epic Mickey, stated that Disney CEO Bob Iger wanted Oswald to be in the game so badly, he made this trade to get the rights of the character back.
Michaels and Madden began their new NBC tenure on August 6, 2006, with the network's telecast of the preseason Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, with their regular-season debut on September 7. On February 1, 2009, Michaels called Super Bowl XLIII, his first Super Bowl telecast for NBC and seventh overall as a play-by-play announcer. Michaels is the third man to ever do play-by-play for an NBC broadcast of a Super Bowl, following the footsteps of Curt Gowdy and Dick Enberg. Michaels also called Super Bowl XLIX on February 1, 2015.
NBC Olympic Daytime hosgt Edit
In March 2009, it was announced that Michaels would be serving as the daytime host for NBC's coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. It was Michaels's first involvement in an Olympic telecast since he called ice hockey at the 1988 Calgary Games for ABC, as well as his first non-NFL event for NBC. NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol said that Michaels had previously expressed an interest in contributing to the network's Olympics coverage. Michaels also co-hosted NBC's coverage of the Closing Ceremony (with Bob Costas). Michaels also served as daytime co-host (with Dan Patrick) for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, and co-hosted the Closing Ceremony (with Costas and Ryan Seacrest). For the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Michaels served as weekday host on NBCSN and weekend daytime host on NBC.
Premier Boxing Champions Edit
See also: Boxing on NBC
In January 2015, NBC announced that Michaels would be at ringside along with Marv Albert and Sugar Ray Leonard for the PBC on NBC Saturday night bouts. In partnership with Haymon Boxing, NBC would televise 20 PBC on NBC events (beginning on March 7), including five to be shown in prime time on Saturday nights.
MLB Network (2011) Edit
On July 8, 2011, Michaels teamed up with Bob Costas (with the two announcers alternating between play-by-play and color commentary) to call a game between the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants on MLB Network. It was Michaels's first appearance on a baseball telecast since August 6, 2003 (when he served as a guest commentator on an ESPN game, as previously mentioned) and his first as a primary announcer since Game 5 of the 1995 World Series on ABC. (Michaels had called Games 1, 4 and 5 of that series withJim Palmer and Tim McCarver, while Costas called Games 2, 3 and 6 with Joe Morgan and Bob Uecker for NBC.) Michaels and Costas also made appearances on SportsNet New York and Comcast SportsNet Bay Area during the game's middle innings, since the MLB Network broadcast was blacked out in the Mets' and Giants' respective home markets.