When you look at the early days of ESPN, several names stand out, Dick Vitale, Chris Berman, Bob Ley, Tom Mees, Greg Gumbel, Paul Maguire, Cliff Drysdale and Jim Simpson. He died Wednesday after a short illness. His family said Simpson was watching the Green Bay-Washington NFL Wild Card Game on Sunday when he fell ill and had to be taken to the hospital. He was 88.

Back when ESPN was in its infancy, the network needed a play-by-play voice who would give the network some credibility. Its first President and CEO Chet Simmons who came over to ESPN from NBC knew who exactly to hire and that was Jim Simpson.

Simpson worked many events and sports in the early days of ESPN including college baseball, basketball and football, the NBA, tennis and the USFL. His partners included Vitale, Drysdale, Paul Maguire and others.

And before he joined ESPN, he had established himself as the one of the veterans announcers for NBC on Major League Baseball games, college basketball, the AFL, NFL, Olympics, and tennis. And his partners there included Maury Wills, Kyle Rote, Bud Collins, Sandy Koufax, John Brodie, practically a Who’s Who of analysts in the 1960’s and 1970’s. He was at the mic for the Holy Roller game in 1978 between San Diego and Oakland.

He did the play-by-play on Super Bowl I for NBC Radio and that call will be featured this Friday on NFL Network.

Simpson’s resume includes calling 16 MLB All-Star Games, 6 World Series, 14 Olympics spanning from the 1952 Helsinki Games for CBS Radio to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta for NBC and six Super Bowls.

Dick Vitale credited him for making him into a sportscaster rather than just being a former coach on TV.

His family also paid tribute to the legendary broadcaster:

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the four Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

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