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Charles L. "Chuck" Thompson (June 10, 1921–March 6, 2005) was an Americanmarker sportscaster best known for his broadcasts of Major League Baseball's Baltimore Orioles and the National Football League's Baltimore Colts. He was well-recognized for his resonant voice, crisply descriptive style of play-by-play, and signature on-air exclamations "Go to war, Miss Agnes!" and "Ain't the beer cold!".

Biography

Early life and career

Thompson was born in Palmer, Massachusettsmarker and moved with his family to Reading, Pennsylvaniamarker in 1927. He began his broadcasting career in 1939 at WRAW-AMmarker in Reading, working there until 1942. After spending only a month at WKBN-AM in Youngstown, Ohiomarker that same year, he joined WIBG-AMmarker in Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniamarker as an on-air announcer. His career was interrupted in October, 1943 when he was inducted into the United States Army. Promoted to the rank of sergeant, he was sent to Europe aboard the Queen Marymarker in January, 1945 and ended up fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. After an honorable discharge in August, 1945, he returned to WIBG. For three years starting in 1946, he, along with Byrum Saam and Claude Haring, called all the home games of both Philadelphia professional baseball teams, the Athletics and Phillies.

Career in Baltimore

In 1949, Thompson was hired by the Gunther Brewing Company to be WITH-AMmarker's play-by-play voice for both the International League Orioles and the Colts, at the time a member of the All-America Football Conference (AAFC). Despite being laid off following the 1951 IL season because the brewery felt no need for a salaried announcer, he joined WITH in order for him to continue doing the broadcasts.

When the American League's St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore, Marylandmarker and were rechristened the Orioles in 1954, his previous connections with Gunther prevented him from becoming a broadcaster for the franchise. The National Brewing Company had purchased the team's broadcast rights and hired Ernie Harwell as the lead voice, but still wanted Thompson to be part of the coverage. He agreed to work with Harwell on Orioles broadcasts on WCBM-AM and WMAR-TVmarker in 1955. Two years later he joined Bob Wolff to call Washington Senators games on WWDC-AM and WTOP-TVmarker, succeeding Arch McDonald as a result of National Brewing becoming the team's new sponsor.

Thompson returned to broadcast Orioles games on both radio and television (WBAL-AMmarker and WJZ-TVmarker from 1962–1978, WFBR-AM from 1979–1982, and WMAR-TV from 1979–1987), and would continue to do so until his first retirement after the 1987 season. The prime of his career was the seventeen years he shared the broadcast booth with Bill O'Donnell, beginning in 1966. During that span, the pair would describe two World Series Championships, five American League Pennants, six A.L. Eastern Division titles and only one losing season. Others who worked with Thompson included Frank Messer (1964–1967), Jim Karvellas (1968-–1969), John Gordon (1970–1972) and Brooks Robinson (1978–1987). He was also the narrator of the official 1966 World Series highlight film jointly produced by both major leagues.

Besides his baseball-related achievements, Thompson also called Colts football for many years, first on CBS television in the 1950s and '60s, and then on radio from 1973 until the team's relocation to Indianapolismarker in 1984. From 1964-1969 he narrated the Colts' season review films produced by NFL Films, making on-camera appearances in the first two.

He was also the host of WBAL-TVmarker's Duckpins and Dollars from 1962-1974.

National work

Thompson's national television debut was in 1954 when he succeeded Ray Scott as the voice of the NFL's Saturday night Game of the Week on the DuMont Television Network, as well as that year's NFL Championship Game. Four years later, he teamed with Chris Schenkel to call the telecast of the legendary 1958 Championship Game on NBC. The announcers flipped a coin to determine play-by-play assignments for the two halves. Schenkel won the toss and chose the second half. Thompson ended up broadcasting the first-ever sudden-victory overtime in professional football history. Thompson also called the 1959 and 1964 Championship Games for NBC and CBS, respectively. In 1988, he was among several veteran announcers who called some September NFL telecasts for NBC while many of the network's regular broadcasters were working that year's Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Koreamarker.

Thompson also did baseball work for the Peacock Network, beginning with the Game of the Week in 1959 and 1960. He, along with Curt Gowdy, covered the Memorial Stadiummarker legs of the World Series in 1966, 1970 and 1971, and conducted the victorious post-Series clubhouse interviews in 1966 and 1970.

He is particularly remembered for his flawed but endearing call of Bill Mazeroski's championship-clinching home run to end the 1960 World Series, for which he was the play-by-play announcer for NBC Radio. (Audio) This event was replayed in full on an MLB radio special some years ago, during one of the players' strikes. The pitcher was actually Ralph Terry; Art Ditmar was warming in the bullpen, and besides that error, Thompson just got caught up in the moment:

Later career

Thompson came out of retirement in 1991 to work part-time on Orioles games for WBAL-AM when Jon Miller was away broadcasting ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. Failing eyesight caused by macular degeneration forced him to retire for good in 2000. He received the Ford C. Frick Award from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museummarker in 1993. In January 2009, the American Sportscasters Association ranked Thompson 34th on its list of Top 50 Sportscasters of All Time.

Death

Thompson, who lived in Lutherville, Marylandmarker, at the time, died at Greater Baltimore Medical Centermarker on March 6, 2005, after suffering a stroke.

Catch phrase origins

"Go to war, Miss Agnes!" was picked up from a golfing friend who never swore and whose putting failed to improve even after reading a book about it. Thompson explained the details in Curt Smith's Voices of The Game:

Thompson phased out the expression when the Vietnam War was protracted.

"Ain't the beer cold!" became the title of Thompson's autobiography, in which he described the story behind the exclamation:

See also



References

  1. Thompson, Chuck & Beard, Gordon. Ain't the Beer Cold!. South Bend, IN: Diamond Communications, Inc., 1996.
  2. ASA's Top 50 Sportscasters of All Time


External links



Bibliography

  • Smith, Curt. Voices of The Game. 2nd edition. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.
  • Bready, James H. The Home Team. 4th edition. Baltimore: 1984.



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