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April 26, 2013

Library Acquires Sportscaster Bob Wolff’s Rare Audiovisual Recordings

Interviews from Nine Decades of Star Athletes and Classic Play-by-Play Calls

Legendary award-winning sportscaster Bob Wolff is a man for all (sports) seasons. In a career that includes recordings in nine decades—the longest of any sportscaster—he is the first and only broadcaster to handle play-by-play championship calls in all four major professional sports. The Library of Congress today celebrated the acquisition of Wolff"s vast personal collection of historic audio and video recordings, documenting some of the greatest names and most golden moments in sports history.

Held at the Library’s majestic Jefferson Building in Washington, D.C., the event also included an historic conversation with Wolff, who was the pioneering television voice of the Washington Senators for 15 years, answering questions about his collection from current Washington Nationals radio play-by-play announcers Charlie Slowes and Dave Jageler. "Bob Wolff is a voice for the ages, calling some of the most memorable games in sports, but he is also an archivist at heart," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. "He has amassed an extraordinary collection of his work and ensured that these important recordings, which document the historical record of the nation’s sports history, will be forever preserved for future generations."

Wolff’s personal archive of recordings spans over 74 years and features more than a thousand hours of him interviewing the greatest stars in sports history. Also included are some of the Hall of Famer’s most famous calls including:

  • Play-by-play of Don Larsen’s perfect World Series game in 1956
  • Play-by-play of the Baltimore Colts’ overtime win over the New York Giants in the NFL championship game in 1958, called "the greatest football game ever played"
  • Televised play-by-plays of the New York Knicks’ two championships
  • An interview with Jackie Robinson early in his career – plus Robinson’s last major league hit, which was a game winner in Game Six of the 1956 World Series.
  • Wolff’s performances with the Washington "Singing Senators"
  • Candid interviews with numerous great sports legends, including Babe Ruth, Jim Thorpe, Ty Cobb, Vince Lombardi, Tris Speaker, Mickey Mantle, Joe Louis, Yogi Berra, George Steinbrenner, Clark Griffith, Rocky Marciano, and hundreds of others.

In addition to major sports figures, Wolff also talked sports with other notables in the booth, including Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis and Richard Nixon.

"For the past 74 professional sportscasting years, and still continuing, I’ve had the pleasure of recording interviews with the nation’s sports stars," said Wolff. "I saved them all—from early audio and then video. I’m delighted that the Library of Congress will now provide a terrific new home for them and they will all be available for future generations to enjoy for all time."

At the age of 92, Wolff continues to call the plays and make sports history. Guinness World Records recognized Wolff as attaining the longest career of any sports broadcaster. The on-the-go sportscaster for many years annually averaged over 250 play-by-plays, plus pre- and post-game shows and nightly sportscasts. In addition to network shows, he was the television play-by-play voice for eight teams in five different sports—the Knicks, the Rangers, the Washington Senators, the Minnesota Twins, the Baltimore Colts, the Washington Redskins, the Cleveland Browns, and soccer’s Tampa Bay Rowdies, plus thousands of other sports programs.

Wolff is in the National Sportscasters-Sportswriters Hall of Fame, the Madison Square Garden Walk of Fame and the recipient of the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award. He also received the Basketball Hall of Fame’s Curt Gowdy Media Award, joining Curt as the only two sportscasters to be recognized by both the basketball and the baseball halls. Wolff was inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007 and the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball Hall of Fame where he served as League Commissioner for five years. On Long Island, he won the Press Club Outstanding Journalist Award in 2001. He’s received a TV Ace Award and Emmy Awards for his on-camera work.

Wolff’s career in sports broadcasting began with his work on CBS Radio, WDNC in Durham, North Carolina, in 1939 while going to Duke University. He added TV to his schedule in 1946 as Washington D.C.’s first telecaster on DuMont’s WTTG. His TV assignments have included play-by-play on all the major networks. He was the pioneer television voice of the Washington Senators beginning in 1947, and in addition to calling the games, also handled the team’s pre-game and post-game TV and radio shows, plus a nightly TV sports show and radio show. Wolff was the first NBA basketball team telecaster when he called play-by-play for the Washington Capitols in their inaugural 1946-1947 season in the BAA, the predecessor of the NBA.

In 1951, he was selected for the first college football TV Game-of-the-Week series and, in 1953, was on the first professional football TV Game-of-the-Week. Wolff left his position as broadcaster of the Minnesota Twins, where he spent the ’61 season to accept a contract with NBC-TV in 1962 as its Baseball Game-of-the-Week play-caller. Wolff continues a full schedule of activity in today’s competitive New York marketplace with his award-winning commentaries and his coverage of major sports events, now in his 27th year at News 12 Long Island where he also served as sports director and sports anchor. He also has been seen and heard on Madison Square Garden programming for 59 years.

Wolff has written four books and his articles have been published in numerous publications. His latest book is "Bob Wolff’s Complete Guide to Sportscasting."

Wolff’s recordings will join the vast collections housed at the Library’s Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Va. The materials will be cataloged, digitally preserved and made available to the public in the Library’s reading rooms on Capitol Hill, and eventually on its website as non-downloadable, streaming files.

The Library of Congress holds the largest collection of sound recordings in the world and has been collecting and preserving historically, culturally and aesthetically significant sound recordings in all genres for nearly 90 years. The Library of Congress is also the home of the National Recording Preservation Board and the National Recording Registry, which were established by the U.S. Congress to promote awareness of the need to preserve the nation’s recording history for posterity.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov.

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PR 13-077
04/26/13
ISSN 0731-3527

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