The first time I heard the line "A piece of my childhood is gone" was with the death of New York Yankees' legend Mickey Mantle. Mantle has been gone for a long time now, but it seems almost monthly, the heroes of my childhood are passing on.
I was too young to remember Mantle, but a piece of MY childhood died yesterday, with the passing of Pat Summerall. Summerall died in Dallas yesterday at the age of 82. His voice was the soundtrack of the great NFL games of my youth-- through the 1970's with Tom Brookshier, and through the 1980's, 90's and into the 2000's with John Madden. Not many remember Summerall took the Number 1 spot on the NFL on CBS from another legendary announcer-- Ray Scott.
Summerall knew football because he played it. He was a kicker for the New York Giants during the 1950's, where he performed with another player-turned-broadcasting legend-- Frank Gifford. Summerall left the field for the broadcast booth in 1961, and becaome a play by play man in 1973.
Some people are just tied to a sport-- even though they do others as well. Summerall was the voice of the Masters for many years-- remember his call of Jack Nicklaus' improbable sixth green jacket in 1986? In fact, it seemed appropriate that he died two days after this year's Masters wrapped up. He also covered McEnroe and Connors and Edberg and Becker-- and other tennis stars of the 1980's-- at the U-S Open in New York City.
Interestingly, Summerall started as an analyst, but moved to the play bp play chair because he sounded too much like his play by play man-- a guy named Jack Buck...maybe you heard of him. Just like Buck, he did several sports-- but like Buck, he will be known for one. Summerall was to football what Buck was to baseball. It's that simple.
One more thing about Summerall-- he was THE expert of minimalism. He said just enough to let you know what was going on, and made his analyist the star. That is why his pairing with the bombastic, brilliant, and sometimes belligerent John Madden worked so well on CBS and Fox for 21 years.
We may not have the presence of Pat Summerall anymore, but we do have the voice. Rest in piece, Pat Summerall. You will be missed-- and remembered as long as men don pads and throw passes in the NFL.
That's my take.... I'm Tom Lee.