Jim Simpson (born December 20, 1927) is a retired American sportscaster, known for his smooth delivery as a play-by-play man and his versatility in covering many different sports. In 1997, he won the Sports Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2000 he was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame.
A native of the Washington, D.C. area, Simpson broadcast Atlantic Coast Conference basketball games in the early 1960s and worked as a sports reporter at WRC-TV. Eventually he would broadcast many sports at NBC, including football, basketball, baseball, tennis, and golf. For much of the 1960s and 1970s he was generally considered the network's number two play-by-play announcer, behind only Curt Gowdy. His work on American Football League and later American Football Conference games for NBC is perhaps what he is best remembered for. On January 15, 1967, Simpson (along with former quarterback George Ratterman) called Super Bowl I for NBC Radio. He also called the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final via tape delay for NBC.
In 1979, the fledgling ESPN cable sports network brought Simpson on board to provide some needed credibility with sports fans. Simpson broadcast the first NCAA basketball game the network televised, with flamboyant Dick Vitale as the color man. Vitale credits Simpson with helping him develop as a sportscaster. Simpson also called USFL and College World Series games for ESPN, and in 1988 called the Baltimore Orioles' local telecasts on WMAR-TV.
After his sportscasting days Simpson retired to St. Croix, Virgin Islands. Among other firsts he was the initial U.S. sportscaster to appear live via satellite from Asia, and he was involved in the first American sportscast using instant replay technology. In 2005, ESPN brought Simpson back from retirement to do play-by-play for a series of college basketball games in a "turn back the clock" format on the ESPN Classic network.
Quotes and commentsEdit
- Although he covered many sports, Simpson favored football and basketball. In his book Voices of the Game (1987), author Curt Smith quotes Simpson on the subject: "You do basketball and football, and their action carries you along. You tell what's happening; you don't have to hype. Golf is tougher—so many dead spots. But baseball! It's even harder. You have a whole season of dead time between pitches—what do you do with it? It takes a real artist to fill in, to sort of ride the game's stream along." This led Smith to comment, "A baseball artist Simpson was not," and even describe him as "chillingly indifferent" to baseball.
- In his book Living a Dream (2003) Dick Vitale tells how Simpson taught him an important lesson about sportscasting: "One night, a long time ago, [Simpson] and I were doing a game—a so-so game. Somebody came up to me and asked, 'What game do you guys have coming up?' I turned to the guy and said, 'Aw, it's just another game, man, just another game.' Jim grabbed me and said, 'There is no such thing as just another game.' He was right."
- Asked at his NSSA Hall of Fame induction ceremony about changes in sports over the last forty years, Simpson offered a rueful, humorous response: "I look around at different ballparks and I haven't been in some of them. Used to be, no matter where they were, I had been there."
- During the final illness of his friend and colleague Bud Wilkinson, Simpson commented: "Bud is the only man I know that when he sees you or leaves you has the capability to throw his arms around you, with tears in his eyes, and say to another man, 'Do you know how much I love you?' That's not supposed to be the macho thing to do, but this guy doesn't have to prove anything as a football player, as a coach or as a man."
- Voices of the Game by Curt Smith (Diamond Communications, Inc. 1987) ISBN 0-912083-21-2
- Bud Wilkinson: An Intimate Portrait of an American Legend by Jay Wilkinson and Gretchen Hirsch (Sagamore Publishing 1994) ISBN 1-57167-001-7
- Living a Dream by Dick Vitale (Sports Publishing 2003) ISBN 1-58261-738-4
- NSSA Hall of Fame photograph and brief biography
- News story on Simpson's NSSA Hall of Fame induction
- Simpson saw start of Super Bowl, ESPN