His son Lance stated the trigger was not instantly identified however that Mr. Roberts began receiving hospice care the day earlier than he died.
Mr. Roberts was among the many most acclaimed sportscasters of his technology, inducted into the Radio Corridor of Fame in 2016 after years spent protecting marquee occasions together with the Olympic Video games, Faculty World Collection and British Open golf championship for the Mutual Broadcasting System, later often called Westwood One. He launched his profession in small cities throughout the Midwest earlier than doing play-by-play for professional basketball, baseball, the NFL and above all Notre Dame soccer, changing into a fan favourite along with his signature name of “Touchdown, Irish!”
“He sounds like a radio sportscaster is supposed to sound — with a resonant voice that seemingly hums along in sync with your car engine, with a soothing voice securely in control of the action, with a staccato voice that can make dramatic leaps quickly and surely,” Washington Put up sportswriter Norman Chad declared in 1988.
Mr. Roberts had lengthy stated baseball was “the greatest game ever invented,” as he as soon as informed a Notre Dame interviewer. However he added that after greater than twenty years broadcasting Combating Irish video games — some 300 in all, from 1980 till he was changed within the sales space in 2006 — “I’ve come to see that Irish football is now about equal with baseball.”
His years at Notre Dame coincided with a return to glory for the storied soccer program simply exterior South Bend, Ind. He was within the sales space throughout extensive receiver Tim Brown’s Heisman Trophy-winning season in 1987; known as Notre Dame’s upset victory over top-ranked Miami in 1988, en path to the college’s eleventh nationwide title; and delivered probably the most memorable broadcasts of his profession in a 1993 showdown in opposition to No. 1 Florida State. The “Game of the Century” ended after Shawn Picket, a defensive again for the No. 2-ranked Irish, broke up a go from eventual Heisman winner Charlie Ward.
Mr. Roberts channeled the power of Notre Dame Stadium’s sold-out crowd, 59,000 robust, whereas narrating the ultimate seconds: “Last play of the game. This is it. Ward flushed out of the pocket. Throwing in the end zone. Knocked down by Wooden! The game is over! The Irish have upset Florida State! Notre Dame wins! Pandemonium on the field! 31-24! Notre Dame is No. 1!”
For all his enthusiasm, Mr. Roberts was identified for remaining clearsighted in his broadcasts. “When Notre Dame stunk, he said they stunk,” Darin Pritchett, a South Bend radio host, informed the Chicago Tribune in 2006.
“The thing that set him apart was the fact that he was so methodical in what he did,” sportscaster Johnny Holliday, the voice of the College of Maryland soccer and basketball groups, stated in a telephone interview. Holliday, who labored Bullets and Senators video games with Mr. Roberts within the early ’70s, recalled how Mr. Roberts was a stickler about custom and propriety, even when it got here to the efficiency of the nationwide anthem.
“He’d put a clock on it. He’d start the stopwatch and say, ‘This is way too long, it’s a minute and 24 seconds — it’s supposed to be done in 58 seconds. This is not acceptable,’” Holliday stated with fun. “When he did a Senators game, he did it exactly the way it was supposed to be done: He would paint the picture, but wouldn’t be overly graphic or off the charts with emotion. He would let the game dictate the excitement. If the game was exciting: boom.”
Mr. Roberts, he added, “was as talented as anyone that I’ve ever worked with.”
The older of two sons, John Robert Baffa was born into an Italian American household in Chicago on Oct. 21, 1928. He modified his identify after going into broadcasting, searching for one thing extra historically “American” sounding to appease station managers. He adopted the primary identify of his father, Anthony, who labored on the railroads. His mom, who labored at a Kresge’s division retailer, would later use an earpiece to hearken to Mr. Roberts’s broadcasts throughout Mass, taking a seat close to the again of the church to keep away from inflicting a stir.
Rising up within the South Aspect neighborhood of Roseland, Mr. Roberts listened to radio broadcasts of his beloved Chicago Cubs and lionized NBC sportscaster Invoice Stern. “I loved radio. It was the theater of the mind,” he stated in 2016, including: “I always did my broadcast the way that I would like to hear it if I was sitting in my rocker, listening to Bill Stern doing Oklahoma-Texas. I wanted to do it the way he did it — exciting.”
After Military service in Japan, Mr. Roberts studied broadcast journalism at Columbia Faculty in Chicago, receiving a bachelor’s diploma in 1956. He was employed the subsequent yr by a brand new station in Clinton, Iowa, the place he was paid $62.50 per week to do sports activities reveals, farm stories and just about anything that wanted to be introduced on air.
By the top of the last decade, Mr. Roberts was honing his craft as a sportscaster in Illinois, protecting school soccer in Macomb and highschool basketball in Decatur. He did play-by-play for Indiana College’s soccer workforce earlier than shifting to the Washington space in 1970 to affix WWDC-FM and later WRC-FM, the place he was an announcer for Navy soccer video games, the Baltimore Bullets (now Washington Wizards) and the Washington Senators.
Together with Ron Menchine, he was one of many final voices of the Senators earlier than the franchise left to change into the Texas Rangers in 1972. Mr. Roberts was on the decision when the workforce performed its closing recreation at RFK Stadium, in entrance of an offended crowd that poured onto the sphere simply earlier than the final out, dismayed that town was dropping its baseball workforce for the second time in simply over a decade, following the unique Senators’ departure for Minnesota.
“It’s like an army of ants out there, going through the jungle,” Mr. Roberts stated on the air. “They’re just chomping away at everything they can get their hands on!”
Fifty years in the past, baseball left Washington in a chaotic stampede
Mr. Roberts joined the Mutual Broadcasting System in 1979 and was quickly a fixture of main broadcasts, along with showing often on the syndicated information present “America in the Morning,” providing sports activities commentary reverse host Jim Bohannon.
His first marriage, to Mary Jane Wittenberg, led to divorce. Survivors embody his spouse of greater than 20 years, Shirley Roberts; 4 kids from his first marriage, Lance, Tracey, Kerry and Daryle; three stepchildren, Keith, Tricia and Kevin; a brother; and 6 grandchildren.
Mr. Roberts was awarded the Nationwide Soccer Basis & Faculty Corridor of Fame’s 2005 Chris Schenkel Award for excellence in broadcasting. The following yr, he was changed at Notre Dame video games by sportscaster Don Criqui. Westwood One stated that Mr. Roberts left after failed negotiations, though Mr. Roberts stated in any other case: he was fired “for no cause,” he claimed, by a brand new regime on the media firm.
“I’ve still got a thousand touchdown calls left in me,” he informed Put up sports activities columnist Leonard Shapiro, who wrote that Mr. Roberts’s absence from Notre Dame video games was “a travesty of the highest order.”
Mr. Roberts retired from broadcasting, spending some Saturdays on the golf course as an alternative of watching school soccer video games. Nonetheless, he stated he couldn’t assist however observe the Combating Irish carefully. “You can’t get it out of your blood, you know? Once it’s in there, it’s in there,” he informed the South Bend Tribune. “That’s all there is to it.”