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COLUMN: WVU and UNC both home to hall of fame broadcasters

By Bob Hertzel, for the Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A day ago, with West Virginia and North Carolina awaiting a weekend baseball Super Regional in Chapel Hill with the winner going to the College World Series in Omaha, we pointed out that these two schools that are rich in athletic history have avoided facing each other through years despite being more similar than different.

We pointed out that they have produced two of basketball’s all-time greats in West Virginia’s Jerry West and North Carolina’s Michael Jordan.

But it isn’t always on the field of play where these schools have turned out Hall of Fame quality performers, for you can look into the broadcast booth to find two legendary play-by-play announcers — WVU’s Jack Fleming and North Carolina’s Marty Brennaman.

In the mid-1970s, which is an era that requires its own chapter in professional sports, Fleming was not only the basketball and football voice of the Mountaineers but of the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers while Brennaman was the radio voice of Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine.

Fleming was famous first of all for his call of the Franco Harris “Immaculate Reception.”

“Hang onto your hats! Here come the Steelers out of the huddle. Terry Bradshaw at the controls. Twenty-two seconds remaining, and this crowd is standing. Bradshaw, back and looking again. Bradshaw running out of the pocket, looking for someone to throw to, fires it downfield, and there’s a collision! It’s caught out of the air! The ball is pulled in by Franco Harris!! Harris is going for a touchdown for Pittsburgh! Harris is going! Five seconds left on the clock!! Franco Harris pulled in the football, I don’t even know where he came from!!”

That was in 1972 and Fleming already had created his own image and place in broadcasting history. Two years later, Brennaman had just been hired by Cincinnati to do play-by-play on their games.

He got off to a shaky start, his second spring training game in 1974 was the first at the Reds’ home park named Al Lopez Field but a nervous Brennaman, who was replacing a man who also would become a legend, Al Michaels, began his broadcast by saying:

“Hello everyone, this is Marty Brennaman with Joe Nuxhall and welcome to Al Michaels Field.”

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