Sports Commentator and Essayist Jack Whitaker to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award at 33rd Annual Sports Emmy ® Awards


Sports Commentator and Essayist Jack Whitaker to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award at 33rd Annual Sports Emmy ® Awards

To be Honored During the April 30th Ceremony At Frederick P. Rose Hall, Home of Jazz at Lincoln Center

New York, NY – March 5, 2012 – The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) today announced that Sports Commentator and Essayist, Jack Whitaker, will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Sports at the 33rd annual Sports Emmy® Awards ceremony at Jazz at Lincoln Center on Monday, April 30th, 2012.

“From his days back in the 60’s as Host of ‘CBS Sports Spectacular,’ to working with ABC Sports and News in the 80’s and 90’s, Jack Whitaker was the man on the scene,” said Steve Ulrich, Executive Director, Sports Emmy® Awards. “Jack was the kind of sports commentator who covered it all: the Super Bowl, Secretariat’s win at Belmont, the Olympics in Sarajevo, Los Angeles and Calgary, the America’s Cup Regatta, Golf, Tennis, Track & Field – you name it. At the inaugural Sports Emmy® Awards Gala in 1979, Jack was honored as the Outstanding Sports Personality. We are delighted to have him as this year’s Sports Lifetime Achievement winner.”

“Jack Whitaker brought thoughtful perspective, a sports fan’s passion and dignified gravitas to his every assignment, and his graceful prose elevated the presentation of sports’ biggest events,” said John Skipper, president, ESPN. “We are thrilled he will take his rightful place among the most accomplished individuals ever in sports broadcasting.”

Pat Summerall, the 1994 Sports Lifetime recipient, said, “Jack was always the ultimate pro in everything he does. He was always a role model, whether it was in his dress, behavior, preparation or presentation. Many in our business patterned their efforts after his. Jack deserves more than any honor could bestow.”

Frank Gifford, who received the Lifetime Achievement award in 1997, added, “To have a Sports Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award without Jack Whitaker on the list is hard to believe. He was the best of the best, a great friend and a terrific colleague.”

Born on May 18, 1924 in Philadelphia, Whitaker grew up playing stickball in the streets of the East Germantown section of the city and graduated from Northeast Catholic High School and St. Joseph’s College (now University).

In a 1998 television interview, Whitaker explained how he entered sportscasting: “I listened to the radio a lot. I was kind of a sports and news junkie. Actually, that’s how I got started, as a newscaster and news writer. “

In 1950, he made his television debut as a sportscaster with WCAU in his native Philadelphia. He was the sports anchor of the city’s number one newscast, working with news anchor John Facenda – the legendary “Voice of God” from years of work with NFL Films – and Ed McMahon (later of Tonight Show fame), who provided nightly essays.

In 1961 he made the move to CBS Sports in New York. As host of CBS Sports Spectacular, Whitaker brought a unique angle to the anthology series. For the next 21 years, he was prominent in the network’s coverage of golf’s major championships, horse racing’s Triple Crown, tennis, track and field, and boxing. He was part of the team covering the first Super Bowl. Over the years, he served many roles, from host to reporter to play-by-play to, in his later years, a poignant essayist.

When Jack was asked what the greatest event he ever covered was, he chose the 1973 Belmont Stakes. “I would say it was Secretariat’s win at Belmont which was the most dominating performance I have ever seen by any athlete, even more than Tiger Woods last year (1997). Because he won by 31. I mean it just blew me away. It blew everybody away. People were crying. It was just perfection. So I think I’ll stick with that, although Tiger is pretty close.”

For ABC, Whitaker covered the 1984 Winter and Summer Olympic Games and the 1988 Winter Olympic Games. In the news department, Whitaker reported for ABC’s World News Tonight, Nightline, and 20/20. In 1992, he worked the America’s Cup regatta in San Diego for ABC and ESPN.

In addition to the Emmy® Award, Whitaker’s has received the Maryland Jockey Club’s 1983 Hilltop Award, becoming only the second member of the electronic press to ever win the award. He was named Best Announcer by Sports Illustrated in 1976, and earned the Kentucky Owners and Breeders, Inc. Engelhard Award in 1973. Whitaker was also the first television commentator honored by the Golf Writers of America at the Memorial tournament.

In 1997, Whitaker was inducted into the American Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame. The evening’s program said, “Jack Whitaker is a brilliant sports essayist. He has taken sports commentary on television to a new level rivaled by only a few of the greatest sportscasters. He has the uncanny ability to see and interpret events, give them context and perspective and deliver his impressions in a way that leaves a lasting impact upon viewers.”

Whitaker was also inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame in 2001, and in 2005 into the St. Joseph’s University Athletic Hall of Fame.


In addition to Whitaker, winners in 33 categories including outstanding live sports special, live series, sports documentary, studio show, promotional announcements, play-by-play personality and studio analyst will be honored at the 33rd Annual Sports Emmy® Awards.  Many of the today’s leading sports broadcasters, personalities and television professionals will be presenters at the event.

American Airlines is the official sponsor of the 33rd annual Sports Emmy® Awards. Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal is the exclusive magazine partner.

A complete list of all nominees will be available in late March at

About The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) is a professional service organization dedicated to the advancement of the arts and sciences of television and the promotion of creative leadership for artistic, educational and technical achievements within the television industry. It recognizes excellence in television with the coveted Emmy® Award for News & Documentary, Sports,

Daytime Entertainment, Daytime Creative Arts & Entertainment, Public & Community Service, and Technology & Engineering. Excellence in Primetime programming and international programming is recognized by its affiliate, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Regional Emmys are given in 19 regions across the United States. Beyond awards, NATAS has extensive educational programs including the Regional Student Television Award for Excellence for outstanding journalistic work by high school students, as well as scholarships, publications, and major activities for both industry professionals and the viewing public. For more information, please visit the website at

For Press information, please contact:

Paul Pillitteri, Director, Communication/NATAS

[email protected]


Dave Nagle

It was 33 years at ESPN for me as of November 2019 (the only job I’ve ever had) after joining merely to help with the America’s Cup for three months at a robust $5.50 per hour. I like to say I simply kept showing up. I’ve worked on almost every sport, plus answered viewer calls and letters (people used to write!), given tours, written the company newsletter and once drove NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon to the local airport. My travels have been varied…I’ve been to Martinsville and Super Bowls; the America’s Cup (all 3) in San Diego and College GameDay in the sport’s meccas such as Eugene, Auburn, Lubbock, Stillwater and more; the NBA Finals and Indy 500; Wimbledon (16 times and counting) and the “other Bristol,” the one with a race track in Tennessee. These days, in addition to overseeing the Fan Relations, Archives and, my main areas are tennis, ratings, and corporate communications documents, including ESPN’s history and growth.
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