Not all sports heroes are on the playing field, some are in the broadcast booth. That was evident at the Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters luncheon on June 16 when its members got together at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City to honor legendary sportscaster Al Michaels. His quote “Do you believe in miracles?” was the defining moment during the 1980 Winter Olympics, as was his unshakable coverage during the 1989 San Francisco-Oakland World Series when an earthquake interrupted Game 3. And he spent two decades as the play-by-play voice of Monday Night Football.
For all that and more, Michaels is respected by everyone in sports and the broadcasting community, so on hand to honor Al were the best of the best from broadcasting. On the dais were Vin Scully, the voice of the Dodgers for 67 years, and a past honoree; Bob Miller, the voice of the LA Kings games during his 44 years with the hockey team; NBC4 news anchor Chuck Henry; the NFL Network’s popular host Rich Eisen; sports network pioneer Joe Cohen and Steve Michaels, an Emmy and Peabody award winning producer and founder of Asylum Entertainment. Steve is also Al’s very proud son.
Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters president Alan Perris presented the Art Gilmore Career Achievement Award and reminded everyone that Al Michaels combined talent and preparation to become the consummate announcer “who has had a lifetime of unforgettable calls.” And his friends on the dais had a lifetime of stories about Michaels.
Al told everyone that he’s gotten to live his dreams over his long career. Growing up in Brooklyn listening to the Dodger broadcasts, of course Vin Scully became Al’s hero and years later they would become the best of friends when they both moved to Los Angeles. In addition to praising Al, Scully told a couple of family-friendly jokes that had the crowd roaring.
Al’s son Steve Michaels said growing up watching his dad work at all the big sporting events was “pretty cool,” but his favorite memories were enjoying the LA Kings hockey games together as fans. Bob Miller talked about his friendship with Al, and gave a shout-out to the new announcer for Kings, Alex Faust, who was in the audience with his fiancée Carolyn Costa.
Chuck Henry, a past Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters honoree, was happy to be on the dais with all the sports guys and beamed, “This is one of those moments that you take a mental snapshot that you’re never going to forget. I’m sitting next to Vin, Bob and Al, and they’re talking about sports names and games that were absolutely amazing.” Chuck goes way back with Al, and he talked about their biggest adventure together, and how they almost didn’t live to tell the tale. He said, “When we were both in Hawaii at the start of our broadcasting careers we did the news. In 1969, Hawaii was hit by the largest swell and we almost drowned going up to the North Shore to cover the story taking a wild ride in a car that was a piece of tin on four wheels.”
Joe Cohen also told great stories about his best friend Al, “because I’m old enough to remember and young enough not to forget.” He congratulated Al’s wife Linda and daughter Jennifer who were in the audience. Rich Eisen also extolled the Michaels family and gave the highest praise saying, “Al, you are as good of a husband, father and a person as you are as an announcer.”
Among the celebrities in the audience was former NFL player and actor Fred Dryer of Hunter fame. And the always lovable Jamie Farr (M*A*S*H), who happily told everyone that he was actually at 1980 Lake Placid Olympics when the U.S. beat the Russian hockey team. Farr said, “Al called it, and thanks to him that moment will forever be known as the Miracle on Ice.”
Margie Barron is a member of the Television Critics Association and has written for a variety of top publications for more than 35 years, and is half of the husband and wife writing team of Margie and Frank Barron.