Gary Bender

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Gary Bender
Born Gary Nedrow Bender
(1940-09-01) September 1, 1940 (age 73)
Norton, Kansas
Education Wichita State (Undergraduate)
University of Kansas (Masters)
Title Sportscaster
Religion Christianity
Spouse(s) Linda
Children Trey and Brett

Gary Nedrow Bender (born September 1, 1940) [1] is a retired American sportscaster and 2008 inductee into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame. He officially retired, April 13, 2011,[2][3] from Fox Sports Arizona network after 18 years calling the NBA's Phoenix Suns games.

Biography[edit]

Early career[edit]

Bender, who was born in Norton, Kansas, and raised in a nearby town of Ulysses, Kansas,[4] graduated from Ulysses High School in 1958. He then attended Wichita State University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1962 and a masters degree from the University of Kansas in 1964. Bender then began his broadcasting career calling games at Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, KS and then went on to do the same at the University of Kansas' football and basketball programs in the 1960s. He also spent years as a broadcaster in Wisconsin and called all of the Wisconsin Athletic Association championship games, as well as Green Bay Packers radio and Milwaukee Brewers television in the early 1970s.

CBS Sports[edit]

He did play-by-play for the NFL on CBS from 1975 to 1986 (among his partners were Johnny Unitas, Sonny Jurgensen and John Madden, all members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame), the 1981 NBA Finals along with color commentators Rick Barry and Bill Russell, both members of the Basketball Hall of Fame.

He was CBS' first play-by-play announcer for the network's coverage of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament, calling the Final Four alongside Billy Packer in 1982, 1983 and 1984. In 1982 and 1983, he was CBS' lead college football play-by-play man.

ABC Sports[edit]

On October 27, 1987, Bender (along with Lynn Swann) called the Monday Night Football game between the Denver Broncos and the Minnesota Vikings. That game had been scheduled for October 26, but when the Minnesota Twins (who at the time, shared the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome with the Vikings) played Game 7 of the World Series that day, the football game was moved to Monday and shown to a regional audience.

In 1988, Bender did play-by-play for the American League Championship Series alongside Baseball Hall of Famers Joe Morgan and Reggie Jackson.

He also announced college football games for ABC Sports, where he formerly worked alongside Dick Vermeil.

Major League Baseball on ABC[edit]

As previously mentioned, Bender did play-by-play for the 1988 American League Championship Series between the Oakland Athletics and Boston Red Sox. Bender spent two years (1987-1988) as the #2 baseball play-by-play man for ABC behind Al Michaels. Bender worked the backup Monday Night Baseball broadcasts (with Tim McCarver in 1987 and Joe Morgan in 1988) as well as serving as a field reporter/post-game interviewer for ABC's 1987 World Series coverage.

After Bender spent an entire summer developing a team with Joe Morgan, ABC brought in Reggie Jackson to work with the duo for the 1988 ALCS. According to Bender's autobiography Call of the Game, ABC's decision to bring in Jackson to work with Bender and Morgan caused problems:

Reggie is one of the strongest personalities I've ever met. He epitomizes the big-name athlete who has become a great player, in part because of his ego, but who does not have the sensitivity to let go of that ego when working with others. Consequently, Reggie demanded things he hadn't earned the right to demand. He wanted more attention. He insisted we adjust our way of doing things for him. He even made demands of the producer and director. (118-119)

Bender went further in his criticism of Jackson by saying:

The whole week went badly. Finally, during the production meeting before the final game of a four-game sweep by the Oakland Athletics over the Boston Red Sox, Reggie confronted me in front of the whole broadcast crew, saying, "I just can't be comfortable with you." I was floored. I asked him, "What do you mean?" "Well, anytime, I turn to talk to you, you break my concentration." I said, "I'm sorry. What can I do to change?" He didn't have an answer." "We tried an informal walk-through where I turned to Joe, told him how I would lead to him, and he described how he would respond. Then I turned to Reggie to do the same. Reggie froze just as he had been doing during the three previous broadcasts. He couldn't get anything out. I said, "Am I making you uncomfortable right now?" He didn't say anything, but everybody realized at that moment that he was blaming me because he couldn't pull the trigger.

When writing about working the fourth and ultimately final game of the 1988 ALCS, Bender says:

I was into wrap-up at the end of an inning, just before going to commercial when Reggie signaled that he had something to add. The countdown was already down to seven or six and he knew I couldn't throw it to him. But he furiously waved his arms for me to do so. As soon as we got to commercial, Reggie ripped his headset off, slammed it down, turned his back on me, and stomped out of the booth. Joe Morgan talked to me after the series. "I want you to know you did all you could do," he said. "If it's possible, I want to continue to work with you." Bringing Reggie in was the worst decision they ever made. I fought it. I want you to know I thought it was bad going in. It was even worse than I thought. (119)

Bender concludes by saying:

Working that ALCS was one of the hardest times in my broadcasting career. It is a painful memory because I've always believed I could make everything work, that no situation could not be resolved. However, it did illustrate a maxim I've always believed in: It's all right to have an ego as long as you don't become one. Reggie Jackson's ego is huge and has been detrimental to his career in broadcasting. (120)

Gary Bender would ultimately be taken off ABC's baseball team in favor of Gary Thorne in 1989.

Turner Sports[edit]

Bender also called NFL games for TNT from 1992 to 1994, teaming with Pat Haden. On December 17, 2009, Bender filled in for Marv Albert, who was battling throat problems, to call the Phoenix Suns at Portland Trail Blazers game on TNT and called the game with Reggie Miller.

FSN-Arizona and Versus[edit]

As previously mentioned, for 18 years, Bender was the television play-by-play announcer on Fox Sports Net (FSN-Arizona) for the National Basketball Association's Phoenix Suns, he worked alongside former Suns players Eddie Johnson and Scott Williams. In 2006, he was named as the play-by-play announcer for the Versus network's coverage of Mountain West Conference football, where he would be partnered with former NFL player Glenn Parker.

Personal[edit]

Bender is also co-author with Michael Johnson of the biography Call of the Game, in which he shares his life story, tips on how to become a better broadcaster, and his Christian testimony.

Bender did a series of Kendall Motor Oil commercials in mid-1980s.

In the first five months of 2001, Bender presided as host of the nationally syndicated Focus on the Family radio show after the resignation of previous host Mike Trout (1985–2000) because of an extramarital affair. Bender was replaced on a full-time basis by Focus vice president of broadcasting John Fuller.

Gary Bender is an alumnus of the Kansas Delta chapter of Phi Delta Theta at Wichita State where he received his bachelors degree. He received his masters degree in radio and TV from the University of Kansas.

His son, Trey, is also a sportscaster and played Pop Warner Little Scholars.

Career timeline[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kansas Sports Hall of Fame (KSHOF)
  2. ^ Young, Bob (28 March 2011). "Suns broadcaster Gary Bender announces retirement". azcentral.com. Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  3. ^ Dougherty, Pete (29 March 2011). "Longtime network announcer Bender retires from broadcasting". timesunion.com. Hearst Communications Inc. Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  4. ^ Kansas Sports Hall of Fame (KSHOF)
  5. ^ a b c Sandomir, Richard (27 March 1992). "SPORTS MEDIA: TV SPORTS; Specter of Strike Scrambles Cable Schedules". The New York Times. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Brent Musburger
Play-by-Play announcer, NBA Finals
1981
Succeeded by
Dick Stockton
Preceded by
Dick Enberg
Play-by-Play announcer, NCAA Men's Final Four
1982-1984
Succeeded by
Brent Musburger