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Schenkel in 1964
|Born||Christopher Eugene Schenkel
August 21, 1923
|Died||September 11, 2005
Fort Wayne, Indiana
|Spouse(s)||Fran Paige (m. 1955–2005), his death|
|Children||Christina, Teddy, and Johnny|
Christopher Eugene "Chris" Schenkel (August 21, 1923 – September 11, 2005) was an American sportscaster. Over the course of five decades he called play-by-play for numerous sports on television and radio, becoming known for his smooth delivery and baritone voice.
Early life and career
Schenkel began his broadcasting career at radio station WBAA while studying for a premedical degree at Purdue University where he was a member of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity. He worked for a time at WLBC in Muncie, Indiana. After military service in World War II, Schenkel resumed sportscasting in Providence, Rhode Island. For six years he did local radio and called the Thoroughbred horse races at Narragansett Park.
In 1952, Schenkel was hired by the DuMont Television Network, for which he broadcast New York Giants football and hosted DuMont's Boxing From Eastern Parkway (1953-1954) and Boxing From St. Nicholas Arena (1954-1956).
In 1956, he moved to CBS Sports, where he continued to call Giants games, along with boxing, Triple Crown horse racing and The Masters golf tournament, among other events. Along with Chuck Thompson, Schenkel called the 1958 NFL Championship Game for NBC. He was the voiceover talent for the first NFL Films production ever made, the 1962 NFL Championship Game between the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants.
ABC Sports hired Schenkel in 1965, and there he broadcast college football, Major League Baseball, NBA basketball, golf and tennis tournaments, boxing, auto racing, and the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. He became widely known for covering professional bowling, mainly for the Professional Bowlers Association (with the program becoming known as the Professional Bowlers Tour). He covered bowling from the early 1960s until 1997, as it became one of ABC's signature sports for Saturday afternoons. His broadcast partners on the PBA telecasts included Billy Welu (through 1974) and Nelson "Bo" Burton, Jr. (1975–97). Schenkel and his broadcast team provided exciting and colorful coverage to a sport not typically considered attractive to a television audience. From the late 1960s to the early 1980s, Pro Bowlers Tour typically outdrew college football and college basketball in the ratings. Many viewers considered it a weekly tradition to watch bowling on Saturday afternoons, which was a lead-in to ABC's Wide World of Sports.
During his 36 years on The Professional Bowlers Tour, there were occasions when ABC sent Schenkel away to cover other assignments. Strangely, he was away on assignment for the first three of the PBA's televised 300 games. Given that Schenkel was in the broadcast booth for three televised 299 games in the 1970s, light-hearted conversation circulated among the PBA faithful that Schenkel was a "curse" for anyone with a chance to shoot a perfect game on television. He would eventually call a televised 300 game on January 31, 1987 when Houstonian Pete McCordic bowled one in the first match of the Greater Los Angeles Open. Schenkel told McCordic it was a great moment for him, since he was away all the other times. Schenkel would be in the ABC booth for five more televised 300 games.
Contrary to current popular belief, Chris Schenkel, not Jim McKay, anchored ABC's prime time coverage of the ill-fated 1972 Summer Olympics. When the terrorist attacks (otherwise known as the Munich Massacre) occurred, Schenkel was asleep after hosting the previous night's coverage live from Munich from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. local time. McKay, who was on his way to the Stadium for track and field coverage, was told to return to the ABC studio to report on the situation unfolding at the Olympic Village. Schenkel returned to anchor Olympic coverage after the Games resumed.
In 1971, Statesboro, Georgia businessman Charlie Robbins honored Schenkel by developing in his name, a scholarship for golf at Georgia Southern University and calling the great classic, "Chris Schenkel Intercollegiate Golf Tournament", featuring some of the nation's top college golf teams. Schenkel had attended then named Georgia Teacher's College (1930-1958) while in the service near Statesboro during WW II. There are a few books in the School's library today with Schenkel's signed name listed as the one checking out the library book. The Schenkel Tournament ended after the 1989 event when it was discovered that the golf club hosting the tournament was all-white, but was revived in 1999 as the E-Z-Go Schenkel Invitational. This college event is regarded as one of golf's premier intercollegiate events in the East.
Chris Schenkel also did play-by-play (with Bud Wilkinson providing color commentary) for the legendary 1969 Texas vs. Arkansas football game, known as the "Game of the Century", culminating the first 100 years of College Football in 1969. The game, also known as the "Big Shootout", garnered a share of 52.1, meaning that more than one half of the televisions in the United States were tuned in. Years later, Schenkel said "it was the most exciting, most important college football game I ever televised". Schenkel went on to broadcast many more huge games, including the celebrated Nebraska-Oklahoma match on Thanksgiving Day 1971, as well as the Sugar Bowl national championship showdown between Notre Dame and Alabama on New Year's Eve 1973 (with Wilkinson and Howard Cosell, in a rare college football appearance). Schenkel was replaced by Keith Jackson as ABC's lead play-by-play man for college football telecasts in 1974, but continued to call college football games for several more years.
In 1976, Schenkel was inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame in the "Meritorious Service" category and in 1988 was inducted into the American Bowling Congress (now United States Bowling Congress) Hall of Fame, also in the "Meritorious Service" category.
Schenkel was inducted in 1981 in the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame.
He was named National Sportscaster of the Year four times, and in 1992 received a lifetime achievement Emmy Award. Also in 1992, the Pro Football Hall of Fame presented Schenkel with its Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award. In 1999, he received the Jim Thorpe Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 1999, the Professional Bowlers Association named the Player of the Year award after Schenkel.
Personal life and death
He was married to former dancer and model, Fran Page.
Schenkel had three children, Christina, Teddy, and Johnny. He also has three grandchildren, Christopher, Michael, and Katie.
In 1971, Schenkel, a longtime friend of Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony Hulman, was a passenger in the pace car for that year's Indianapolis 500 race. Astronaut John Glenn and Hulman were also in the car when its driver, Indianapolis-area Dodge dealer Eldon Palmer, crashed the 1971 Dodge Challenger convertible into a camera platform at the beginning of the race. Someone had moved the flag Palmer had positioned as a braking reference point, leading to the incident that injured twenty-two people, mostly photographers. Schenkel was in the back seat and suffered a broken shoulder when a photographer tumbled into the car. The car's other occupants were not seriously injured. The moment of the crash was captured by Chicago Tribune photographer Frank Hanes and was widely distributed via various media outlets.
Schenkel appeared (along with Bo Burton) as the bowling announcers in the final match in the 1979 movie Dreamer.
- Chris Schenkel
- "Virtue Is Its Own Reward". CNN. 22 January 1973.
- Sandomir, Richard (12 September 2005). "Chris Schenkel, 82, Versatile and Ubiquitous Sportscaster, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 October 2012.
- "Chris Schenkel named 25th greatest sportscaster of all-time." Article at www.pba.com, January 15, 2009.
- Callahan, Rick (11 September 2005). "Sportscaster Chris Schenkel dies at 82". USA Today. Retrieved 4 October 2012.
|Television voice of the
|Play-by-Play announcer, NBA Finals
1966–1971 (with Bob Wolff in 1966 and 1969)
|American television prime time anchor, Summer Olympic Games
|American television prime time anchor, Winter Olympic Games