Frank Gifford

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Frank Gifford
Gifford in 2009
No. 16
Position: Halfback, flanker
Personal information
Date of birth: (1930-08-16)August 16, 1930
Place of birth: Santa Monica, California
Date of death: August 9, 2015(2015-08-09) (aged 84)
Place of death: Greenwich, Connecticut
Height: 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight: 197 lb (89 kg)
Career information
High school: Bakersfield (CA)
College: Southern California
NFL draft: 1952 / Round: 1 / Pick: 11
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Rushing yards: 3,609
Rushing average: 4.3
Rushing TDs: 34
Receptions: 367
Receiving yards: 5,434
Receiving TDs: 43
Stats at

Francis Newton "Frank" Gifford (August 16, 1930 – August 9, 2015) was an American football player and television sports commentator. After a 12-year playing career as a running back and flanker for the New York Giants of the National Football League (NFL), he was a play-by-play announcer and commentator for 27 years on ABC's Monday Night Football.

Gifford won the NFL Most Valuable Player Award in 1956, the same season he won his only NFL Championship. During his career, he participated in five league championship games and was named to eight Pro Bowls. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977. After retiring as a player, Gifford was an Emmy Award-winning sportscaster, known for his work on ABC's Monday Night Football, Wide World of Sports and the Olympics. He was married to television host Kathie Lee Gifford from 1986 until his death.

Early life[edit]

Gifford was born in Santa Monica, California, the son of Lola Mae (née Hawkins) and Weldon Gifford, an oil driller.[1][2] He graduated from Bakersfield High School.[3]

Following Gifford's death in 2015, his wife Kathie Lee Gifford said that her late husband grew up in a poverty-stricken home and that he and his family sometimes ate dog food. She said they lived in 29 places even before Gifford attended high school because his father could not find work during the Depression. She also said that as a young child, the family attended church every week and Gifford "asked Jesus into his heart and that remained with him for the rest of his life".[4]

College career[edit]

Gifford was unable to gain an athletic scholarship to the University of Southern California (USC) because of his low grade point average in high school, so he played a season of football for Bakersfield Junior College. There he made the Junior College All-American team and earned the grades needed to enroll at USC.[3][5] At USC, Gifford was named an All-American after rushing for 841 yards on 195 carries during his final season.[6] He graduated from USC in 1952.[5]

NFL career[edit]

Gifford spent his entire NFL career with the New York Giants, beginning in 1952, playing both offense and defense.[7] He made eight Pro Bowl appearances and had five trips to the NFL Championship Game. Gifford's biggest season may have been 1956, when he won the league's Most Valuable Player Award and led the Giants to the NFL title over the Chicago Bears.[8]

He lost 18 months in the prime of his career when he was laid out by a hard tackle. During a 1960 game against the Philadelphia Eagles, he was knocked out by Chuck Bednarik on a passing play, suffering a severe head injury that led him to retire from football in 1961.[8] However, Gifford returned to the Giants in 1962, changing positions from running back to flanker (now a type of "wide receiver").[9]

His Pro Bowl selections came at three different positions — defensive back, running back, and flanker. He permanently retired following the 1964 season.[10]

During his 12 seasons with the Giants (136 regular season games) Gifford had 3,609 rushing yards and 34 touchdowns in 840 carries; he also had 367 receptions for 5,434 yards and 43 touchdowns.[8] Gifford completed 29 of the 63 passes he threw for 823 yards and 14 touchdowns with 6 interceptions. The 14 touchdowns is the most among any non-quarterback in NFL history; the 6 interceptions is tied with Walter Payton for most thrown by a non-quarterback.[11]

Gifford was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on July 30, 1977.[10]

Broadcasting career[edit]

After his playing days ended, Gifford became a broadcaster for CBS, covering football, golf and basketball.[8][12] When Monday Night Football was launched in 1970, ABC had originally planned to have Gifford in their broadcast booth, but he still had a year remaining on his contract with CBS. He therefore recommended his friend Don Meredith, who was hired. The following year, Gifford replaced Keith Jackson as Monday Night Football's play-by-play announcer, and remained involved with the show for 27 of its next 28 years.[13] His low-key delivery provided a perfect counterbalance to broadcast partners Meredith and Howard Cosell.[7][8] In an era with only three television broadcast networks, the series became the longest-running prime-time sports program in television history, and developed into one of television's most valuable franchises.[13][14][15] In 1986, Al Michaels took over play-by-play duties, and Gifford switched to a commentator role.[16] However, Gifford did play-by-play for the next several years (Gifford was joined by Lynn Swann on color commentary in 1986 and by Dan Dierdorf for the rest of his run on Monday Night Football) whenever Michaels was covering post-season baseball games for the network.[17]

Following his embarrassing affair with airline stewardess Suzen Johnson in 1997, Gifford was replaced in the broadcast booth by Boomer Esiason in 1998.[10][15][18] That season, he was reassigned to a nominal role for ABC's Monday night pregame show, but the program was cancelled after one season. Gifford was not offered a new role by the network.[19] Gifford was also host of British TV network Channel 4's NFL coverage with British born former New England Patriots kicker John Smith in 1986, which included coverage of Super Bowl XXI.[20][21]

Christopher Reeve, Gifford, and Ronald Reagan in 1983

Gifford was also a reporter and commentator on other ABC sports programs, such as coverage of the Olympics (including the controversial men's basketball Gold Medal game between the United States and Soviet Union at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, which Gifford called alongside Bill Russell), skiing and golf. He announced Evel Knievel's jumps for ABC's Wide World of Sports in the 1970s, including when Knievel failed to clear 13 buses at Wembley Stadium in 1975.[22][23] Gifford also guest hosted Good Morning America on occasion, including once when he met his future wife Kathie Lee.[24]

In 1977, Gifford won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Sports Personality.[25] He was given the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award by the Pro Football Hall of Fame In 1995 for his NFL television work.[26]

Monday Night Football paid tribute to Gifford on September 14, 2015 by having ESPN announcers Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden wear the gold jackets that Gifford helped make famous as an broadcaster.[27]

Acting roles[edit]

Gifford appeared as himself as a guest star on the NBC television series, Hazel, in the episode, "Hazel and the Halfback", which originally aired December 26, 1963.[28] In the story, Gifford is interested in investing in a local bowling alley. In 1977, Gifford appeared as himself in the episode "The Shortest Yard" of the ABC sitcom The San Pedro Beach Bums. Gifford and his wife Kathie Lee appeared in the February 28, 1995, episode of the ABC sitcom Coach, titled "The Day I Met Frank Gifford", in which a character on the show plots to meet the former football star who will attend an event to receive an award.

Personal life[edit]

Gifford married his college sweetheart, USC's homecoming queen Maxine Avis Ewart, on January 13, 1952, after she became pregnant while they were students at USC.[3] They had three children, Jeff (b. June 1952), Kyle, and Victoria; and five grandchildren.[29] Victoria married Michael LeMoyne Kennedy, son of Robert F. Kennedy. Gifford was then married to fitness trainer Astrid Lindley from 1978 to 1986. The first two marriages ended in divorce.[8] Gifford married television presenter Kathie Lee Johnson on October 18, 1986, and they lived in Greenwich, Connecticut, with their son and daughter, Cody Newton Gifford (b. March 22, 1990) and Cassidy Erin Gifford (b. August 2, 1993).[30] Frank and Kathie Lee shared the same birthday (August 16) and co-hosted ABC's coverage of the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.[31]

Gifford had an older sister and younger brother, Winona and Waine.[32]


In 1997, the tabloid magazine Globe arranged to have Gifford secretly videotaped being seduced by former flight attendant Suzen Johnson in a New York City hotel room.[33] They published photos and stories. ESPN reported that the tabloid paid Johnson $75,000 to lure Gifford to the room,[3] while The Atlantic said it was $125,000.[34] National Enquirer editor Steve Coz observed that "There's a difference between reporting the news and creating the news ... [w]ithout The Globe, there would be no story here. I'm in the tabloid industry, and this is way over the top. It's downright cruel."[35]

According to the former lawyer of Johnny Carson, Henry Bushkin, Gifford had an affair with Carson's wife Joanne in 1970.[8]


On August 9, 2015, Gifford died from natural causes at his Greenwich home at the age of 84.[36][37]

Awards and honors[edit]




In literature[edit]

Gifford is a character in Frederick Exley's novel A Fan's Notes. In the novel, Gifford becomes the narrator's hero while both are at USC. Subsequently, the narrator continues to be an intense fan of Gifford and his team, the New York Giants, during his NFL career.[8]

Selected books[edit]



Year Title Role Notes ref
1959 Up Periscope Ensign Cy Mount
2002 Three Days of Rain Extra
2011 Beatles Stories Guest


Year Title Role Notes ref
1956 What's My Line? Himself
1962 Captain Kangaroo Himself Episode: "October 6, 1962" (S 8:Ep 30)
1963 Our Man Higgins Guest Episode: "Delinquent for a Day" (S 1:Ep 30)
Hazel Himself Episode: "Hazel and the Halfback" (S 3:Ep 15)
1964 What's My Line? Guest Episode: "EPISODE #732" (S 16:Ep 4)
The Reporter Himself Episode: "How Much For A Prince" (S 1:Ep 3)
1971–97 Monday Night Football Color Commentator Main
1975 The Way It Was Panelist Episode: "1958 NFL Championship" (S 1:Ep 1)
$10,000 Pyramid Himself Episode: "Kate Jackson & Frank Gifford" (S 3: Ep 36–40)
Episode: "Sandy Duncan & Frank Gifford" (S 4:Ep 12–16)
1976 The Six Million Dollar Man Himself Episode: "The Bionic Boy, part 1" (S 4:Ep 8)
1977 The San Pedro Beach Bums Himself Episode: "The Shortest Yard" (S 1:Ep 2)
1981 The Primetime Emmy Awards Himself Episode: "The 33rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards" (S 33:Ep 1)
1993 The Adventures of Pete & Pete Himself Episode: "Range Boy ( S1:Ep 4)
1995 Coach Himself Episode: "The Day I Met Frank Gifford" (S 7:Ep 20)
1996 Coach Himself Episode: "You Win Some, You Lose Some" (S 9:Ep 8)
1997 Spin City Himself Episode: "An Affair to Remember" (S 1:Ep 17)
1999 Biography Himself Episode: "Kathie Lee Gifford: Having it All" (S 2:Ep 33)
2000–05 SportsCentury ABC Sports Reporter Recurring
2004 ESPN25: Who's#1? Interviewee Episode: "Most Outrageous Characters" (S 1:Ep 5)
2007 Intimate Portrait Guest
2008 Celebrity Family Feud Himself Episode: "Episode 106" (S 1:Ep 2)
TMZ on TV Himself Episode: "Episode #2.029" (S 2:Ep 29)
Center Stage Guest Episode: "Frank Gifford" (S 4:Ep 6)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Frank Gifford Biography (1930-)",
  2. ^ Cf. Gifford & Richmond, The Glory Game, 2008, p.12-13, & various.
  3. ^ a b c d Mike Puma. "Gifford was star in backfield, booth". ESPN Classic. 
  4. ^ Kyung Kim, Eun (August 18, 2015). "Kathie Lee Gifford returns to TODAY: 'Outpouring has been extraordinary'". TODAY. Retrieved August 19, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Cf. Gifford & Richmond, The Glory Game, 2008, p.13.
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b c d Kupper, Mike (August 9, 2015). "Frank Gifford dies at 84; Pro Football Hall of Famer, TV sportscaster". Los Angeles TImes. Retrieved August 9, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Goldstein, Richard; Weber, Bruce (August 9, 2015). "Frank Gifford, Star for the Giants and in Broadcast Booth, Dies at 84". The New York Times. Retrieved August 11, 2015. 
  9. ^ Natale, Richard (August 9, 2015). "Frank Gifford, Sportscaster and NFL Hall of Famer, Dies at 84". Variety. Retrieved August 9, 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c d Boren, Cindy (August 9, 2015). "Frank Gifford, Hall of Fame player and ‘Monday Night Football’ broadcaster, dies at 84". Washington Post. Archived from the original on August 11, 2015. 
  11. ^ "Non-Quarterback Passing: This list only includes players who played during or after the 1960 season"
  12. ^ Nelson, Murry R. (2013). American Sports: A History of Icons, Idols, and Ideas. ABC-CLIO. p. 297. ISBN 9780313397530. Retrieved August 12, 2015. 
  13. ^ a b "Monday Night Football comes to an end on ABC". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. Associated Press. March 26, 2005. Archived from the original on August 11, 2015. 
  14. ^ Chase, Chris (August 10, 2015). "Frank Gifford defined 'Monday Night Football' for a generation". USA Today. Archived from the original on August 11, 2015. 
  15. ^ a b Kent, Milton (January 20, 1998). "Gifford's ouster from ABC booth is no surprise". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on August 11, 2015. 
  16. ^ Goodwin, Michael (September 10, 1986). "TV SPORTS; MORE ANALYSIS WOULDN'T HURT". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 11, 2015. 
  17. ^ Goolsby, Denise (August 10, 2015). "Frank Gifford, legendary NFL player, broadcaster dies". The Desert Sun. Retrieved August 10, 2015. 
  18. ^ "Esiason In; Gifford Moves". The New York Times. January 17, 1998. Archived from the original on August 11, 2015. 
  19. ^ Sandomir, Richard (September 12, 1999). "Two Voices in the Booth Might Comfort Esiason". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 11, 2015. 
  20. ^ Trott, William C. (July 26, 1986). "FOOTBALLS ACROSS THE WATER". UPI. Archived from the original on August 11, 2015. 
  21. ^ "Eight hour difference didn't bother Britons". Spartanburg Herald-Journal. January 27, 1987. p. D4. Retrieved August 10, 2015. 
  22. ^ a b "Frank Gifford Interview Part 4 of 5". Archive of American Television. Retrieved August 10, 2015. 
  23. ^ Laracy, Alex. "WWOS Flashback: Evel Kneivel's '75 crash at Wembley". ABC Sports. Retrieved August 10, 2015. 
  24. ^ Contrera, Jessica (August 9, 2015). "When Frank met Kathie Lee: The story of the Giffords’ marriage". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 10, 2015. 
  25. ^ Wilner, Barry (August 10, 2015). "Whether on football field, in broadcast booth, Frank Gifford was All-Pro; dies at age 84". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved August 10, 2015. 
  26. ^ a b Mike Barnes , Duane Byrge. "Frank Gifford Dead: 'Monday Night Football' Sportscaster Was 84 - Hollywood Reporter". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 10, 2015. 
  27. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help);
  28. ^ page referring specific episode Retrieved February 28, 2011
  29. ^ "Kathie Lee's Story". Retrieved August 10, 2015. 
  30. ^ Cf. Gifford & Richmond, The Glory Game, 2008, p.291
  31. ^ Szul, Barbara (February 13, 1988). "The 1988 Winter Olympics kick off this Saturday, and". Chicago Tribune. 
  32. ^ "1988 olympics frank gifford - Google Search". Retrieved August 10, 2015. 
  33. ^ Furse, Jane (May 17, 1997). "Gifford Fling Bombshell Sleuth: I Was Asked To Tape Tryst". New York Daily News. Retrieved August 26, 2012. 
  34. ^ ""CREEPING TABLOIDISM!" LAWYER CLAIMS". The Atlantic Online. August 1999. 
  35. ^ "Tabloid Gets Snared In Gifford Affair". Orlando Sentinel. May 18, 1997. 
  36. ^ "Pro Football Hall Of Famer, Giants Legend Frank Gifford Dead At 84". New York City: WCBS-TV. August 9, 2015. Archived from the original on August 10, 2015. Retrieved August 9, 2015. 
  37. ^ Gittens, Hasani (August 9, 2015). "NFL Legend Frank Gifford Passes Away at 84". NBC News (NBCUniversal). Archived from the original on August 10, 2015. Retrieved August 9, 2015. 
  38. ^ a b Shmelter, Richard J. (2013). "Frank Gifford". The USC Trojans Football Encyclopedia. pp. 210–11. Retrieved August 10, 2015 – via Google Books. 
  39. ^ Prevatte, Pam (September 30, 1997). "A reunion of sorts at Ericsson Stadium". Spartanburg Herald-Journal (Spartanburg, South Carolina). p. D1. Retrieved August 11, 2015 – via Google News Archives. 
  40. ^ "Shane Stafford joins Arena team". Reading Eagle. October 19, 2000. p. C3. Retrieved August 11, 2015 – via Google News Archives. 
  41. ^ Ausiello, Michael; Webb Mitovich, Matt (August 9, 2015). "Frank Gifford, Legendary Monday Night Football Sportscaster and Husband of Kathie Lee Gifford, Dead at 84". Yahoo! TV. Retrieved August 11, 2015. 

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Analysts for game in viewing area
The NFL Today host
Succeeded by
Jack Whitaker
Preceded by
Keith Jackson
Monday Night Football play-by-play man
Succeeded by
Al Michaels
Preceded by
Joe Namath and O. J. Simpson
Monday Night Football color commentator
1986 (sole commentator), 19871997 (with Dan Dierdorf)
Succeeded by
Dan Dierdorf and Boomer Esiason