Discussion: Boston TV Sports Anchors

The television sports anchor is a dying breed, with more and more news programs phasing out the sports report and squeezing it down to the bare minimum.

It’s hard to believe, but it really wasn’t that long ago when we looked to these guys as a pretty big part of our sports coverage. For many of us, especially if you lived away from the city, it was the only way to see highlights of that night’s game, and to see and hear from the athletes that we were fans of. We’d stay up for the 11:00 pm news just for the sports report.

Cable TV and now the Internet have rendered these reports pretty much obsolete, as we can watch all the games, and have instant access to highlights and interviews in real time.  

We’ll take this opportunity to take a look back at some of the TV sports anchors that we’ve had here in Boston, and I’d like you to weigh in with your memories and opinions of the many who graced the sports desk on the various TV news programs over the years.

Some names to toss around, and I’d certainly welcome more:

  • Don Gillis
  • Bob Lobel
  • Mike Lynch
  • John Dennis
  • Bob Gamere
  • Len Berman
  • Roy Reiss
  • Zip Rzeppa
  • Bob Starr
  • Bill O’Connell
  • Gary Gillis
  • Jim Kelly
  • Gene Lavanchy
  • Mike Dowling
  • Dick Stockton
  • Butch Stearns
  • Mike Giardi
  • Barbara Borin
  • Frank Mallicoat
  • Chris Collins
  • And of course, Joe Haggerty

Again, this is not a complete list, so feel free to bring up any other names that come to mind, and what you remember about them. Perhaps give me your top three all time, so that I can make a list to vote on in the near future.

  • NASCL

    Keith Olbermann, Channel 5
    Roger Twibell, Channel 4

    • Eddy

      Local kid – Jamie Kenneally from the WB56
      Mike Ratte – WB56
      Frank Mallicoat – WB56
      Mike Barkand – WB56

  • Guntfather of Sports Radio

    Tom Zenner. Lock the thread.

  • NASCL

    Lee Webb, Channel 5
    Brian Leary, Channel 5

  • Hugo

    Lee Webb – Channel 5
    Jack Edwards – Channel 5
    Eddie Andelman – Channel 7
    Walt Perkins – Channel 5
    Ed Harding Channel – 5
    The Blonde Punching Bag at Channel 7 (Not around long enough to remember her name)
    Jimmy Myers – Channel 4
    Mike Adams – NECN
    Jimmy Young – NECN

    • Mark

      The blonde individual whose name you can't remember is Barbara Borin. She was the anchor at channel 7 for a couple of years, and in case you don't remember this, she was the female reporter who crashed the Patriots locker room after one game. She said later that she was only doing her job.

  • sarplum

    1 – Dick Stockton by far the most knowledgable
    although his personality was nil
    2- Lobel his early years only was fun
    3- tie Lynch. Gillis, O.Connell – Boston guys

  • joe

    steve burton, the empty vest

  • NASCL

    1. Don Gillis (the anchor of my youth)
    2. Bob Lobel (before the Weekend At Bernie’s thing kicked in)
    3. Gene Lavanchy (just because John Dennis hates him)

  • arnold_earley

    Without question, it’s Butch Stearns.

    This man proves that America is the greatest nation on earth. Can anyone name another country in which this blockhead could earn a living?

    • Bullock

      “Who’s better with the trophy than me?”

      • Tony

        Plagiarism?

        I’m not so sure about that.

  • Bullock

    Can I vote for Bob Lobel, pre-1996?

    It’s hard to remember, but before he became a caricature of himself, we WAS Boston sports. The man had Ted Williams, Bobby Orr and Larry Bird on the same Sports Final. That was one of the finest moments in all of Boston sports TV history. I still have the VHS tape of that show.

    But then in the mid-’90s he really started to lose his fastball. That darned panic button started showing up, the cheeks started getting a little rosier, and the quality of his broadcast really started spiraling.

    • Tony

      His “Why can’t we get players like that” schtick used to make my skull implode. He said it about EVERY GUY who had a good highlight moment on a particular night–never mind if the guy was shipped out of town in a trade for a BETTER player, or if he simply was let go because he was playing poorly in Boston and wasn’t earning his keep.

      That drove me insane.

  • Jason Coyote

    I’d love to know why Dennis hates Lavanchy. I know ol’ Geno replaced Dennis as lead sports anchor at Ch. 7, but did he go behind JD’s back to get him fired or something?

    Other names to add to your list: Dan Roche, Scott Wahle, Gary Tanguay (I think he actually replaced Wahle at Ch. 4), Don Shane (if you want to go ‘BZ old school), Kristen Mastroianni (did some anchoring at NECN, NESN & Ch. 5), Mike Ratte, Scott Coen, Bob Halloran and Howard Green (old school NECN).

    • NASCL

      I believe it had to do with METCO-gate and the Fox 25 morning news with Lavanchy had Dennis doing the perp walk on Guest St.

      • Nopointe

        you guessed it in one try

    • arnold_earley

      Now that she’s been mentioned, it’s Kristen Mastroianni easily.

  • JT

    Don Gillis – he was Boston sports and invented the role of sports anchormen.

  • Brian

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned Neumy’s long stint at Ch 4. I remember when he was first there along with Mike Dowling before he moved to Ch 5 that they both tried to be Lobel-Lite and copy his style. Two others not mentioned yet are ESPN’s George Smith and Wendi Nix, who were both at Ch 7.

  • Tony

    Kudos to whoever mentioned Don Shane.

    He wasn’t here very long, but I remember thinking he was pretty good and was sorry to see him leave town.

    What, no love for Bobby Estell and Zip Rzeppa?

    • NASCL

      Jim Baker of the Herald loathed Bobby Estell.

      • Bruce

        There weren’t many people Baker didn’t loathe. Any idea why on Estell?

        • Tony

          It’s just a guess, but I think Estell came off as “too California cool” for the Boston media. I believe, in fact, that he was either from the west coast or ended up with a gig in San Diego after leaving Boston.

          I don’t remember having any negative feelings about him when he worked in this market, but I do remember that there was a lot of negativity about him in the print media because they viewed him as an “outsider,” or an interloper from a far away, sunny land who wasn’t up to the task of working in a “real” media market.

    • Jason Coyote

      Shane will be most remembered for being Ch. 4′s very first ‘Sports Final’ host on Sunday nights, and for being on the desk with a slightly buzzed Clemens and Nipper in ’86 when Al asked Rog to give him a head-butt.

      You’re right Brian, can’t believe I totally missed Bob Neumeier. Many younger readers here may only recall him from his ‘Dale and Neumy’ days on ‘EEI, but I remember him being a ‘BZ regular on Patriots coverage and ‘Sports Final’ when Lobel took over the host’s role.

      I unfortunately did not become an avid Boston TV sports viewer until the final years of Don Gillis’ career, but I’ll give him the #1 ranking based on clips I’ve seen of him and the fact he revolutionized the television sports anchor position.

      The next ‘revolution’ in Boston TV sports had to be the introduction of the Sunday night shows. For that reason Bob Lobel has to be #2 (the early years of his career were must-watch for ‘Final’ and for Thursday night ‘Sports Spotlight’).

      Now that I think about it though, didn’t Roy Reiss and John Dennis co-host a short-lived Sunday night show on Ch. 7 in the early 80′s before ‘Final’ became a Ch. 4 fixture later in the decade?

      I also used to enjoy watching Frank Mallicoat’s Sunday ‘Sports Zone’ show on the old WLVI Ch. 56 (he’s my darkhorse #3). Speaking of former LVI anchors, forgot to mention Michael Barkann earlier.

      • Brian

        I forgot about Barkann, I liked him and Don Shane as well. I think Shane only stayed in Boston for about a year or so before moving on.

        Don Gillis would top my list, followed by the early Lobel. Bill O’Connell was also solid back in the day.

        • Jason Coyote

          Something about Barkann you may have not known, Brian. When he left Boston to go home and work for Comcast Sports in Philly, not only was he anchoring at Ch. 56 but he also was doing a lot of fill-in shifts at EEI and was usually paired up with none other than Gerry Callahan. When Barkann left, Dennis stepped in and the rest FWIW is history.

          I actually thought B&C had great on-air chemistry, and to this day I wonder if they had stayed together whether they would have evolved into a successful duo. On one hand, I can’t envision Barkann trying to do a news headlines-type segment because his personality is a 180 from that of John Dennis. On the other hand, a B&C pairing would’ve stuck to sports and Callahan might have become likeable because his non-sports opinions would have been kept to himself. But would a show like that succeed amongst the listening masses in morning drive?

    • Barry

      Zip was great. What about Nuemier, and a guy I worked with at WLVI Crispino

  • J.R.

    1) Don Gillis. As mentioned above, he pretty much “invented” this role, at least locally. Whenever you see any old film of Celtics, Red Sox, or Bruins big wins or championships, he was ALWAYS the guy interviewing Red Auerbach, Dick Williams, or Harry Sinden.

    2) Mike Lynch. The heir apparent to Gillis’ legacy. “Nice” guy without any obvious agenda(s) who the athletes and coaches felt comfortable speaking to.

    3) Bob Lobel. Although overshadowed by the paper-shuffling, mumbling, and stumbling caricature he morphed into later in his career, the early years of Lobel on TV were actually pretty good ones.

    Honorable Mentions: Bill O’Connell and Brian Leary.

    • Bruce

      Solid.

  • Bruce

    …and just in case it isn’t mentioned, Roy Reiss is Mike’s dad. He was at channel 7.

  • Mike

    Amorosino?

  • ozzy

    Lee Webb was one I’d forgotten. He’s now a bible pounding anchorman on Pat Robertson’s CBN “News”.

    And if you want a horrible Sunday night show, how about Tollway Joe Morgan and John Dennis. “Six, two and even”. Jesus.

    • Jason Coyote

      D@mn, I remember that Sunday night ‘Joe Morgan Show’. Must’ve been ’89 or ’90. And yes, it was a trainwreck.

      • Tony

        AWFUL television.

        That show was painful to watch–almost as painful as watching Morgan play one of his many “hunches” when he managed the team on the field.

  • Steve

    Say what you will about Jim Baker, but he kept the Boston media in line. Every major sports market needs a media critic to inform the fans which broadcaster/anchor/reporter are frauds, much like Phil Mushnik does in NY. Unfortunately, Boston no longer has one since Baker left the Herald. I know guys like Bruce have stepped in and done a terrific job, but newspapers need a writer to scold his peers or at least point out mistakes when scribe messes up. It should come with the territory, especially in a media-mad market like Boston.

    • Jason Coyote

      The newspaper business being what it is these days, I would say Bruce has done a good job of picking up where Baker left off when it comes to critiquing the local sports media, most of whom peruse this site even more regularly than checked out JB’s latest back in the day.

      Other anchor/reporters not yet listed: Larry Ridley, Alice Cook, Ed Berliner, John Carchedi and Phil Burton.

      I honestly have no idea who Barbara Borin is.

      • ozzy

        Thats all right. I had no idea who Bobby Estell was. Barbara Borin was one of the first female sports anchors. Ch. 7 put her on, admittedly as a gimmick, to see what they could do about their constant third place rating. Ch. 7 was quite the trainwreck in those days if you’re not old enough to remeber. They ran anchorpeople in and out of there like a fire drill. They went on a nationwide search and came up with this 19 year old blond surfer dude named Jay Scott who was going to sweep the market! Except he turned into a joke.

        Anyway, Eddie Andleman was on 7 at the same time as Borin and you can just guess how gross he was.

        Charlie Austin also did a bit of sports for Ch. 4 back int he day.

        • arnold_earley

          Ahh, yes, Barbara Borin. My memory is sketchy here, but didn’t she eventually marrying a fairly prominent businessman or politico?

        • rrsafety

          She married the late Dan Franzoso, former PGA pro at Wentworth by the Sea.

    • Angry Old Bastard

      overall I would have to say Bruce does a MUCH BETTER job. Did Baker ever “scold his peers”??….it’s been so long but I never remember Baker ever critiquing the work of sportswriters. Maybe he did, but I thought he just focused on the TV/Radio guys.

  • bill

    good call on Neumie

    he is sorely missed on WEEI…especially on the Saturday AM baseball show

  • jc

    An up and comer who I really enjoyed but then he left for NY, was Fran Charles, I think weekends at WCVB. He’s now an anchor at NFL Network.

    Always liked Lynchie, but he sure gives off the “why do I bother?” vibe the last couple of years. I appreciate his attention to younger athletes and local programs. Felt that way about Lavanchy when he was at whdh as well.

  • Jason Coyote

    Now that I think about it, I think the Walpole Joe show was during the ’91 Sox season.

    Two more I just recalled: Dave Briggs and Eric Frede…the evergrowing list appears to be an endless supply of verbal flotsam and jetsam.

  • mandb97

    1) Frank Fixaris

    2) Bruce Glasier

    3) Don Macwilliams

    • Bruce

      Bruce Glasier…yikes. As my parents were devotees of WCSH weatherman Joe Cupo, I had to watch more than my share of Glasier doing sports. I think WSCH was one of the few news programs that put the sports before the weather, so if I did have control of the TV that night, I could catch the Sox/Celtics highlights on WSCH and then switch the Boston stations for their highlights and see both.

      Edit…and he’s still there.

      • mandb97

        Oh I’m sorry I thought this was the best sportscasters of Portland, ME. I’m sorry.

        • mandb97

          In all seriousness, Fixaris was better then anybody Boston had, with maybe the exception of Gillis. He groomed a lot of talent that works in Boston and elsewhere today including, Mike Emerick, Dale Arnold(I know, a lot of people think he stinks), Jimmy Young, Tom Caron and Gordie Hershiser(Orel’s brother). He was no frills but precise and never seemed to ever fumble his words(like Lobel). He just had a new young following on local sports radio in Maine when he passed away in a fire almost two years ago.

    • ozzy

      Name three guys I wouldnt know if they were standing next to me.

      • Jason Coyote

        And none of them ever appeared in my kitchen!

  • http://www.fangsbites.com Ken

    Late 1970′s/early 1980′s

    1. Len Berman
    2. Don Gillis
    3. Roger Twibell

    Mid-1980′s

    1. Bob Lobel
    2. Keith Olbermann
    3. John Dennis

    Late 1980′s – Early 1990′s

    1. Mike Lynch
    2. Bob Lobel
    3. Jack Edwards

    Mid 1990′s to late 1990′s when Cox Cable took Boston stations off my system

    1. Gene Lavanchy
    2. Mike Lynch
    3. Mike Dowling

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  • http://masshysteriasports.blogspot.com DaveR

    Not to be a buzzkill, but a good number of the people mentioned here — such as Alice Cook, to name just one — weren’t “anchors” per se. (Cook’s on-camera work was exclusively reporting; she’s really more of a producer.)

    I was going to mention Don “ke” Shane if nobody else had. I think the Lobel/Neumeier/Shane era at BZ was the tops in my book.

    • Jason Coyote

      Agreed…all three were in their on-air primes at that time too. Top-to-bottom, that might be the best Boston TV sports department of all time.

      • mandb97

        Shane was anchor at WXYZ in Detroit in the mid-80′s. He was excellent. Bernie Smilovitz might have been a little better but Shane was good.

        • mandb97

          Oh yea, he also had to deal with anchor Bill Bonds who was the anchor and an absolute lunatic. Bonds actually challenged Mayor Coleman Young to a fistfight on TV. Hilarity ensued.

  • Steve

    I remember a cute girl, I think her name was Amy Stone and she was a sports desk anchor for NESN. Does anybody remember her?

  • NASCL

    Didn’t Eddie Andelman claim to discover Barbara Borin?

  • ROBERT FANEUIL

    wHAT ABOUT JIMMY MYERS. HE WAS THE FIRST BLACK SPORTSCASTER AT CHANNEL 4. HE DID THE WEEKEND SPORTS CAST; WENT TO WOR-9 IN NEW YORK; ESPN; AND NECN. GREAT GUY.

  • http://BostonSportsMediaWatch laborlawprof

    I know I am showing my age, but Clark Booth used to do it on WBZ and he added a dimension of literacy all too often missing from modern day media.

  • Bobby

    Kara Henderson-NESN/Fox Sports
    Eric Clemons-Channel 7
    Levan Reid-Fox 25

    • Sluggo

      Levan Reid was also a class act as a guest on Ordway’s Big Show ca. 2001-02. Did his departure from Fox25 create the opening for Butchie’s big break?

      • Jason Coyote

        If so, I think I’d consider EEI landing ‘the Mayor’ a lose-lose for our ears. That particular segment of broadcast television involving Stearns trapsing down the streets of Braintree could go down as one of the most embarrassing in the history of the medium. Consider yourself blessed if you didn’t see it.

        • hal_kolstad

          Regarding the “Mayor” routine, Butchie doesn’t embarass easily, if at all, which is a strong quality in television.

  • Nopointe

    It’s funny how much these guys used to matter – Anchorman wasn’t that far from the truth especially when you compare Brick Tamland to Butch Stearns and Steve Burton.

    I’d go with Gene Lavanchy – for the NASCL mentioned hatred from John Dennis.

    Bob Lobel – his alleged foibles – feud with a cartoon cat, young ladies, scotch are ones I don’t have a problem with. Some mock the panic button, but that saved him many a time when he was married to Susan Wornick – he’d smack that panic button and escape into the LobelCave ready to make Boston safe for empty glasses with his young ward…

    Bob Gamere – come on we’re all celebrating Michael Jackson lets give it up for the original.

  • RoadWarrior

    Butch on Fox 25 – he was entertaining…I really miss his insight and knowledge…oops I thought today was opposite day!

  • yaz67

    Mike Crespino late eighties early nineties WLVI.

    Don Gillis my first memory and still the best of all time!

    • Jason Coyote

      Both Mike Crispino and Scott Wahle are also both alums of the Ch. 30/WVIT sports department before working in Boston (I think Crispino may have replaced Wahle as sports director there).

      No doubt that Don Gillis set the bar very high for all who have followed. But Gillis’ time was also a different era in TV news, when providing information was a priority in a world of few other informational outlets. TV stations appear to have different priorities these days (ratings and entertainment) when it comes to their local newscasts.

      • mandb97

        Scott Wahle is the reason Bruce Glasier is still the anchor at WCSH6 in Portland, ME. Around 1980 Wahle left WCSH to do his first tour in the Boston market.

  • sarplum

    I forgot about Lavanchy. He replaces Lynch on my list. Clark Booth? The man was in love with his superiority to us cretins.

    • hal_kolstad

      You’re right about Clark Booth. To some degree, I enjoyed his work, but there was certainly an air of superiority about him. It’s only sports.

    • ozzy

      Clark used to sneeringly call NASCAR, “the exhaust circuit”.

      • Tony

        He jumped the shark with that “Belichick’s comeuppance” crack after the Pats successfully pulled off the fake field goal for a TD against the Rams in 2004. I mean, the game was still close at the time, you know? Booth made it sound like the play was an insult to the integrity of the game and that BB was running up the score. It was a simple gadget play. Teams run them all the time…and the game was still relatively close if I recall correctly (not to mention the fact that the Rams were at home, the Pats’ defense was woefully shorthanded, and St. Louis still had one of the better offenses in the league at that time).

        Booth was way too arrogant and haughty to be a sports guy IMO.

  • Steve

    Bruce,

    At some point I’d like to see a list of the best TV or radio sportscasters in Boston, either play-by-play men or color commentators/analysts. There have been some giants, guys like Curt Gowdy, Dick Stockton, Johnny Most, Ned Martin, Sean McDonough and Jerry Remy.

    • Bruce

      It’s on the list…look for it soon.

      • NASCL

        Make sure Jack Edwards is on that list.

  • Mitch

    Don Gillis was the first voice of Boston sports in the electronic age. All of the names mentioned in this discussion can point to Don as their trail blazer.

    Don Gillis was extremely knowledgeable and likeable. He was devoid of ego and never made himself bigger than the story he was covering. Throughout his broadcasting career, Don built and maintained solid relationships with all of the city’s top sports personalities simply by being himself.

    Don’s clubhouse interview of Carl Yastrzemski after the Sox’ pennant-clinching game in 1967 is a terrific example of how he could engage a superstar athlete and make him feel completely relaxed and comfortable…even in a pandemonium-filled setting.

    Don Gillis is truly peerless as an anchor, because he dominated his broadcast era like no one else ever has…or likely ever will. He was class and professionalism, personified.

    • Bruce

      Great comment, thanks.

  • Sluggo

    One of my childhood memories of Don Gillis was when he was at the original Channel 5, the old WHDH-TV, around 1968 or 1969. The Sox had a weekday afternoon game that wasn’t on the TV schedule, so they used one-camera film highlights of the game, then Gillis went down to the clubhouse to do some interviews. Unfortunately, his producer didn’t use the lockers or the wall as the background of the shot, but instead the interview was conducted with the clubhouse in the background. They must have rushed the film to the darkroom to get it on the 6 p.m. sports, because a couple of Sox players in Full Monty mode strode through the shot at waist level. I will never forget the shock on poor Don’s face. (In the 1980s, Rob Woodward became somewhat famous for getting his junk onto the TV in a similar gaffe.)

    Don Gillis was a great one, though, a real pro, and his son Gary was also very good in his day.

    • Bruce

      Awesome.

    • ozzy

      Don also did the play by play to one of the greatest college football games of all time the 1968 Harvard-Yale game.

  • Sluggo

    Don’t want my comment above as being disrespecting of Don Gillis, because he deserves whatever praise he gets here.

    He really knew sports, and he was a presence across the entire spectrum of pro sports in Boston. During the 1960s, WHDH (Channel 5, 850 AM, 94.5 FM) was the flagship for the Red Sox (radio and TV), and the Bruins, Celtics and Harvard football (on radio only). It’s before my time, but Gillis apparently did color or play-by-play for the Sox, Bs and Cs; in fact, he filled in for Curt Gowdy for an entire season as the #2 or #3 guy on WHDH radio while Gowdy recovered from major back surgery. He also did pregame content for Sox’ games; I remember listening to his “Warmup Time” segments just before “Dugout Interviews” on the radio. And his “Voice of Sports” sportswriter roundtable (with Herald scribes Tim Horgan and Jake Liston, baseball scout Chick Whalen and, later, Gowdy producer Joe Costanza) was a great Saturday afternoon radio show. (Bob Ryan wrote a tribute to that show especially when Gillis passed last year.) Gillis retired in his early 60s from WCVB-TV – maybe 3-5 years too early – but still did those bowling shows until his early 70s.

  • sam

    do any of these talking heads know why part time am radio disc jockey gerry callahan won’t publish his email address at the end of his columns in the herald?

    • Angry Old Bastard

      I’ll go out on a limb and say too much hate mail….plus the fact that to Callahan we are “mere props”

    • http://www.jonvssports.blogspot.com Jon

      The Putt Putt Twins are superior you yahoo sports fans who stay up late, ride the Metco bus, and watch Bellichick run up the score and vote for evil commie liberals. Just get used to it and stop hating on their superior golf game.