Sports Broadcasting HOF hails ESPN’s Bodenheimer, ABC’s Gifford, Whitaker among eight honorees

NEW YORK — It was a special night Tuesday at the sixth annual Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame induction, especially for ESPN and ABC.

George Bodenheimer, longtime president and now executive chairman, along with legendary ABC Sports broadcasters Frank Gifford and Jack Whitaker were among the class of eight honorees for the Class of 2012.

Bodenheimer, who joined ESPN in 1981 and served as president from 1998 until relinquishing the role at the end of 2011, typically was quick to share the credit with others.

“I am here tonight because of the people of ESPN and all they accomplished,” he told the New York Hilton Hotel audience.

He also cited Gifford and Whitaker, saying they “share a rich ABC Sports history, a pioneering spirit and commitment to quality and innovation that infused ESPN in its infancy and remains a critical part of our DNA today.”

Gifford, an NFL Hall of Famer, was seen for many years on ABC’s Monday Night Football, Wide World of Sports and the network’s coverage of numerous Olympics. He also credited colleagues behind the scenes.

“I’m so proud of the people I worked with . . . they’re the ones who make it happen,” Gifford said. “It’s a wonderful industry and I was blessed by God to be a part of it.”

Whitaker joined ABC in 1982 after 21 years at CBS and his reporting skills and poignant essays graced productions of the Olympics and a wide variety of events on WWOS, as well ABC’s World News Tonight, Nightline and 20/20. Earlier this year, the 88-year-old received the Sports Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award, and on this night added some levity to the proceedings.

“Thank you for giving me this award and for giving it to me in time for me to remember I got it,” he said.

He also cited a major change in sports since his early days, the athletes themselves.

“We used to pal around with them,” he said. “Now they’re all multi-millionaires.”

Others honored Tuesday evening: audio pioneer Ray Dolby, sports production executive Ed Goren, NBC cameraman Cory Leible, former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and NBC operations and engineering guru Jack Weir.

The Hall of Fame honors those from across the entire spectrum of the sports broadcast industry who impacted, directly or indirectly, the way sports television is produced. All table proceeds from the event are donated to the Sports Broadcasting Fund, which supports the families of the sports production industry in times of need.

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