Thompson named to Hall in 1993

Updated: March 6, 2005, 12:44 PM ET
Associated Press

BALTIMORE -- Hall of Fame broadcaster Chuck Thompson, whose deep voice and enthusiasm for the job entertained Baltimore sports fans for more than 50 years, died Sunday. He was 83.

Thompson died at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Towson, hospital spokesman Michael Schwartzberg said. He declined to provide further details.

Thompson's family said the broadcaster had a massive stroke on Saturday.

Thompson called Baltimore Orioles games for the better part of five decades and served 30 years as the play-by-play announcer of the Baltimore Colts. He took pride in his professional approach to the job but never apologized for an obvious bias toward the home team.

When the Orioles got a clutch home run or the Colts scored a pivotal touchdown, Thompson would often exclaim on the air, "Ain't the beer cold!" That phrase became the title of his autobiography, published in 1996.

"Like everyone who grew up in Baltimore, my memories of Chuck are too many to count," said former Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr., who called Thompson "a broadcasting legend."

Thompson was 71 when named the 1993 recipient of the Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting, but the ceremony in Cooperstown did not mark his retirement. He continued to call up to 25 Orioles games per season through the end of the decade.

In his later years, Thompson underwent treatment for macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness among the elderly. The disorder limited Thompson's vision so much that he had to stop play-by-play announcing.

He continued to do commentary work, but his input was limited because he couldn't read a scorecard and could not clearly view the action on the field.

But the fans still loved hearing his amiable voice, especially when he spoke about the glory years of Orioles baseball.

"The thing about Chuck was his enthusiasm for Baltimore sports. He was always so positive, and a great guy to listen to on the radio," said Scott McGregor, a former pitcher for the Orioles and now a coach in the organization. "What a voice. I remember his last years when his health was going bad and he couldn't see. He didn't miss anything. He was there, he stayed positive. He was a great guy."

Thompson started his career in 1939 at the radio station WEEU in Reading, Pa., and later moved to Philadelphia, where he did baseball, football, basketball and hockey.

He began his run in Baltimore in 1949 as radio announcer with the city's International League franchise and joined the Orioles in 1955, a season after the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore. He came aboard following a handshake agreement with Orioles owner Jerry Hoffberger.

Thompson left the position after the 1956 season to broadcast Washington Senators' games and rejoined the Orioles in 1961.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press