ABC’s Wide World of Sports is an American sports anthology television program that aired on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) from April 29, 1961 to January 3, 1998….when it appeared primarily on Saturday afternoons…..and was hosted by the “elegant and eloquent” voice of Jim McKay until 1987….after which a succession of co-hosts began to appear….but the title continued to be used for general sports programs on the network until 2006. In 2007, Wide World of Sports was named by Time Magazine on its list of the 100 best television programs of all-time.
Wide World of Sports was the creation of Edgar Scherick….through his company, Sports Programs, Inc. ….which after selling his company to ABC….he hired a young Roone Arledge to produce the show…. whereby the series’ April 29, 1961 debut telecast featured both the Penn and Drake Relays in track and field….as Jim McKay….who hosted the program for most of its history….along with Jesse Abramson ….the track and field writer for the New York Herald Tribune…..broadcast from Franklin Field with Bob Richards as the field reporter…..while Jim Simpson called the action from Drake Stadium with Bill Flemming working the field. In 1961, Wide World of Sports covered a bowling event in which Roy Lown beat Pat Patterson….as the broadcast was so successful that ABC Sports began covering the Professional Bowlers Tour in 1962.
In 1964, Wide World of Sports covered the Oklahoma Rattlesnake Hunt championships….which led to ABC premiering the outdoor program The American Sportsman the following year….which remained on the network for nearly 20 years…..then in 1973….the Superstars program was first televised as a segment on Wide World of Sports….and the following year, the Superstars debuted as a weekly winter series that lasted for 10 years.
With the rise of cable television offering more outlets for sports programming as the years passed….Wide World of Sports lost many of the events that had been staples of the program for many years….as many, although not all, of them ended up on ESPN….which was a sister network to ABC for most of its existence. Ultimately, on January 3, 1998, Jim McKay announced that Wide World of Sports, in its traditional anthology series, had been canceled after a 37-year run. The Wide World of Sports name remained in use afterward as an umbrella title for ABC’s weekend sports programming.
Any way you cut the pie….Jim McKay and Wide World of Sports was the gold standard for bringing other sports beyond the football, basketball, baseball and boxing realm to live television…..and this 25 years anniversary celebration seen herewith…..provides some of the greatest clips of vintage sports ever attached to a special program….and to have Jim McKay bring these highlights and these stories to the viewing public….with “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”….makes this video MUST SEE TV.