Gary Bender: Wikis


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Gary Bender is an American sportscaster and 2008 inductee in to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.




Early career

Bender began his broadcasting career calling games of the University of Kansas' football and basketball programs in the 1960s. He also spent years as a broadcaster in Wisconsin and called all of the Wisconsin Athletic Association championship games.

CBS Sports

He did play-by-play for the NFL on CBS from 1975 to 1986 (among his partners were Sonny Jurgensen and John Madden, both members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame), the 1981 NBA Finals along with color commentators Rick Barry and Bill Russell, both members of the Basketball Hall of Fame.

ABC Sports

On October 27, 1987, Bender called the Monday Night Football game between the Denver Broncos and the Minnesota Vikings. That game had been scheduled for October 26, but when the Minnesota Twins (who shares the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome with the Vikings) played Game 7 of the World Series that day, the football game was moved to Monday.

In 1988, Bender did play-by-play for the American League Championship Series alongside Baseball Hall of Famers Joe Morgan and Reggie Jackson.

He also announced college football games for ABC Sports, where he formerly worked alongside Dick Vermeil.

Major League Baseball on ABC

As previously mentioned, Bender did play-by-play for the 1988 American League Championship Series between the Oakland Athletics and Boston Red Sox. Bender spent two years (1987-1988) as the #2 baseball play-by-play man for ABC behind Al Michaels. Bender worked the backup Monday Night Baseball broadcasts as well as serving as a field reporter for ABC's 1987 World Series coverage.

After Bender spent an entire summer developing a team with Joe Morgan, ABC brought in Reggie Jackson to work with the duo for the 1988 ALCS. According to Bender's autobiography Call of the Game, ABC's decision to bring in Jackson to work with Bender and Morgan caused problems:

Reggie is one of the strongest personalities I've ever met. He epitomizes the big-name athlete who has become a great player, in part because of his ego, but who does not have the sensitivity to let go of that ego when working with others. Consequently, Reggie demanded things he hadn't earned the right to demand. He wanted more attention. He insisted we adjust our way of doing things for him. He even made demands of the producer and director. - (118-119)

Bender went further in his criticism of Jackson by saying:

"The whole week went badly. Finally, during the production meeting before the final game of a four-game sweep by the Oakland Athletics over the Boston Red Sox, Reggie confronted me in front of the whole broadcast crew, saying, "I just can't be comfortable with you." I was floored. I asked him, "What do you mean?" "Well, anytime, I turn to talk to you, you break my concentration." I said, "I'm sorry. What can I do to change?" He didn't have an answer." "We tried an informal walk-through where I turned to Joe, told him how I would lead to him, and he described how he would respond. Then I turned to Reggie to do the same. Reggie froze just as he had been doing during the three previous broadcasts. He couldn't get anything out. I said, "Am I making you uncomfortable right now?" He didn't say anything, but everybody realized at that moment that he was blaming me because he couldn't pull the trigger."

When writing about working the fourth and ultimately final game of the 1988 ALCS, Bender says:

"I was into wrap-up at the end of an inning, just before going to commercial when Reggie signaled that he had something to add. The countdown was already down to seven or six and he knew I couldn't throw it to him. But he furiously waved his arms for me to do so. As soon as we got to commercial, Reggie ripped his headset off, slammed it down, turned his back on me, and stomped out of the booth." "Joe Morgan talked to me after the series. "I want you to know you did all you could do," he said. "If it's possible, I want to continue to work with you. Bringing Reggie in was the worst decision they ever made. I fought it. I want you to know I thought it was bad going in. It was even worse than I thought." (119)

Bender concludes by saying:

"Working that ALCS was one of the hardest times in my broadcasting career. It is a painful memory because I've always believed I could make everything work, that no situation could not be resolved. However, it did illustrate a maxim I've always believed in: It's all right to have an ego as long as you don't become one. Reggie Jackson's ego is huge and has been detrimental to his career in broadcasting." (120)

Gary Bender would ultimately be taken off ABC's baseball team in favor of Gary Thorne in 1989.

Turner Sports

Bender also called NFL games for TNT from 1992 to 1994, teaming with Pat Haden. On December 17, 2009, Bender filled in for Marv Albert, who was battling throat problems, to call the Phoenix Suns at Portland Trail Blazers game on TNT and called the game with Reggie Miller.

FSN-Arizona and Versus

Today, Bender is the television play-by-play announcer on Fox Sports Net (FSN-Arizona) for the National Basketball Association's Phoenix Suns, he works alongside former Suns players Eddie Johnson and Scott Williams. In 2006, he was named as the play-by-play announcer for the Versus network's coverage of Mountain West Conference football, where he would be partnered with former NFL player Glenn Parker.


Bender is also author of the biography Call of the Game, in which he shares his life story, tips on how to become a better broadcaster, and his Christian testimony.

In the first five months of 2001, Bender presided as host of the nationally syndicated Focus on the Family radio show after the resignation of previous host Mike Trout (1985-2000) because of an extramarital affair. Bender was replaced on a full-time basis by Focus vice president of broadcasting John Fuller.

His son, Trey Bender, is also a sportscaster and played Pop Warner Little Scholars.

Career timeline


  1. ^ a b c SPORTS MEDIA: TV SPORTS; Specter of Strike Scrambles Cable Schedules - New York Times

External links

Preceded by
Brent Musburger
Play-by-Play announcer, NBA Finals
Succeeded by
Dick Stockton
Preceded by
Dick Enberg
Play-by-Play announcer, NCAA Men's Final Four
Succeeded by
Brent Musburger


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