Monday, July 7, 2008

Charlie Jones touched lives with voice, heart - A tribute by Dave Thomas, La Jolla Village News

July 03, 2008

Having been a sportswriter for nearly 20 years and a sports fan since what seems like birth, I've accumulated my share of sports items over the years.
Among those items are books related to sports. While going through my collection recently in a “spring cleaning” mode, I came across a book co-authored by Kim Doren and Charlie Jones. I paged through some of it to refresh my memory on its contents, then put the book back on the shelf with my other collectibles. While looking through the book, I had wondered what Charlie had been up to in recent years. I had the pleasure of meeting him in his La Jolla office a number of years back to do a story on his book writing and a look back at a stellar sportscasting career.

As you can imagine, it came as a great shock a few days later when I saw on the newswires that Charlie had passed away at 77 of a heart attack in La Jolla. Once the shock wore off, I realized how lucky I was to have met this man. I don’t want to date myself — or Charlie, for that matter — but I remember as a kid tuning in NBC on Sunday afternoons for NFL games and hearing that voice. Much like Keith Jackson doing college football, Charlie had a very recognizable voice. What’s more, he not only knew the game but made it fun to listen to. Just as when I met another La Jollan years ago, veteran sportscaster Dick Enberg, Charlie was an institution as far as I’m concerned when it came to calling games. Charlie, who called the very first Super Bowl, did much more than just Sunday afternoons or the Fiesta Bowl from Tempe. His career saw him cover more than two dozen sports nationwide and around the globe.

I spoke to Kim via e-mail last weekend and asked her to share some thoughts on her friendship with Charlie. To say that the two had a bond would be an understatement. “Charlie had been more than my business partner — we had been best friends for the past 17 years,” Kim said. “I loved the man. Even though his health has been deteriorating the past couple years, I was shocked at his death.”

Kim, like myself, remembered watching Charlie as a youngster on television calling sporting events. “I always dreamed that one day I would be an athlete being interviewed by him (our families were also acquainted),” Kim went on to say. “Of course, that type of interview never happened, but we did meet in the context of sports. I was a marketing executive with Cobra Golf and we first met (as two adults) in Lake Tahoe at the 1991 Celebrity Golf tournament. Charlie was NBC’s golf host in ‘91 and ‘92 (with Johnny Miller) and we became instant friends. After I left Cobra in ‘96, I helped (p.r./edit) his first book, ‘What Makes Winners Win,’ which made it onto the New York Times business best-seller list. We shared an office in La Jolla Shores, and when NBC lost NFL football we started work on numerous projects.”

“Our first book together was ‘You Go Girl,’ and it happened in a pretty serendipitous fashion,” she continued. “I had been a volunteer girls softball coach and had been lamenting to Charlie that all the sports books focused on men and wouldn’t it be nice to have a book to inspire girls. I came up with WOW (women on winning) and he immediately picked up the phone, called Chris Evert and said, ‘My partner and I are writing a book — can we interview you?’ We didn't have an agent, publisher or anything, but that is pure Charlie. He would take off on an idea (he had millions of them — plays, TV and radio shows, books, et cetera) and go for it. Naysayers, rejections, et cetera didn’t faze him. He was incredibly positive and resilient. A year and a half later, our book was published and it was followed by several others, including ‘Be the Ball: A Golf Instructional Book for the Mind,’ ‘That’s Outside My Boat: Letting Go of What You Can't Control’ and ‘Heaven Can Wait: Surviving Cancer.’” Charlie had prostate cancer and Kim said he loved giving out the book and talking to those with cancer to encourage them. Battling cancer is no easy matter, but even Charlie found a humorous way to deal with it. “As a funny aside, when Charlie was going through radiation at Scripps, he loved joking with the nurses,” Kim noted. “On Valentine’s Day he drew a big heart around where his radiation was targeted. He had a great sense of humor. I think he really enjoyed leaving a legacy, whether it was his broadcasts or his books — these will live on.”

Not only will Charlie’s written word in books live on, but his voice will live on in endless sports broadcasts. “Charlie loved broadcasting,” Kim commented. “He knew that’s what he wanted to be as soon as he took his first radio job as a kid. The adrenaline rush he would have after doing a game would keep him up for hours. He fed off people and this energy would help him overcome any physical pain he was having. He thoroughly enjoyed sharing his craft with up-and-coming broadcasters.

“Bill Walton is probably the best known example. He spent hours reviewing tapes with Bill and helping him develop skills. Of course, NBC recognized Charlie’s ability to develop talent; he had a multitude of various partners over the years because of this. Charlie was selfless on the air. He pulled his partners in, set them up and let them shine, unlike others who let their egos get in the way. He was a terrific mentor. He was mine for public speaking.”

Kim said that as for Charlie’s legacy, he was extremely proud of his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “He took pride in being old school — setting up the story, letting the game be the star and making the whole experience a joy to viewers,” Kim noted. “The real test, he said, was to hold viewers when the game was a blowout. That’s where his story-telling ability could really shine.

Of course, he did tons of different sports, but he loved his Olympic experiences (track and field in Seoul, swimming and diving in Barcelona, and canoeing, kayaking, rowing in Atlanta). I remember hearing many stories from people who met him and felt like they were being interviewed, even when they went to interview him.”

Another thing that made Charlie special was his love for his community. Many notable people just use a town for what it has to offer and do not give back. That was not Charlie. “Charlie loved La Jolla,” Kim pointed out. “He first came to town when he was in the Air Force, but when he returned for good he found a house he loved with a view of the Cove and never left. He enjoyed his tennis games at the Beach and Tennis Club in earlier times, and later loved to lunch on the patio there. He could watch the Fourth of July fireworks from his driveway.

“I think he especially enjoyed La Jolla’s village atmosphere. One of Charlie’s best traits was that he was so friendly and approachable. He put on no airs. He talked with everyone and was a charmer. He loved kidding with the workers at Burns Drugs, the staff at Warwick’s, Terry at Ocean Girl; he would take little holiday gifts to the women at his dry cleaners; he’d trade funky magazines with his gardener; he just enjoyed making people smile. In fact, no matter where he went in La Jolla, you could count on him giving someone a compliment or striking up a conversation with a child. Charlie grew up in a small town and he looked at the world as a small town.”

When I told Kim that I was doing a piece on Charlie’s life, I noted that I had a very definitive impression of Charlie after I met him years ago.
Charlie had that “grandfather” look and feel to him and he was the kind of guy you would want and trust as your next-door neighbor. Kim also agreed that the role of grandfather suited Charlie just fine.

“I think Charlie would like to be remembered as a creative man who had his dream career and was the consummate pro; a wonderful grandpa — he was enamored with his three grandkids, Morgan, Parker and Charlotte — and a person who thoroughly enjoyed people and life, sharing lots of love, laughs and energy,” Kim remarked. “It’s funny, but his last book was stories of Santa Claus and he was a living Santa. He had a twinkle in his eye; a joyful, contagious chuckle; and he loved giving to others. He touched many lives and I was blessed to have been so close to him.”

For those who didn’t get to know or have an opportunity to meet Charlie over the years, he has left a number of pieces to his life for us to enjoy.
His blog ( will be up for the immediate future.

According to Kim, “He so enjoyed communicating, and I’d love for people to take a look at his writing. He would have loved that, too, because we were just beginning to publicize the site when he died. His postings are very insightful and touch on many topics beyond sports. Charlie was multi-dimensional and interested in far more than sports. He was also very well-read.”

Kim said she is thinking of creating a Web site to collect Charlie stories and feature his work. “His sister wants me to write a book about him, but right now I’m not sure; I’m still working through my grief and I need a little time to figure it all out,” Kim added.

Kim ended our conversation by telling me that while she really does miss him, she is a better person because of him.

I think it is safe to say that many people echo those feelings. Wherever you are, Charlie, thank you for all you gave us during your time here. We all learned a little something from you.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Jones was true pro, with pipes of velvet

This article was written by Nick Canepa of the San Diego Union Tribune. It is a marvelous tribute to Charlie. Please enjoy.

I remember so much more than The Voice. But when people think of Charlie Jones, it's what first comes to mind. The Voice. It was as though Charlie's began from a faraway place, from a fairy tale, and went through all kinds of Grimm trouble before it reached our ears. It was a sports voice, a football baritone that rustled the autumn leaves from their perches.

Fortunate as I was to spend quite a bit of time with this kind man, when we were together I couldn't help but think what The Voice was like when he was a child in Fort Smith, Ark. His first words probably scared his family and no doubt had something to do with “first-and-10” or calling the finish of a mile run.

Charlie passed away last week at 77, of heart failure, and his was a heart I never thought could fail. It was as big as his larynx. That's what I remember most about Charlie Jones. His graciousness, his generosity, his willingness to help people on the way up, his preparation, his literacy and his great love for family (his wife, Ann, is one of the all-time kicks), sports and travel.

“I never travel light,” he told me, and he traveled, sometimes logging hundreds of thousands of air miles over 12-month spans during his 38-year network career. He loved what he did, always saying he had the best job in the world.

He had such a great love for golf. It's sad his death came before the end of the U.S. Open, played out at Torrey Pines, close to his home above La Jolla Shores, where he lived from 1967.

He covered too many sports to mention here, but there were Super Bowls and the Olympics and Wimbledon. He was the voice of the Padres, Reds and Rockies. He was on the sideline for the first Super Bowl and eventually was honored with the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Pete Rozelle Award for his radio and television work. He wrote several books, including “Heaven Can Wait: Surviving Cancer,” in 2003. He worked 25 college bowl games and the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. He won an Emmy.

Charlie loved to tell a story about that World Cup. He was flying commercial from Mexico City, nonstop, to another town for a match. “There was this guy on the plane with a bunch of World Cup pins,” he said. “The guy told the pilot he'd give him some pins if he made an unscheduled stop in this other town. And the pilot did.” Jones, who did a turn in the Air Force, loved to fly. “He wanted to be a pilot so bad,” Ann says. “But he had a problem. He couldn't see.”

As a broadcaster, he sure could see, and he had a way of making you comfortable, because he always seemed comfortable. It didn't matter how many curves he was thrown.

“In football, I had over 60 different colormen (analysts),” Charlie once said. “In baseball, I had at least 10. I did 27 different sports and every one had a different man or woman (analyst). All the people I worked with, if I could have worked my career with Jerry Coleman, I'd be a lot healthier.”

Charlie loved to help. Maybe I should say his ego wasn't such that he was afraid to help. “He was the best coach,” says ESPN's Bill Walton, urged by Charlie to get into the broadcasting game. “He was always positive. He had a way of teaching you so you didn't want to quit.”

Merlin Olsen, the Hall of Fame Rams defensive lineman who worked with Charlie on the air and also as a partner in their production company, once carried him up the stairs of an old Colorado hotel when Charlie had a broken leg. “One of the most unique people I've ever met,” Olsen says.

Despite his pedigree, Charlie never allowed it to get in front of the laughter. There was enjoyment to him. A celebration of his life was held Wednesday at La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, which was fitting, because this was a man who celebrated life.

For the first time, I met his sister, Virginia, a kind woman who comes complete with an Arkansas accent. If Charlie had an accent, it was hidden in those marvelous chops.

He loved to tell the story of working football at NBC with the late George Ratterman. At the time, George was sheriff of Newport, Ky., and was shutting down the casinos there, which didn't sit well with the bosses.
The two were about to do a Raiders game at Oakland's Frank Youell Field and George informed Charlie that the FBI had called and said there was a price on his head, that a sniper had been hired to rub him out from a high-rise during the game. “George,” Charlie asked, “do they know what you look like?”

We know what Charlie Jones looked like and sounded like. If you didn't really know him, you missed someone special. The voice has been silenced, but it remains loud and clear.

Written by Nick Canepa: (619) 293-1397;

Editors Note: This blog will be maintained and added to frequently by two of Charlie's friends, Kim Doren and Greg Anton. Should you care to contact us, please send us a comment note by clicking on the link below.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Good Bye Charlie, we will miss you greatly...

Our friend Charlie passed away on Thursday of this week. Here is a copy of the story on most of the news wires.

Sportscaster Charlie Jones, 77, dies of heart attack

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Charlie Jones, the deep-voiced sportscaster whose career as a play-by-play announcer dated to the beginning of the American Football League in 1960, has died. He was 77.
Jones died of a massive heart attack Thursday at his home in the La Jolla district of San Diego, said his wife, Ann. Jones, who retired in the late 1990s, had been in poor health for several years, she said.

Jones worked for ABC and NBC in a career spanning 38 years. "He said, 'I never felt like I ever went to work,'" Ann Jones said Friday. "He loved it. He said, 'I've got the best seat in the house.' Jones started at ABC in 1960, the year the AFL made its debut. He moved to NBC in 1965, remaining with that network until 1997. Jones announced 28 different sports, while with NBC, from golf to tennis, baseball to figure skating. He called events at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

"He really liked them all," Ann Jones said. "He really did. He wasn't particular, because they were all so different."

NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol called Jones "one of the great pioneers of NBC Sports. His work in particular on the NFL, golf and the Olympics left a lasting legacy." Longtime agent Martin Mandel said Jones was "one of the legends of sports broadcasting.""He had a wonderful kettledrum voice. He was known for that and his versatility," Mandel said.

Jones will be cremated and his ashes spread over the Pacific Ocean. A celebration of his life will be held Wednesday afternoon at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club. "He had it in his will that men cannot wear ties," Ann Jones said.

Jones also is survived by two children and three grandchildren.

Associated Press Writer Solvej Schou in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

If you have a memory of Charlie you would like to share, please click on the comment link below and let us know.

Monday, June 9, 2008


Over this past weekend, We lost Jim McKay, the only true host of "ABC's Wide World Of Sports." For most of you under 40, you didn't have a chance to appreciate what he brought to television. Jim had this wonderful touch with words and the world of sports. He could stand in the pits in Monaco, talk to the cowboys in Calgary, or call Bob Hayes World Record in St. Louis.
That's where I met Jim, in St. Louis. It was my first assignment on Wide World. I was to do the live interviews, with the winners, of the 1963 AAU Track and Field Championships.

That Saturday morning, I met Jim and the rest of the ABC crew in a production meeting in the motel coffee shop. Afterwards everyone left for the stadium, but Jim said, "You go ahead, Charlie and I will have another cup of coffee before we come out.

Jim McKay then spent the next two hours explaining the Wide World concept of sports. There was more emphasis on the personalities of sports and what made them tick. He also included me in the telecast, making me a true part of their broadcast crew. Then it was off to the stadium, where the temperature was 103 degrees.

Three hours before we were to go on the air, and without video-tape, (it hadn't been invented) Bob Hayes broke the world record in the semi-finals of the 100-yard dash in a time of 9.1 seconds.

After the cheering died down, Jim called me on his phone from the broadcast tower. He said, "Charlie, will you go tell Bob Hayes that he wasn't on television, as we don't go on the air, live, until 5:00 o'clock So, would you ask him if he would run a 9.1 world record, again in the finals." My response, "You've got to be kidding?" Jim's reply, and I believe he had his tongue placed firmly in his cheek, "No, I'm not kidding, let's see if he will do it." Okay. When you are young and eager, naturally you'll try.

All dressed up in my brand new navy, blue, "ABC Wide World of Sports" jacket, I found Bob Hayes. "Bob, congratulations on your new world record of 9.1 in the hundred. (pause) We don't go on air until 5:00 o'clock so we missed it. (pause) Would you do it again in the finals?" (This time Bob Hayes paused.)

He had a funny kind of smile on his face. Then his face changed. I could almost read his thoughts. If I was crazy enough to ask him, then he just might do it. "Yea." (another pause) "I'll do it." (smile) "I'll run another 9.1 in the finals."

He did. And I interviewed, live on-camera, courtesy of Jim McKay, the new 100-yard dash, World Champion, Bob Hayes.

Comments welcomed...Please click on the "Comment" link just below and let us know what you think - CJ.

Friday, June 6, 2008


Let me see if I have this correct. Blackwater Worldwide, you know, the company that has made millions of dollars from this present Washington administration, for its shadowy work in the Iraq War, has leased a 61,600 square-foot warehouse in a business park, three blocks from the Mexican border, in Otay Mesa, CA, which is zoned for a vocational school.

Blackwater, the military training contractor, applied for permits under the names of their affiliated companies, (thus not raising the tainted name of BLACKWATER), with their applications stating they were leasing the building for a vocational school. They immediately built an indoor shooting range, a simulated Navy ship, and classrooms for counter terrorism training. Just your ordinary, run-of-the-mill vocational school.

Naturally, the city took them to Court. Blackwater countered seeking a temporary restraining order, insisting their due process rights had been violated and failure to open on time would jeopardize its contract with the Navy. U. S. District Judge Marilyn Huff, took the side of Blackwater, saying there is,"a strong likelihood of success on the merits of that claim." And Blackwater, opened its vocational door to the Navy, the next day.

Doesn't this whole operation smell of the current administration in Washington? Obfuscation. Secrecy. National Security. Federal Judges.

Comments welcomed...Please click on the "Comment" link just below and let us know what you think - CJ.