The subject first hit television covering the NCAA Game of the Week on NBC from 1957 to 1959. Nelson did the play by play and football legend Red Grange the analysis. Lindsey Nelson, dressed in his black coat and tie, had a warm greeting and a natural smile. Nelson’s staccato delivery and slight southern drawl were appealing. His enthusiasm for the game was obvious and Nelson and Grange had good chemistry. Nevertheless, in those days announcers were quite serious. They never drifted into small talk and joking. Negative comments about the overall play was taboo. Overselling the game was obvious and hypocritical. I got tired of hearing how great a lopsided game was. Often watching the NCAA game was a waste. Most of the time the teams playing had no local appeal. Even so, Lindsey Nelson left deep impression on this boy in grammar school.
Except for covering post season games, Nelson disappeared from the local scene in 1960-1961. By contrast, 1962 was a banner year for Lindsey Nelson. For the 1962 to 1965 seasons, Nelson did the NCAA Game of the Week. Terry Brennan was the play analyst and Jim Simpson did the innovative sideline reporting. Nelson worked well with Terry Brennan and their comments made the game interesting. The threesome’s first two season were on CBS and the last two on NBC. In addition, the expansion team in 1962, the New York Mets, hired Lindsey Nelson as their head broadcaster. Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner completed the team. Nelson and company divided their time during the game on both radio and television for WOR Channel 9 and its companion radio station.
Lindsey Nelson was really in the grind during on Saturdays in September when he wore two hats. On numerous occasions, he did the college game for the network, grabbed a quick flight to the Mets game, and did radio and television for the last few innings. This was a real feat-broadcasting both football and baseball on the same day.
On trips to New York I saw New York Mets’ games on television. Lindsey Nelson, in both appearance style, was entirely different in a local audience. Nelson wore loud multicolored jackets; kidded and joked with his partners; told baseball stores; and never hesitated to criticize a bad play or managerial decisions. I was really amazed. It is almost as if Lindsey Nelson had a twin brother with a totally different personalty. Lindsey Nelson continued as the Mets announcer until the late 80s when he moved to work with the San Francisco Giants. This job last only a few years before he retired.
After 1965, Lindsey Nelson wore three hats. CBS beckoned him back to telecast the games for the Chicago Bears. When the network dropped the specific announcer format, Nelson remained with CBS calling games at different locations until the early 80s. 1966 also brought another assignment-telecasting a rerun on Sunday of the Notre Dame game the day before. These games were a Castleman D. Chesly Production. Paul Hornung did the analysis and Nelson worked well with the Golden Boy. This delayed game was a 90 minute telecast with routine meaningless plays deleted. Lindsey Nelson covered these gaps by saying “and now we move to further action or ” the ( team) was unable to move the ball so they punted to Notre Dame”. I did not care for college football but I watched these game just to hear the Nelson-Hornung combo.
Lindsey Nelson’s formal style on national television became more spontaneous, relaxed, and even humorous starting in 1970. Nelson no longer oversold the game; he almost never hesitated to point out a bad play; and often told stories. Most obvious was the change in clothes. Nelson wore his loud multi-colored jackets on national television. The reason was Howard Cossell on Monday Night Football. Cossell commentary was straight forward, direct, and honest. HC’s style changed the method of sports broadcasting on every network.
Lindsey Nelson also did bowl games and the NFL Playoffs. I will discuss his memorable games later.