Dick Enberg, Veteran Sportscaster, Is Dead at 82
“On one hand, I don’t want to give it up,” he told The San Diego Union-Tribune near the end of his next-to-last season with the Padres. “My dream was to die in a booth. I’d like to keep going until my head hits the table and I say, ‘The Padres win the World Series.’ And then, on the other hand, it’s an old cliché, but the guy on the deathbed has never said, ‘I wished I’d worked more in my life,’ and it kept resonating with me.”
Mr. Enberg was a local sportscaster in Los Angeles calling U.C.L.A. men’s basketball games when he was catapulted onto the national stage. Under John Wooden, the Bruins were in the midst of an extraordinary period in which they won nine N.C.A.A. men’s championships in 10 seasons, and Mr. Enberg called eight of them.
In what he called his most memorable game, No. 1-ranked U.C.L.A., led by the center Lew Alcindor (later to be known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), faced the No. 2 University of Houston, with its star, Elvin Hayes, at the Houston Astrodome on Jan. 20, 1968.
He had been chosen for that game — a ballyhooed regular-season prime-time clash of unbeaten teams — by Eddie Einhorn, who ran a television syndicator called TVS, at U.C.L.A.’s insistence.
“Einhorn didn’t know me from a fungo bat,” Mr. Enberg said in a 2011 interview with the Archive of American Television.
The Astrodome, called the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” was the home of the Houston Astros. But on the night of the game it became a college basketball mecca, packed with 52,693 fans. As millions watched on TV, Houston broke U.C.L.A.’s 47-game winning streak with a 71-69 victory.
Hayes scored 39 points; Alcindor, who was struggling with an injured eye, had only 15.
“It changed the course of college basketball,” Mr. Enberg told the archive. “It was the launching pad. Never before had a game been shown in prime time that wasn’t a playoff game. It proved that this was a great product, and it has grown ever since.”