Tony Roberts, who spent 26 years calling games for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team, died Aug. 25 in Gainesville, VA. He was 94 and no cause was given by his son, Lance, who said his father began hospice care the day before he died.
Born in Chicago, Roberts graduated from Columbia College with a degree in journalism. He did local radio in Iowa and Indiana at the start of his career, then moved to Washington, D.C. for his big break, broadcasting games for baseball’s Washington Senators and the NBA’s Washington Bullets (since renamed Wizards).
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In 1980, Roberts began calling Notre Dame football games. His signature call was “Touchdown, Irish!” a phrase that the successful team prompted many times.
The second game Roberts called for the Irish in Notre Dame Stadium was decided by one of the most famous field goals in the team’s history on the game’s final play.
Notre Dame trailed Michigan 27-26, with the Irish reaching the Michigan 34-yard line with four seconds left. Harry Oliver, whose longest career field goal had been 35 yards, came out to try his best.
“Left-footed soccer-style kicker … the ball to be spotted down by Koegel at the 41, a 51-yard boot … this is the ballgame …,” Roberts said.
“The kick is up … it is … good! Good! He made it! A 51-yard kick by Harry Oliver and Notre Dame has won it, 29 to 27!”
Beyond Notre Dame, Roberts also broadcast for syndicator Mutual Broadcasting (which became Westwood One), where he covered the Olympics, golf, the NFL, and others. His efforts earned him entry into the National Radio Hall of Fame, the College Football Hall of Fame, the Indiana Broadcasters Hall of Fame, and the Holiday Bowl Hall of Fame.
He was also a Chris Schenkel Award-winner in 2005. That award recognizes individuals who have had long and distinguished broadcasting careers.
His first marriage, to Mary Jane Wittenberg, ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife of more than 20 years, Shirley Roberts; four children from his first marriage, Lance, Tracey, Kerry and Daryle; three stepchildren, Keith, Tricia and Kevin; a brother; and six grandchildren.
No memorial plans have been revealed.
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