SportsCenter anchors, analysts, reporters and crew on Monday continued coverage of Sunday’s deaths of Major League Baseball star Jose Fernandez and golf legend Arnold Palmer after a full day of reporting and reaction Sunday.
The death of Miami Marlins pitcher Fernandez in a boating accident was reported by anchor Hannah Storm at 9:13 a.m. ET Sunday, with Storm announcing that ESPN’s Buster Olney had confirmed multiple reports of Fernandez’ death.
After a break, Storm was joined by Miami resident Dan Le Batard, co-host of ESPN2’s Highly Questionable and The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on ESPN Radio. An emotional Le Batard, the son of Cuban immigrants, began his reaction with “I’m having some trouble gathering my thoughts and articulating my thoughts” before elaborating on why Fernandez’ story as an escapee from Cuba resonated so much in Miami.
Olney appeared on-camera from Wrigley Field in Chicago with Storm, followed by ESPN Baseball Insider Tim Kurkjian and reporter Pedro Gomez on the phone, with both speaking about Fernandez as a player and as a person.
ESPN viewers then saw a highly emotional reaction from analyst Eduardo Pérez as he joined Storm on the SportsCenter set. The son of former MLB star Tony Pérez had coached Fernandez in Miami and knew him very well.
– ESPN SVP, SportsCenter and News, Rob King, on the team effort
As social reaction began to roll in, selected Tweets and statements were scrolled across the screen. Coverage continued as anchors Matt Barrie and Elle Duncan began the 10 a.m. edition of the program, which was extended by an hour to end at 1 p.m. and included live news conferences held by the Marlins and the U.S. Coast Guard. James Walker, Miami Dolphins reporter for ESPN NFL Nation, moved from the Dolphins’ home game to Marlins Park for on-site coverage.
Gomez, who grew up in Miami and like Fernandez is of Cuban descent, was scheduled to cover Vin Scully’s final home broadcast for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but instead flew across the country in time to appear on the 11 p.m. SportsCenter from Little Havana in Miami, also joining this morning’s programs.
Sunday night, SportsCenter moved from ESPNEWS to ESPN2 and began its coverage of Palmer’s passing with anchor Zubin Mehenti making the announcement at 9:31 p.m. after Palmer’s longtime business manager Alastair Johnson had confirmed the news to the Associated Press and Golf Channel.
After airing a feature on Palmer’s life and career voiced by Tom Rinaldi, SportsCenter showed a two-part Tweet from Tiger Woods, then began a series of telephone interviews with reactions to the news. Anchor Darren Haynes spoke with ESPN golf analyst Andy North, while Mehenti talked with analyst Dottie Pepper, followed by Mehenti’s interview with former PGA TOUR player Roccoe Mediate, who grew up near Palmer and had been close friends with him.
ESPN golf analyst and two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange fought back tears while speaking with Mehenti about his longtime friendship with Palmer. Strange was the recipient of a scholarship at Wake Forest started by Palmer.
ESPN senior golf analyst Michael Collins got comments from Rory McIlroy, who had just won the PGA TOUR Championship and $10 million before learning of Palmer’s death, while ESPN.com senior golf writers Bob Harig and Jason Sobel also offered reactions.
Rinaldi joined by phone to discuss his interview with Palmer at the 2015 Open Championship at St Andrews, Palmer’s final appearance at the “Home of Golf” that he helped make even more famous in the early 1960’s. The emotional interview was aired multiple times over the next few hours.
SportCenter anchor Scott Van Pelt came in on his day off to join Chris Berman for their fond remembrances of Palmer, with Berman recalling the emotional scene when Palmer played his final U.S. Open in 1994 and Van Pelt who had previously been an employee of Palmer’s at the Golf Channel, discussing his many interactions with him over the years including the shooting of a popular “This is SportsCenter” commercial with him.
The 11 p.m. SportsCenter contained an early segment with anchor John Anderson and Van Pelt reminiscing about Palmer, including his final St Andrews appearance which both witnessed.
As coverage continued Monday morning, reporter Jeremy Schaap was in Palmer’s hometown of Latrobe, Pa., for SportsCenter, and Palmer’s great rival and friend Jack Nicklaus joined Storm on the 10 a.m. edition.
“I want to thank everyone throughout our team: anchors, analysts, production team, studio operations and directing, research, graphics, social … everyone,” said ESPN Senior Vice President, SportsCenter and News, Rob King. “No one planned for the day we experienced on Sunday, but the smart, heartfelt, and exhaustive coverage honored our commitment to serving all fans everywhere, even when the news is absolutely the worst imaginable.”
ESPN commentators shared their thoughts about Palmer and Fernandez on social media:
No, no no. I am paralyzed with news on Jose Fernandez. He was shining star for our Cuban Exile community. Que dios se lo bendiga.
— Maximiliano Bretos (@mbretosESPN) September 25, 2016
"When a Cuban succeeds in the US, every Cuban feels like a part of them." –@pedrogomezESPN on Jose Fernandez's impact
— Kevin Negandhi (@KNegandhiESPN) September 26, 2016
The tragic death of Jose Fernandez is one of the saddest sports stories I can ever remember. A vibrant upbeat guy with a special talent. RIP
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) September 25, 2016
Jose Fernandez love,respect, impact for the game, positive attitude, passion, high energy and enthusiasm could not be matched. May he RIP.
— Jim Bowden (@JimBowdenGM) September 25, 2016
Beyond words how sad this news is. In my experience few enjoyed and embraced life more than Jose Fernandez
— Karl Ravech (@karlravechespn) September 25, 2016
Reading so many Arnold Palmer tributes this morning. One thought comes to mind: We lost the most universally revered figure in the world.
— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelTAN) September 26, 2016
Among the interviews I'll never forget. An Arnold Palmer with Arnold Palmer. Talented, smart & the embodiment of class pic.twitter.com/3iHWJW1gfj
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) September 26, 2016
Was priveledged to talk w/Arnie twice… a brief interview, and at V Foundation event. I made him laugh each time.Felt like a million bucks.
— Bob Valvano (@espnVshow) September 26, 2016
51 days ago I shook his hand & talked for 10 min. He had a look in his eyes. He looked a little sad. A faraway look. What a man. What a life pic.twitter.com/mpEbl0Cnsx
— Bucci Mane (@Buccigross) September 26, 2016
— trey wingo (@wingoz) September 26, 2016
Molly Mita contributed to this post.