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ESPN Remembers Pioneering Sportscaster Lou Palmer

"He brought much-needed experience at the very beginning, a deep love of baseball, and the ability to write, anchor and bring authority to anything he touched."

Lou Palmer – the first sportscaster hired by ESPN – died Friday in Wellington, Fla., after battling lung cancer. He was 83.

Palmer was a versatile commentator who brought expertise in baseball when he joined ESPN in October 1978 – nearly a year before the network officially launched. Among many sporting assignments, he covered the World Series, horse racing’s Triple Crown, Stanley Cup Final, and tennis and golf majors.

Palmer’s main duties included anchoring and reporting for SportsCenter and providing features for Down the Stretch: ESPN’s Horse Racing Weekly. Palmer also helped with management of the company.

He was an original SportsCenter anchor, a friend and major contributor to building the strong foundation upon which ESPN stands today. – ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen on Lou Palmer

“Lou Palmer holds a special place in ESPN’s history,” ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen told Front Row. “He joined us in October 1978 and teamed with longtime WTIC colleague Arnold Dean to deliver the first ESPN live event in October 1978 – UConn versus Athletes in Action – a ‘demonstration’ basketball feed to cable TV executives, introducing the all sports network. He was an original SportsCenter anchor, a friend and major contributor to building the strong foundation upon which ESPN stands today.”

He brought much-needed experience at the very beginning, a deep love of baseball, and the ability to write, anchor and bring authority to anything he touched. – Bob Ley on Palmer

Palmer “was a true ESPN original,” said recently retired host Bob Ley, who like Palmer helped the company get off the ground in 1979. “He brought much-needed experience at the very beginning, a deep love of baseball, and the ability to write, anchor and bring authority to anything he touched. Lou was a joy to work with, a fellow Seton Hall Pirate, and in a newsroom where everyone had their nickname, he was universally known, and loved, as ‘Sweet Lou’.”

His love for baseball jumped through the screen and became an early hallmark of SportsCenter. Those of us who were young anchors – Bob Ley, Tom Mees, and I – will forever be indebted to Lou for his guidance by example. – Chris Berman on Palmer

NFL PrimeTime on ESPN+ host Chris Berman, who joined ESPN in October 1979, said of Palmer:”[He] was a wonderful radio and television professional, and an even finer gentleman. He was one of the few employees here at ESPN before we went on the air. His love for baseball jumped through the screen and became an early hallmark of SportsCenter. Those of us who were young anchors – Bob Ley, Tom Mees, and I – will forever be indebted to Lou for his guidance by example.”

Once ESPN officially took to the airwaves on Sept. 7, 1979, Palmer was among those instrumental in bringing the first live sports event on ESPN, a slo-pitch softball game, into being. That event was celebrated last month in an E:60 special commemorating ESPN’s 40th anniversary.

Palmer left the network in the fall of 1985. Palmer later joined WFAN, the first 24-hour sports radio station, when it launched in New York in the late 1980s.

He moved to Florida and served as the official scorer for St. Louis Cardinals spring training games.

Palmer was born Nov. 5, 1935 in Newark, N.J.

A 1958 Seton Hall graduate, Palmer began his broadcasting career later that year at KHAS Radio ìn Hastìngs, Neb. He honed his horse racing expertise reporting results at WJLK Radio in Asbury Park. After moving to Hartford, Conn., and its WTIC television and radio outlets in the 1960s, Palmer became a fixture on those airwaves before joining ESPN.

Palmer played two years of minor league baseball as a shortstop with the New York Giants and Chicago White Sox organizátions, in 1956 and 1957, respectively.

ESPN issued the following statement regarding Palmer:

“Lou Palmer was the first on-air commentator hired by ESPN in 1978. He brought a professionalism to the network that helped establish a rock-solid foundation for SportsCenter and our baseball coverage. ESPN extends its sympathy to Lou’s family and the many people he touched during his accomplished career.”

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