Lee Leonard, the first voice ever heard on ESPN, died Sunday at his home in South Orange, New Jersey. He was 89.
Leonard joined ESPN in 1979 at its inception after a career in radio at WNBC-AM in New York, and TV jobs with CBS and NBC. On Sept. 7, 1979, he appeared on camera and said:
"If you're a fan, if you're a fan, what you'll see in the next minutes, hours and days to follow may convince you you've gone to sports heaven."
After a video montage, Leonard was on camera for the first day, saying: "Yea, verily, a sampler of wonders."
Leonard and George Grande were the first faces on air for that edition of SportsCenter. The first interview on the show was Leonard's with then-NCAA president Bill Flynn.
"His presence and friendship in the early months of ESPN meant a lot both personally and professionally," said longtime ESPN anchor Bob Ley, who joined the network shortly after it launched. "Lee brought a great deal of credibility and needed experience to ESPN at a critical time in the network's development. He was also a great dinner partner."
Before joining ESPN, Leonard worked with Jack Whitaker on CBS's NFL pregame show (the forerunner to The NFL Today) and worked at NBC with Bryant Gumbel.
Leonard left ESPN in 1980 and joined CNN. Leonard is survived by his wife, actress Kelly Bishop, and a daughter.