Share this article

print logo

ALBERT'S EXIT MEANS MORE VISIBILITY FOR NBC'S HAMMOND

Tom Hammond didn't want to get a promotion this way. He's spent his 13-year career at NBC staying in the background, making analysts like Cris Collinsworth, Bob Trumpy and now Jim Kelly look good.

That all changed 10 days ago when Hammond was named to replace the disgraced Marv Albert as the network's No. 2 football play-by-play man.

Generally, the visibility of No. 2 men isn't that high. But replacing Albert certainly means Hammond is going to get extra attention.

Last week, Time magazine called Hammond one of the week's three winners, saying: "He's not exactly a household name, but somebody at NBC has to inherit Marv's air time."

"First of all, it is a bit distasteful to gain advantage by someone else's misfortune," Hammond said in a telephone interview this week. "Even though I had nothing to do with any of that. It still is not the most ideal of circumstances."

Hammond discussed the circumstances of his promotion with NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol. "He said, 'You shouldn't feel that way at all because you've earned it.' I appreciated that.

"I have no sense of replacing Marv, I'm certainly not trying to be Marv or to live up to him. I'm my own way. Whether I'm known or not known, I have credentials."

His partner of five weeks, Kelly, has been kidding Hammond about being deserted.

"He's been very good-natured about it," said Hammond, who works his final game with Kelly on Sunday when the Bills visit the New England Patriots. Hammond's new partner, Randy Cross, also is part of NBC's three-man team Sunday.

Hammond might not be that well-known to the nation's viewers, but he certainly is well-known by NBC broadcasters.

He has worked alongside Collinsworth and Trumpy, as well as a long line of failed analysts including Joe Namath, Sam Rutigliano, Reggie Rucker, Dave Rowe, Bob Kuechenberg and Dave Casper.

He has worked the prestigious track and field events in the Olympics and been the host of the Breeders' Cup. He has refereed the squabbles between NBA announcers Bill Walton and Steve Jones.

In short, he can do it all. Except attract attention.

"I don't seek the limelight," said the 52-year-old native of Lexington, Ky. "I'm not a show biz kind of guy."

He still lives in Lexington, having left only for one collegiate year at LSU to play tight end for the freshman football team. After being injured, he transferred to the University of Kentucky, graduating in 1967 with a major in equine genetics and reproductive physiology. He planned a career in thoroughbred horse racing and even worked one summer in Fort Erie.

He fell into broadcasting by accident. While he was in graduate school, a friend of his needed a replacement to host a daily 15-minute radio show devoted to horse racing results.

"I said, 'I can do that,' " Hammond said. He did it for $35 a week and eventually parlayed it into a nightly sports talk show and play-by-play position for high school sports. He rose to news director and program director, quit graduate school and got a job in 1969 at the NBC affiliate in Lexington.

He didn't want to play the big market television game of musical chairs and ended up being an announcer for Keeneland horse sales. He did auctions in 16 states, making more money than in broadcasting, and free-lance work for NBC.

When Southeastern Conference basketball games began to be syndicated in the 1980s, Hammond got a job as play-by-play man, with help from University of Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall, players and congressmen from his home state.

"The only tape I had to show them was from Transylvania University basketball," Hammond said.

He joined NBC in 1983 as a roving reporter for the first Breeders' Cup. During one controversial race, the jockeys sought him out for interviews instead of the announcers hired for that job. NBC executives took notice.

"Mike Weisman (the former executive producer of NBC Sports) said, 'We didn't really realize we had a broadcaster on our hands; would you be interested in doing other things?' "

That's when he began working on other sports, though he never became a household name.

"I pride myself on being a team player," Hammond said. "If I'm working with Jim Kelly and need to do more and play a real dominant role in the telecast, I can do that. If I'm working with Cris Collinsworth and he needs a set-up man and someone who makes the whole thing run smoothly, I'm willing to do that."

Collinsworth calls him the voice of reason. And Hammond has a great voice, without a trace of a Kentucky accent.

Hammond doesn't think his work on the NFL will have any bearing on whether he is promoted to NBC's No. 1 NBA team now that Albert is history.

"They might bring in someone else or they might move Greg Gumbel up," Hammond said. "The least likely scene would be to move me to No. 1."

Being a horse racing expert, however, Hammond realizes that long shots do come in.

Kremer keeping up with Smith

ESPN's Andrea Kremer traveled to Alabama, Houston, Mississippi and Orchard Park for an extensive piece on Bills rookie back Antowain Smith that will run during Sunday's NFL Countdown.

There are no comments - be the first to comment