John Francis Whitaker
May 18, 1924
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
|Occupation||Sportscaster & game show host|
|Spouse(s)||Nancy Chaffee (1991-2002) (her death)|
- Early life and career 1.1
- CBS Sports 1.2
- ABC Sports and ABC News 1.3
- Honors 2
- See also 3
- References 4
- External links 5
Early life and career
Whitaker was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After graduating from Northeast Catholic High School in 1941 and Saint Joseph's University in 1947, Whitaker began his broadcasting career at WPAM in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. In 1950, he moved to WCAU where he did play-by-play for the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants of the National Football League.
He entered network sports in 1961 at CBS, where he hosted the anthology series CBS Sports Spectacular among other duties. He worked for CBS for more than two decades. Whitaker is probably best remembered for his coverage of golf and horse racing. He covered thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown Events, golf's four major championships, the very first Super Bowl, championship boxing, the National Professional Soccer League in 1967, the North American Soccer League a year later, and Major League Baseball. He was a studio host for The NFL Today at CBS, the network's pre-game show.
The Whitaker character, played by Gary McKillips, appears in the June 2007 ESPN Original Entertainment production Ruffian. The film is based upon the storied 1975 match race between unbeaten filly Ruffian and Kentucky Derby-winning colt Foolish Pleasure. Ruffian broke her leg during the race and was later euthanized. The Whitaker character is shown introducing the race in the paddock area of Belmont Park in New York.
In the latter part of his career, Whitaker has moved away from play-by-play or color commentary, and has become known for his pre-game and post-game essays at major sporting events.
Whitaker was banned from covering the Masters golf tournament for CBS for five years after referring to a patron gallery at Augusta National Golf Club as a "mob" at the end of the 18-hole playoff in 1966. He was allowed to return to the telecast in 1972.
ABC Sports and ABC News
Moving to ABC in 1982, Whitaker served as a reporter for both news and sports divisions. He was a part of ABC's sports team at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games and the 1984 Winter and Summer Olympic Games. He has also reported sports for ABC's World News Tonight, Nightline, and 20/20.
Whitaker won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Host or Commentator in 1979 and received the Maryland Jockey Club's Hilltop Award for outstanding coverage of thoroughbred racing. He was named "Best Announcer" by Sports Illustrated in 1976. He was inducted into the American Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame in 1997, the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame in 2001, and the Saint Joseph's University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005. He received a Sports Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.
Whitaker has a bowling center named for him and fellow broadcaster John Facenda. Facenda-Whitaker Lanes is located in East Norriton, Pennsylvania, and was named for Facenda and Whitaker in 1959, when the two were broadcasting news and sports, respectively, at WCAU. It is not clear whether or not either Facenda or Whitaker had any ownership interest in the center.
The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia  named Whitaker their Person of the Year in 1981 and inducted him into their Hall of Fame in 2003.
- , April 24, 1967.Sports IllustratedMaule, Tex. "Kickoff For A Babel Of Booters,"
- Rothenberg, Fred (April 12, 1979). "Jack Whitaker's welcome now". Boca Raton News. Associated Press. p. 2B.
- American Sportscasters Association bio of Whitaker
- Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia website
The NFL Today host