Editor’s note: This summer, Star columnist Greg Hansen is counting down the top 10 of just about everything related to Tucson sports.
Today’s list: The top 10 sports voices in Tucson history.
Arizona hired its first true “Voice of the Wildcats” in 1972 and if anyone suggested it was a job of many colors, that doesn’t begin to describe Ray McNally.
Before assuming radio duties at the UA, McNally, a Missouri grad, had done radio play-by-play for Wichita State, New Mexico and Texas Tech. He had served as sports editor of the Tucson Citizen and as an editor at Golf World magazine.
More? He then worked for the state high school athletic association, helping to keep statistics and records, became an assistant general manager/statistician for the Tucson Toros, served as assistant sports information director at the UA, and took charge of programming at the university’s radio station, KUAT.
McNally essentially replaced former Cleveland Indians play-by-play voice Jimmy Dudley and jack-of-all-trades TV sportscaster Bernie Perlin as the most-heard voice of Tucson sports.
When McNally died in 1981 (he was only 61), the UA worked through many voices, including Notre Dame’s 1964 Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte, future MLB announcer Kent Derdivanis, Harry West, Gene Adelstein, Pete Solomon, Ray Odom and others.
It then hit the mother lode of broadcasting, hiring NFL Hall of Famer Ray Scott, a mainstay at CBS, to call UA games from 1984-87.
When Scott retired after the ’86-87 basketball season, Arizona promoted Brian Jeffries from the so-called second team; Jeffries, who grew up near Seattle, had been working pre- and post-game shows and calling Arizona baseball games.
Jeffries has endured and become the recognized voice of the Wildcats to generations of UA fans. Only Cal’s Joe Starkey is believed to have stayed on the job longer at a Pac-12 school.
Our top 10 list doesn’t include those former UA athletes like baseball’s Joe Magrane and golf’s Jerry Foltz, who have gone on to accomplished broadcast careers, or those whose stay was so brief, such as Scott and Fox Sports Arizona’s talented Todd Walsh. We’ve chosen to stay as local as possible.
Here’s the list: