Chris Berman, the voice of baseball's Home Run Derby since its inception, will no longer broadcast the midsummer staple and will also step away from significant NFL studio duties, he confirmed in an interview with Sports Business Journal.
Berman, 61, will also step aside as host of ESPN's NFL Countdown, Prime Time and Monday Night Countdown. Berman's booming baritone was synonymous with ESPN's rise as a network power, as his "back-back-back" home run calls and high-energy NFL highlight narration coincided with the Bristol, Conn.-based network's transition from a small-time operation to a broadcasting empire.
“The whole experience here has been a dream come true,” Berman said in a statement. “When we started in 1979, I was just 24. Nobody knew if ESPN would make it, or, for that matter, if cable TV would make it. I certainly wasn’t sure I would make it, but I really didn’t care. We were too busy having a blast, talking sports with viewers who were just like us, even if it was during the wee hours of the morning. We got to band together here in Bristol, Connecticut, and put out a product of which we were all very proud."
The longtime anchor was dealt a blow when ESPN negotiated a long-term deal for Monday Night Football, a process that resulted in NBC laying claim to the Sunday night package and the lead-in highlight show, Football Night in America. That exchange led to the demise of Prime Time as a Sunday night highlight staple.
Berman will work baseball's Division Series broadcasts on ESPN Radio.
ESPN President John Skipper added: “Chris is one of a kind. His innovation, passion, preparation and on-air acumen have helped define ESPN. He wrote the book on delivering highlights which still serves as the standard to this day."