Jim McKay

Jim McKay

Skip Dickstein

Legendary Sportscaster Jim McKay Dead

The longtime owner/breeder died June 7 after a long illness.

Legendary sportscaster Jim McKay, who played an integral part in helping Thoroughbred racing prosper in Maryland, died from natural causes June 7. McKay was 86.

Best known as the host of ABC’s popular “Wide World of Sports,” which spanned nearly four decades, McKay covered many special events, including the Olympics, Kentucky Derby, The Masters, and Indianapolis 500. He won numerous awards in journalism, and was the first sportscaster to win an Emmy Award. He won 13 Emmys in all.

McKay won acclaim for his insightful coverage of the tragic 1972 Munich Olympics. He was inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame in 1988.

A lifelong Thoroughbred racing fan, McKay was a member of the Maryland Jockey Club and founder of the Maryland Million, the first state-bred event of its kind. The popular event spawned many similar events across the country.

McKay, who was a broadcaster on numerous Triple Crown races in which ABC won several Eclipse Awards, earned many racing honors, including the Joe Palmer Award from the National Turf Writers Association (2000); the Big Sport of Turfdom Award from the Turf Publicists of America (1986); the Old Hilltop Award from the Maryland Jockey Club (1984); and the Engelhard Award from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders (1990 and 1977).

In 2002, McKay was named the recipient of the Eclipse Award of Merit, presented in honor of an individual's lifetime achievements in Thoroughbred racing. McKay was a longtime owner and breeder.

"He was the personification of class and style," said Al Michaels, who worked with McKay for many years at ABC. "There has never been a more respected individual in the business and deservedly so. His love for life could only be matched by his love for (his wife) Margaret. His enthusiasm permeated every event he covered and thus always made it far more interesting. I always thought of him as a favorite teacher. He was so into whatever it was he was doing that he drew you into every event he covered."

Said Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Sports: "He was truly the most respected and admired sportscaster of his generation and defined how the stories of sports can and should be covered. While we all know what an absolute titan he was in his chosen field, I will always remember him as an extraordinary human being guided by a strong moral compass.

"He was the best husband to his wife, an extraordinary father to his own children, and for all of us who had the privilege to grow up around him as boys, he helped shape us into men.

A native of Philadelphia, McKay began his television work in 1947. He began as host of "Wide World of Sports" in 1961.