A life played by the book

Times Staff Writer

Jim Nantz's new book, "Always by My Side," is an autobiography that focuses on the CBS sportscaster's relationship with his father, who has had Alzheimer's disease since 1995. The subtitle, "A Father's Grace and a Sports Journey Unlike Any Other," refers to a 63-day span last year in which Nantz called the Super Bowl, Final Four and Masters.

Although the 273-page book provides a behind-the-scenes look at Nantz's profession, no one gets slammed or embarrassed.

"The book is about dignity and respect, loyalty, optimism, hope and family," Nantz said while in Los Angeles last week. "There isn't an ounce of controversy."

In other words, it's the antithesis of a Howard Cosell tell-all, blame-all book.

Trivia time

Nantz is the only network play-by-play announcer to work the Super Bowl, Final Four and Masters. However, there was an announcer who regularly called the Rose Bowl, Super Bowl, Final Four and World Series in the 1960s and '70s. Who was he?

Greek tragedy

Among the many people Nantz writes about in his book is the late Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder, who lost his job at CBS in 1988 after making racially insensitive remarks during an interview with a Washington television station on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, Jan. 15.

Nantz was in Hawaii at the time and saw only Snyder's mug on television after a round of golf. He called then-colleague Mike Francesa to see if Snyder had died.

"Oh, no, Jimmy," Francesa replied. "The Greek didn't die. It's much worse than that."

You never know

In 1977, Nantz was a walk-on freshman member of the University of Houston golf team. His three roommates -- future touring professionals Fred Couples, Blaine McCallister and John Horne -- were on half-scholarships. The four of them went to the 1978 Houston Open, which was televised by NBC.

McCallister dared Nantz to go up to Don Ohlmeyer, the executive producer of NBC Sports, and ask for a job.

Nantz mustered up the nerve and did it.

"What kind of job are you looking for?" Ohlmeyer asked.

"He wants to be one of your announcers," Horne blurted out.

Nantz didn't get an announcing job, but he did get one, with no pay, driving announcers around in a golf cart.

You have to start somewhere.

The right move

Nantz writes in his book that when he was working at a television station in Salt Lake City, Channel 13 in Los Angeles offered him a job at triple what he was making.

Nantz was ready to take the job, but station executives wouldn't have allowed him to freelance on the weekends doing play-by-play.

He asked his father for advice and was told: "You're only 25. It's too early to lose sight of your ultimate goal." That goal was a network play-by-play job.

Trivia answer

Curt Gowdy.

And finally

What would a sports book be without an Al McGuire story? And Nantz has a beauty, as related to him by colleague Billy Packer.

McGuire and Packer once went into the elegant Russian Tea Room in New York City and McGuire told the waiter he didn't need a menu because he knew what he wanted -- a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

A busboy eventually was sent to a nearby grocery store to get the ingredients.

"Then, while the bemused patrons around him looked up from their caviar, blini, and borscht," Nantz writes, "McGuire opened the jars of peanut butter and jelly and made himself the dinner he wanted."



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