Big Al Meltzer To Be Honored by NATAS

From Mid-Atlantic NATAS: 

PHILADELPHIA (June 15, 2010 ) – Al Meltzer, known to scores of Philadelphia sports fans simply as Big Al, will receive the prestigious Board of Governors’ Award from the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) this September.   Meltzer – a Philadelphia sports casting legend who worked a remarkable 50 years in television, including 40 years in Philadelphia – will be honored by his TV industry peers during the 28th Annual Mid-Atlantic Emmy® Awards at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel on Saturday, September 25, 2010. The prestigious award is bestowed by NATAS to recognize career longevity, lifetime achievements and significant contributions to the television industry. 

“We are excited to pay tribute to Big Al –  a sports broadcasting legend who is admired by fans and colleagues alike for his talent, his great pipes and his knowledge of sports,” said Amy Burkett, President of the NATAS Mid-Atlantic Chapter and Senior VP of Production at WLVT- TV. 

A ten-time Emmy® Award winner, he arrived in Philadelphia in 1964 and helped put WPHL-TV, a UHF station, on the air.  There, he brought the excitement of Philadelphia sports action into the homes of the fans, working on coverage of Big Five Basketball double headers, Philadelphia 76ers games, Philadelphia Eagles pre-season, and Temple football games.  When the Philadelphia Phillies joined WPHL-TV in 1971, he became the host of the popular 10th Inning Show.  From 1971 – 1977, he was the voice of the Buffalo Bills.

In 1970, he moved to the “Eyewitness News” team to serve as Sports Director. The Channel 3 evening newscast featured anchors Vince Leonard and Mort Crim, Bill Kuster doing weather, Big Al on sports and Jessica Savitch.  He worked there until 1977 as part of what the Philadelphia Daily News called “the greatest news team in city history.”  He spent a year in Chicago at WMAQ-TV, then returned to Philadelphia to spend 20 years at WCAU-TV (now NBC10).  In 1979, he was named “Best Sportscaster in Philadelphia” in a poll by the Philadelphia Daily News.  In his trademark style, Meltzer delivered the sports on WCAU, when it was a CBS owned and operated station, and he remained part of the station’s news team in 1995 when NBC took over ownership of the outlet.  He worked there until 1998.

“I am delighted to accept this honor from my peers; it’s that recognition that means the most,” says Meltzer, who remembers accepting his first Mid-Atlantic Emmy Award (for Outstanding Sports Reporting as Sports Director at WCAU-TV) from his colleague Jessica Savitch in 1983, at the Chapter’s first-ever awards gala at The Adam’s Mark Hotel.

Some lucky opportunities, his commanding voice and the Korean War all played a role in the Syracuse, NY native’s decision to pursue a career in broadcasting, instead of the career in dentistry he envisioned when he was a student at St. Lawrence University.  On his college roommate’s dare, he entered and won an announcer’s contest.  He enlisted in the Air Force just after his graduation, but a career in sports broadcasting was launched in 1954 when he was offered an amazing opportunity – to work as a sports announcer for a CBS radio station in Syracuse, NY. His presence expanded to include nightly sports reports on the small screen when the station’s TV affiliate went on the air and launched its evening newscast.   His dental career officially ended in 1954.  

Entering television in its infancy, Meltzer has worked in all phases of TV broadcasting, from the early days of VHF-TV, to UHF, and to cable television.   He teamed with Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Famer Charlie Bednarik on HBO’s “This Week in the NFL.”  Working for Comcast SportsNet, he was featured on several Comcast SportsNet specials, had his own talk program and worked on many pregame and postgame broadcasts.  Meltzer retired from the cable network in 2004 at age 75.  Other career honors include becoming the first member of the media selected for the Big Five Basketball Hall of Fame, and being inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers’ Hall of Fame and the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.  He loves golf and Big Five basketball, follows all sports and lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with his wife, Beverly and has four daughters and a granddaughter.  

Past recipients of the NATAS Board of Governors’ Award are: children’s television icon Fred Rogers; Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown; legendary anchor John Facenda; TV Guide founder and philanthropist Walter Annenberg; sports broadcasting innovators NFL Films;  former WHYY president Frederick “Rick” Breitenfeld, Jr.; regional TV pioneer Lewis Klein; CBS3 veteran reporter Trudy Haynes; Phillies  announcer and Baseball Hall of Famer Harry Kalas; local broadcasting  legend Gene Crane;  Joe DeNardo, the Dean  of  Pittsburgh Weather;  veteran Philadelphia  newsman  Larry Kane;  Pittsburgh Steelers’  broadcasting  legend Myron Cope;  WCAU news veteran Herb Clarke; WCAU trailblazing anchor/reporter Edie Huggins;  and Pittsburgh’s TV woman of firsts, Eleanor Schano.

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The Mid-Atlantic Chapter of NATAS represents some 650 industry professionals working in regional television and is best known for organizing the annual Mid-Atlantic Emmy® Awards, which recognize excellence in news, programming and individual achievement in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Judging is spearheaded by regional Chapters of the National Television Academy in comparable TV markets throughout the county.  Members represent more than 25 television stations, numerous cable companies and programmers, as well as independent producers, production facilities and educational institutions. The Chapter also organizes professional development seminars and special events for area television professionals; oversees the Mid-Atlantic Student Television Program, a recognition program for high school students; and the Young Producer’s Award scholarship competition for the region’s aspiring broadcasting professionals. 






6 responses to “Big Al Meltzer To Be Honored by NATAS

  1. Kudos to Big Al.

    Always a genuine sincere guy who was prepared and knew what he was talking about. Nothing forced or phony with him. He also faded away without hanging on to something. Class act all around.


  2. Why is Wacky Jack always so negative. His negative comments should just be left upon him and not bring any of us down!!!

  3. Burt Sherwood

    Big Al: I am not sure he will recall the incident. I had left Philadelphia (WIBG) and went to Chicago to be GM at WMAQ/WKQX radio in “77. I did not think Big Al knew who I was, but somehow he found out I was in the same building.
    He came in one day to my office and sat down and told me he was not happy and that he did not feel that he was going to be a big as he was in Phildelphia. He asked me what would you do? I said you are HUGE in Philadelphia, put out your feelers and GO HOME…I thought he was great in both markets.. when I first saw him In Philadelphia…he had a slogan…put your rectum in the Spectrum…I still laugh about it today. The award is wonderful…hope Al is in good health and happy…much love and congratulations from me… now in Sarasota Florida Burt Sherwood

  4. James, seems like Wacky was quite positive about Big Al.

  5. As Maceo pointed out, there was nothing negative about Big Al.

    There never will be either.

    Al was (and continues) to be a class act

  6. Big Al was a classic. He would swing golf clubs in the back of the Channel 10 studio while waiting his turn to do sports. He’d ding the studio lamps overhead, often while the anchors were reading. Nobody got mad at Big Al. His arguments with Billy Werndel were the stuff of legend. They’d scream and yell, huff and puff for 10 minutes and it seemed as if dust and debris were floating out of the sports office Gong Show style. Al would eventually turn to me and politely say, “Would you excuse us for a moment?” I’m like, what for now? I’d wander down to the newsroom where the snoops tried to pick me for information. To their chagrin I always said, “I didn’t see anything.” Al was terrific to be around and encouraging. Certainly one of the good guys.

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