Hank Goldberg, betting pundit and sports radio star, dies at 82

Hank Goldberg a tangy, explosive and witty Miami sports radio and TV personality who became nationally known for crippling horse racing ...


Hank Goldberga tangy, explosive and witty Miami sports radio and TV personality who became nationally known for crippling horse racing and NFL games on ESPN, died Monday, his 82nd birthday, at his home in Las Vegas.

The cause was complications from chronic kidney disease, which required dialysis treatments and caused the amputation of his right leg below the knee last year, said his sister and sole immediate survivor, Liz Goldberg.

For more than 50 years, sport and gaming were inseparable spheres for Mr. Goldberg. Accustomed to racetracks and casino sports betting, he writes for the famous bettor Jimmy Snyder, known as Jimmy the Greek, in the 1970s. He was an analyst for Miami Dolphins football games on radio, hosted sports talk shows on two Miami radio stations, and reported and anchored sports for a local television station.

As a major sports personality in Miami, it counted the former Dolphins head coach Don Shula and former quarterback Bob Griese among friends he bet on horses with at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida. He soaked up the privileges of stardom, including being treated like royalty at the famed Joe’s Stone Crab restaurant in Miami Beach.

“I own this city,” he said while driving through Miami, captured in archival video that ESPN used in a tribute to him after his death.

Beginning in the early 1990s, Mr. Goldberg found a wider audience as ESPN’s betting maven, doling out his opinions on favorites, underdogs and point spreads before Sunday’s NFL games and the odds before the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup horse races.

ESPN reported that Mr. Goldberg had a .500 or better record in 15 of the 17 seasons he handicapped NFL games for the network.

Mr. Goldberg’s outsized personality showed itself most fully on radio, where he debuted in 1978 at WIOD-AM in Miami. He argued with callers and sometimes hung up in disgust.

Joe Zagaki, one of Mr. Goldberg’s producers at WIOD, recalled in a phone interview an instance where Mr. Goldberg “had one of his volcanic outbursts” with a caller. “And I said, ‘My God, you just hammered that guy. You are “Hammering Hank Goldberg”.

The nickname stuck. After starting at ESPN in 1993, Mr. Goldberg began banging a gavel on a studio desk to express his disagreement with a colleague or his contempt for a sports personality. He called himself “Hammer”.

He first appeared on ESPN2, which was new at the time and attempted to reach a younger audience with anchors who dressed in a cool, casual style. Not Mr. Goldberg, who was certainly uncool but brought a quirky, brassy personality to the network — even if it was friendlier than his face-to-face radio demeanor.

“Hank could fit into any genre,” says Suzy Kolber, a longtime ESPN anchor and reporter who worked with Mr. Goldberg on ESPN2 and in Florida. She added: “Plug it into the horse racing crowd or the ESPN2 group, it fits right in.”

Henry Edward Goldberg was born July 4, 1940 in Newark and grew up in South Orange, NJ His father, Hy, was a sports columnist for The Newark Evening News; his mother, Sadie (Abben) Goldberg, was a homemaker. Hy Goldberg frequently took his wife and children to Yankees spring training in Florida, where young Hank befriended Joe DiMaggio, who called him Henry, Liz Goldberg said in an interview.

Hank was 17 when he first went to the racetrack – Monmouth Park in New Jersey – winning $450 when he hit double daily. When he brought his winnings home, he recalls, his father told him, “Oh, you’re in trouble now.”

“He knew I would never forget my love for racing,” Mr Goldberg said of his father in an interview this year with The Las Vegas Review-Journal.

After attending Duke University, he transferred to New York University and graduated in 1962. He began his career as an account executive for the advertising agency Benton & Bowles. He moved to Miami in 1966 and continued to work in advertising.

He also found work in the Orange Bowl broadcast booth in Miami for the network broadcast of Dolphins games, employed as a spotter – assisting the play-by-play announcer by identifying which player caught a pass or makes a tackle. There he befriended NBC play-by-play announcer Curt Gowdy and developed relationships in the local sports world.

These contacts led him to meet Mike Pearl, who wrote and produced Jimmy Snyder’s radio show and wrote his column for a syndicated newspaper. Mr. Pearl introduced Mr. Goldberg to Mr. Snyder, Liz Goldberg said, and when Mr. Pearl left for CBS Sports, where he would produce “The NFL Today,” Mr. Snyder asked Mr. Goldberg to take over the column.

WIOD hired him to host a sports talk show and commentate on Dolphins games in 1978, replacing Larry King. He added work as a sportscaster and anchor on Miami television station WTVJ in 1983. He also continued to work in advertising; from 1977 to 1992, he was an executive at the Beber Silverstein agency.

Despite his success on WIOD, Mr. Goldberg was suspended several times over the years and fired in September 1992, following a dispute with the program director over the content of his show.

“Radio’s biggest name in South Florida sports is a loudmouth who likes to drop names – often like dirt – and who, when announcing the Dolphins Monday Night fantastic end, didn’t know that it was his too,” wrote Dave Hyde, a columnist for The Sun-Sentinel, a South Florida newspaper. Mr Hyde suggested all the station should have done was ‘wash his mouth out’.

Mr. Goldberg was soon hired by another local station, WQAM-AM, where he was again successful. But he left in 2007, feeling he had been underestimated in contract negotiations.

By then, he was well into his two-decade run at ESPN. That ended around 2014, but he returned for the “Daily Wager” show in 2019, a year after moving to Las Vegas. He was also a tipster for CBS Sports HQ, a sports streaming service, and sports line, an online CBS sports network.

When asked what motivates her brother, Ms. Goldberg gave a simple answer: “He loved the microphone.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Hank Goldberg, betting pundit and sports radio star, dies at 82
Hank Goldberg, betting pundit and sports radio star, dies at 82
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