It's a day that lives in infamy for Eagles broadcaster Merrill
Reese. On Dec. 7, 1977, Reese was jarred awake by a phone call
bearing terrible news: Charlie Swift, Philadelphia's
play-by-play man and Reese's radio partner that season, had shot
himself to death. "I was numb," says Reese, then the Eagles'
color commentator. "With two games to go in the season, I was
thrust into the play-by-play seat. That Sunday my knees were
knocking. I was thinking, Please, let something come out of my
What has come out of Reese's mouth every game day since has made
for the NFL's most enjoyable radio broadcast. (Honorable mention
goes to Van Miller and Brad Sham, the radio play-by-play voices
of the Bills and the Cowboys, respectively.) The 58-year-old has
become as much a Philadelphia staple as a cheese steak at
Geno's, and with NFL radio broadcasts available on the Internet
at nfl.com, listeners from all over can tune to Reese and
analyst Mike Quick's play-by-play on WYSP-FM.
Much like an evening at the opera starring a gifted tenor, a
Reese broadcast, in which he slides his rich voice up and down
the vocal scale, furnishes an aria's worth of emotions. When the
Eagles soar, so does Reese's inflection. Consider his call of
Brian Mitchell's 94-yard kickoff return to open Philadelphia's
21-7 win over the Cardinals on Nov. 4, a description that begins
purringly and ends with melodious might: "High and not too
deep....Taken by Mitchell at the six and across the
10...15...20. He's got a lane at the 25! Thirty! Cuts back at
the 40! Midfield! Forty-five! Forty! Thirty-five! Thirty! Brian
Mitchell is going [rising voice] COAST TO COAST for the
Says Reese, "There are those who will say I'm a homer because I
love this football team. However, that doesn't affect my
evaluation. That just puts me in tune with my audience." That
listenership was none too pleased following Philly's lackluster
13-3 loss to the Redskins on Sunday. "There were a lot of plays
during this game," Reese boomed, "where the Eagles did not do
what they had to do." Neither he nor his team had time to dwell
upon the defeat: Reese's next broadcast was to start at 8:30
p.m. on Thursday from Kansas City.
"Doing these games is my greatest passion," says Reese, who
spends his time away from Veterans Stadium as part owner and
general manager of a radio station (WBCB-AM) in Levittown, Pa.
"They'll have to pry me out of the booth. I'll never retire."