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Bill Flemming, announcer on 'Wide World of Sports'

BILL FLEMMING BILL FLEMMING (file/detroit free press)

NEW YORK -- Bill Flemming, one of the original announcers on ABC's "Wide World of Sports," who was also known for his Olympics, college football, and golf broadcasts, died July 20 in Petoskey, Mich., of prostate cancer, said his son. W. Mason Flemming. Mr. Flemming was 80.

For more than 60 years, Mr. Flemming was one of the principal voices in the rise of electronic journalism in sports. He announced 11 Olympics and more than 600 events for "Wide World of Sports," once shuttling from hurling in Ireland to car racing in Santa Monica, Calif., to a parachuting contest in Bavaria, all in a single month.

In the days before viewers could see eight televised football games from noon to midnight on a Saturday afternoon and repeatedly see their highlights on ESPN, Mr. Flemming's early Sunday afternoon survey of the previous day's games allowed fans to glimpse games from other regions.

One of his successes was getting an interview with the reclusive chess champion Bobby Fischer during his 1972 matches with Boris Spassky in Iceland.

William Norman Flemming was born in Chicago on Sept. 3, 1926, and grew up in the Chicago area. His family moved to Ann Arbor, Mich., around the time he entered high school. He was a member of Ann Arbor High School's state championship football team in 1943 and cocaptain of the basketball team.

He moved on to the University of Michigan, where he planned to prepare for medical school, but switched his major to speech, his son said.

In 1949, Mr. Flemming won a campuswide speech contest, for which the prize was a summer job at WUOM, the campus radio station. He worked his way up to sports director.

In 1953, Mr. Flemming moved to WWJ-TV, then the NBC affiliate in Detroit, and a year later headed its sports department.

He made his first network appearance as a temporary replacement on NBC's "Today" show, which led to his helping with the telecast of the US Open golf tournament in 1957.

In 1961, he joined "Wide World of Sports," ABC's new sports anthology show. He announced the Drake Relays in Des Moines, while Jim McKay handled the Penn Relays in Philadelphia.

In addition to his son, who lives in Santa Cruz, Calif., Mr. Flemming leaves his daughter, Lindy of Larkspur, Calif., and two grandsons.

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