50 years of NSSA: Top sportscasters, sportswriters gathering in town this weekend
By Mark Wineka
National figures in the world of sports reporting will make their annual trip to Salisbury this weekend for the 50th National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Awards program.
The three days of activities conclude with the awards banquet Monday night at Salisbury Station. About 230 people are expected to attend the banquet, including 70 guests who represent Hall of Fame inductees and national and state winners.
Jim Nantz of CBS is the National Sportscaster of the Year; Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe, National Sportswriter of the Year.
Dave Goren of Winston-Salem is the N.C. Sportscaster of the Year; John Dell of the Winston-Salem Journal, N.C. Sportswriter of the Year.
This year’s Hall of Fame inductees include sportswriter Leigh Montville, known particularly for his work in Sports Illustrated and the Boston Globe, and Larry Munson, voice of the University of Georgia Bulldogs.
Munson will not be able to attend, but he has taped a video acceptance, according to NSSA board member Cassandra Barrier of Salisbury.
Much of the weekend program will have a nostalgic feel to it because of the 50th anniversary.
As always, each of the winners is assigned hosts from Salisbury. Several private homes are being used for receptions Sunday before a dinner-dance at the Country Club of Salisbury.
The private home receptions were once a trademark of the NSSA weekends.
The annual NSSA event and the organization itself owes it start to the late Salisbury restaurateur Pete DiMizio, a sports buff, boxing promoter and sports reporter’s friend.
The NSSA took root when DiMizio began holding a fall banquet for area sports reporters. His annual party became such a success that Dimizio suggested doing something for the best sports reporters across the country.
While he heard plenty of naysayers ó people who said the sports guys would never come to Salisbury ó Dimizio spent months putting together a mailing list with the help of his wife, Becky, and then Post Sports Editor Horace Billings.
They eventually sent out 6,000 ballots, and the winners were being tabulated when DiMizio died of cancer.
Young Chamber of Commerce member Dr. Ed McKenzie made it his mission to revive DiMizio’s dream and went to great lengths and considerable personal expense to persuade national winners such as Red Smith and Lindsay Nelson to come to Salisbury for the first NSSA banquet in April 1960.
More than 100 people in Salisbury served as hosts, and 41 state and national winners showed up for that first event.
The NSSA Hall of Fame was established in 1962, and as the organization grew, the NSSA program became a signature Salisbury event, attracting entertainers such as Bob Hope and Flip Wilson in its heyday.
The out-of-town visitors for this year’s program will arrive Saturday and be able to attend a reception from 3:30-6:30 p.m. at the Holiday Inn.
On Saturday, Jostens is inviting the public to visit its display of Super Bowl rings between 3:30 and 5 p.m. in the Holiday Inn lobby. Visitors will be allowed to place rings on their fingers and have their photographs taken with the rings, representing all of the Super Bowl winners.
“We want the public to, please, join us for that event,” Barrier said.
Sportscaster Marty Brennaman, former Salisbury sportscaster and longtime voice of the Cincinnati Reds, will be a guest speaker Saturday.
The National Athletic Trainers Association brunch and seminar will be held Sunday, with the seminar featuring athletic trainers Chuck Kimmel of Appalachian State University and Erik Swartz of the University of New Hampshire.
The National Athletic Trainers Association also will recognize Bill Battle of Missouri as its national winner for reporting on the athletic training end of sports.
Home receptions and the dinner-dance follow on Sunday.
On Monday, guests and their hosts can compete in a golf tournament at the Country Club of Salisbury or a tennis tournament at Catawba College. A luncheon also is being held at the College’s Center for the Environment.
Monday night’s banquet is expected to include Hall of Fame sportscaster Jim Simpson and sportswriter Dave Kindred.