WASHINGTON - George Michael, 70, a hyperanimated Washington TV sportscaster and celebrated former Philadelphia radio DJ whose use of game highlights on his syndicated sports show became a model for networks such as ESPN, died yesterday.
Mr. Michael died from complications of chronic lymphocytic leukemia, his daughter, Michelle Allen, said.
Mr. Michael became the dean of Washington sportscasters during a 28-year career at WRC-TV in Washington, where he launched his syndicated The George Michael Sports Machine.
He won more than 40 Emmy awards, and he helped jump-start the TV careers of several national sports personalities, including former Inquirer columnist David Aldridge, Bonnie Bernstein, Tony Kornheiser, Joe Theismann, and Michael Wilbon.
In Philadelphia, Mr. Michael ruled the airwaves from 1966 to 1974 as one of the original Boss Jocks at "Famous 56" WFIL (560 AM), where he was a rock DJ and music director.
"He was the most singularly energetic radio broadcaster I have met," said broadcaster Larry Kane, who worked with Mr. Michael in 1963 at WIL-FM in St. Louis, and again when Kane joined WFIL in 1966 as a news anchor.
"His delight in his job and his love for both rock and roll and sports was infectious," Kane said. At WFIL, he said, Mr. Michael successfully melded his twin loves: "In between songs, he'd talk about local sports."
Kane said Mr. Michael, who last year was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia's Hall of Fame, picked up the moniker "King George" because of his vast knowledge of Philly's high school sports scene.
It was also at WFIL that Mr. Michael met his wife, Broomall native and Emmy-winning sportswriter Pat Lackman. They were married in 1974, the year they left Philadelphia for New York, where Mr. Michael transitioned into television.
Mr. Michael worked at WRC from 1980 to 2008, leaving abruptly after the station sought to cut the budget of the programs he hosted.
One of the most recognizable figures on Washington television, Mr. Michael also created and produced such ratings winners as Redskins Report and Full Court Press.
Starting in 1984, Mr. Michael oversaw a trendsetting show that made liberal use of action highlights from games.
Sports Machine, as it was eventually called, was syndicated to 200 stations at its peak, and was credited with inspiring ESPN's SportsCenter and CNN's Sports Late Night.
Born in St. Louis, Mr. Michael played soccer in high school and graduated from St. Louis University with a degree in philosophy, political theory, and speech. He entered radio and worked for stations in the Midwest.
Services are being planned for next month.