Jim Jackson is a rarity — an accomplished broadcaster who is equally comfortable in two vastly different sports, hockey and baseball.
Jackson, the Flyers’ long-time play-by-play voice who doubles as a Phillies broadcaster, will be honored as the winner of the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association’s Bill Campbell Award as part of its 115th annual banquet Jan. 21 at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill.
Among other honorees: Phillies righthander Aaron Nola, a Cy Young Award finalist who is the PSWA’s pro athlete of the year; former Eagles receiver Mike Quick, the Living Legend winner; Villanova product Jalen Brunson, who is now with the Dallas Mavericks, as the amateur athlete of the year; the Eagles (pro team of the year) and Villanova’s men’s basketball team (college team of the year); Tampa Bay second baseman Joey Wendle (Avon Grove High and West Chester University) as the Native Son winner; and Ray Didinger, the Stan Hochman Award for writing excellence.
Special achievement awards will be given to Brian Propp (Flyers), Frank Coppenbarger, the Phillies' former long-time director of travel and clubhouse services, Paul Palmer (Temple football), and the Eastern High field hockey team.
The dais will include Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, and comic Joe Conklin will deliver his unique view of the Philly sports scene.
Other award winners will be announced, and the PSWA’s signature award, the Most Courageous Athlete, will be revealed at the dinner.
Tickets are available at www.phillysportswriters.com.
Campbell, whose remarkable career touched parts of nine decades, was a broadcaster for the Eagles, Phillies, and Warriors/76ers, and was a sports talk-show host.
Jackson, a 1985 Syracuse graduate, said Campbell broadcast games before he moved to the area,
“But he was always at the ballpark, always around sports, so I got to meet him,” Jackson said. “We did a roundtable for Comcast SportsNet [now known as NBC Sports Philadelphia]. It was Harry (Kalas), Bill, and I think (76ers broadcaster) Tom McGinnis around 2004. I felt completely out of place. Tom McGinnis and I both said, ‘We’ve got Harry Kalas and Bill Campbell here. We don’t fit in!’ I have the tape and I treasure it.”
To be given an award that has Campbell’s name attached to it “is a huge, huge honor because I don’t think I’m overstating it to say he was one of the best in the business of all-time,” Jackson said.
Added Jackson: “To me, Bill means versatility. He did three sports, and I know we were trying to get him to do a hockey game. I was looking forward to that because it would have been great, but I’m not sure why it didn’t happen. He did three sports, and did them all well, and got to cover some great events, obviously — Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game, and the Eagles championship in 1960. He was that announcer from that era. They just called the game, got the excitement level up. So when I came down here, I learned quickly about his career and it was great to talk with him. We’d talk about the business a lot, and just to talk about Wilt and Chuck Bednarik and some of the names he had called was always such a thrill.”
Jackson has done Flyers games for 25 seasons and Phillies broadcasts for 12 years.
As for broadcasting both sports, Jackson said, “hockey is tougher in the sense that physically, I have to be on it, I have to be up with the play and talk faster. But _ and I say this a lot _ it’s almost like playing the sports. When you play hockey, you can’t really be thinking on the ice; it’s got to be muscle memory, basically. So you better have it done in your head, where you’re supposed to be, where you’re supposed to get to. That’s kind of the way calling the game is. You’re just calling what you see, so you better just go with what’s in your mind already because if you start thinking about what you’re going to say, the game will get right by you.”
Doing baseball “is the exact opposite. You have to almost think about what is going to happen next, and as a player you do that, too. As a broadcaster, there’s so much going on. People say there’s not a lot going on, but there really is. Every pitch there’s something going on. I find baseball to sometimes be a challenge because you have to think so much, where hockey is all instinctual.”
This is the fourth year the Campbell Award has been presented. Previous winners were Eagles announcer Merrill Reese, 76ers broadcaster Marc Zumoff, and the Phillies broadcasting team of Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen.