Vince Bagli was The Dean of Baltimore Sports - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Vince Bagli was The Dean of Baltimore Sports

Photo Credit: Brett Hollander

When I came to Baltimore in 1980, Vince Bagli was in the middle of his 31-year run as weekday sports anchor at WBAL-TV. At first, I didn’t know what to make of him.

I’d come from New York where the local sports anchors were huge figures locally and nationally — Marv Albert, Jim Bouton, Howard Cosell, Don Criqui, Frank Gifford, Dick Schaap and Warner Wolf.

Bagli didn’t fit that mold, but I quickly learned that he fit a more important mold. He knew his subject and audience.

Bagli died on Tuesday night at 93, and it wasn’t surprising that his death was accompanied by sadness from big names in sports, and the smaller ones, his fans.

He liked to tell the story of covering a football game at Navy early in his career. There was another young man working at that game, and the two shared a ride back to Baltimore.

Vin Scully, who’ll be 93 next month, was on his way to becoming the most well known baseball broadcaster of all time. Bagli would become the most well known Baltimore sports broadcaster of all time.

He was hardly the smoothest. A former executive at WBAL, now deceased, once told me that Bagli had frustrated him. In his mind, Bagli should have read off the teleprompter and tried to be a little more polished.

That could have helped him advance in his career, maybe gotten him to New York. But that wasn’t Bagli. He went off-script and did things his way, and viewers loved him for it.

Bagli was a longtime sidekick to famed broadcaster Chuck Thompson on Baltimore Colts broadcasts. Even though Bagli was in the analyst’s chair, there wasn’t a lot of analysis, but there was joy, and listeners appreciated the pair’s work.

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Fans also identified with Bagli’s sadness and anger when the Colts abruptly left Baltimore for Indianapolis in 1984. They knew he was one of them.

What I quickly learned about Baltimore is that people in the media often stay here. Not only did Bagli work for more than three decades at WBAL, but others who reported Baltimore sports on television — Bruce Cunningham, Tom Davis, Scott Garceau, Pete Gilbert, Gerry Sandusky and Mark Viviano — have stayed here, seemingly forever.

Local news isn’t as prominent as it was during Bagli’s prime. Viewers don’t have to wait for the 11 p.m. news to see the highlights and, sadly, there aren’t nearly the number of events there were here in the 1960s when Bagli began at WBAL.

Back then, there were the Orioles, Colts, the NBA’s Bullets, the American Hockey League’s Clippers, daily horse racing and regular boxing matches in addition to college and high school sports.

These days, it’s the Orioles and Ravens, the Preakness and college and high school sports.

Bagli knew people in all sports, and everyone liked him because he was genuinely a nice man who cared about people.

Fans who ran into him would invariably talk about how he engaged them. Those he mentored would be told to be yourself because that’s what Bagli was.

He left Channel 11 in 1995 and was succeeded by Sandusky, but for decades he came to Orioles and Ravens games because he enjoyed the camaraderie, and people enjoyed that he was there.

Bagli didn’t change with the times. He still read newspapers and ignored the internet.

For many years, I contributed to Orioles coverage for The Carroll County Times, and Bagli, who lived in Finksburg, would read that paper faithfully.

In 2011, I began covering the Orioles for Comcast’s Baltimore website, but in Bagli’s mind, I worked for The Times. In 2014, The Sun bought The Carroll County Times, and I was no longer contributing to their coverage.

Bagli sought me out at Oriole Park one day, worried about me because he no longer saw my byline. I had to assure him that I had a regular job and was just fine.

Watching a colleague attempting to show Bagli an app on his smartphone was amusing. It was like trying to explain nuclear physics to a 3-year-old.

But that was Vince, and that’s what viewers loved about him.

Bagli kept coming to games for years even as he neared 90, and everyone would remark that he was spry, engaged and fun to be around.

We didn’t see him for the last few years because he had stopped driving and wouldn’t ask anyone who lived nearby to drive him to games.

Bagli wouldn’t fit in today’s sports environment. Analytics in baseball and football would frustrate him, and he’d wave his arms in disgust, I’m sure.

He was a man for his time, and that time was a very long time.


Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. BR5CR8

    October 8, 2020 at 12:08 pm

    Rich, What a nice tribute and remembrance to our friend and The Dean of Baltimore Sports.

    I was one of Vince Bagli’s Sports Producers from 1979 to 1989 at WBAL-TV and have many fond memories and countless stories to attest to how much Vince Bagli was loved and why he was the perfect man for his time to tell the sports fans and people of Baltimore, Md how much he loved and sincerely cared about them because Vince loved Baltimore and Maryland.

    We will not see another quite like him as the times have changed and like the winds and sands of time those of us who lived experienced and cherish those days before the digital 24hour internet social media that has dominated our world and is hard to escape from when newspapers and the local news was how we got our information seems such a long time ago but was a time it seems that was so much more saner and we could separate and have time to think,digest and separate the events and memorable moments that now just run together like a nonstop news ticker crawl on the bottom of your television screen.
    I will never forget Vince my friend and colleague who was like a second father or favorite uncle. All I have to do is think back,close my eyes and remember him and how things use to be a time we long for again and hopefully someday will be able to relive.
    Thanks for the memories Vince it was our pleasure to share it with you.

    Eternal rest and Peace and may God Bless you and comfort your family and friends.
    Tim Meyer WBAL-TV Sports Producer 1979-1989

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 8, 2020 at 1:10 pm

      Thank you, Tim. Those are wonderful memories.

  2. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    October 8, 2020 at 12:56 pm

    Excellent tribute to one of the best sportscasters that Baltimore ever had a true sports legend. Watching him over many years covering the Orioles and the Colts was a great experience. Years ago during one of the ALCS series NBC’s announcers reported a few historical errors. I called WBAL to let them know. They transferred my call to the sports department. Vince answered the call and I talked to him for several minutes. It was a true pleasure talking. He seemed like such a nice man as the many tributes have noted. He will be missed.

  3. dlgruber1

    October 8, 2020 at 8:34 pm

    As much of an O’s fan as I am, I gotta say I was much more of a Colts fan. I was glued to the radio listening Vince and Chuck doing the Colts games. My grandfather bought season tickets to Colts games when they arrived in Baltimore and I began going to games in 1971 and only missed one game before Irsay ran off to Indianapolis. It was nothing to see fans at a sold out Memorial Stadium with 60,213 fans going crazy straining to listen to them on the radio while watching the game live. God I miss those days. I never regained interest in the NFL after 1983. RIP Vince and thanks for SO many wonderful memories. Thanks for the article Rich. I could hear the Colts Marching Band playing as I read it.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 8, 2020 at 9:06 pm

      You’re welcome, David.

  4. paulw

    October 9, 2020 at 4:54 pm

    My father, who passed away 7 years ago, used to take Vince to high school and college basketball games and always had a story about their conversations. When Vince came to the viewing, it was one of the few things that gave my mother something to cheer her up.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 9, 2020 at 9:13 pm

      Thank you for sharing that, paul.

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