Lou Palmer, ESPN’s original ‘SportsCenter’ anchor, dies at 84

Lou Palmer, one of ESPN's first hires and the original "SportsCenter" anchor, died on Friday after a battle with lung cancer. He was 84. (AMA/Corbis/Getty Images)

Lou Palmer, ESPN’s original “SportsCenter” anchor, died on Friday after a battle with lung cancer, the network reported on Sunday. He was 84.

Palmer was hired by ESPN in 1978, and broadcasted their first ever live event that October — a “demonstration feed” of a basketball game between Connecticut and Athletes in Action for cable executives, per the report. He also called a slow-pitch softball game in Wisconsin once the network officially launched the next year, which marked the first official live event for ESPN.

He was the original “SportsCenter” anchor and reporter at ESPN, too, and stayed there until 1985. The Seton Hall graduate and former minor league shortstop joined WFAN in New York after his time at ESPN, helping to launch the first 24-hour sports radio station there.

“Lou Palmer was the first on-air commentator hired by ESPN in 1978,” ESPN said in a statement. “He brought a professionalism to the network that helped establish a rock-solid foundation for ‘SportsCenter’ and our baseball coverage. ESPN extends its sympathy to Lou’s family and the many people he touched during his accomplished career.”

Both Chris Berman and Bob Ley joined ESPN around the time that Palmer did, and had nothing but positive things to say about their former co-worker. Palmer, Ley said, was “a true ESPN original” who “brought much-needed experience at the very beginning” of ESPN’s existence.

“[He] was a wonderful radio and television professional, and an even finer gentleman,” Berman said, via ESPN. “He was one of the few employees here at ESPN before we went on the air. His love for baseball jumped through the screen and became an early hallmark of ‘SportsCenter.’ Those of us who were young anchors — Bob Ley, Tom Mees and I — will be forever indebted to Lou for his guidance by example.”

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