Jim Zabel | Gannett News Service
Updated: June 27, 2013 7:14AM
DES MOINES, Iowa — Jim Zabel, a legendary broadcaster who was the colorful voice of University of Iowa sports for more than a half-century, has died. He was 91.
Mr. Zabel died Thursday at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., his wife Jill said.
“He loved everybody, and his world was Iowa and the Iowa Hawkeyes,” she told the Des Moines Register.
The popular radio personality covered more than 6,100 sporting events, including six Rose Bowls and 26 NCAA basketball tournaments. His career spanned nearly seven decades at WHO radio in Des Moines and included a 49-year streak of broadcasting every Iowa football game.
Mr. Zabel was known for his colorful play-by-play descriptions, yelling “I love it! I love it! I love it!” during climactic moments in Hawkeye football and basketball games.
“Hug and kiss those radios, folks,” he would ask fans during tense games. “Man-oh-man-oh-man,” he added after critical fumbles or missed foul shots.
Mr. Zabel was also the sports anchor at WHO-TV for many years, hosting dozens of sports shows. Mr. Zabel was also a fixture at the Iowa State Fair and high school basketball games.
His trademarks were enthusiasm and unapologetic homerism, and he was teased for on-air flubs.
“It’s an Iowa touchdown! No, wait — interception!” he once shouted to bewildered listeners. But he said he was more often precise, and critiqued himself by listening to old broadcasts.
Mr. Zabel correctly called the Nov. 14, 1987, play when Iowa quarterback Chuck Hartlieb connected with tight end Marv Cook for the winning touchdown against Ohio State, helping them earn a berth in the Holiday Bowl.
“Here’s Hartlieb going out .. He looks, he throws . It izzzzz .. COMPLETE! AND.IT’S.AN IOWA TOUCHDOWN! IT’S AN IOWA TOUCHDOWN! IT’S AN IOWA TOUCHDOWN! MARV COOK! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT.ED PODOLAK IS HUGGING AND KISSING ME!” Zabel yelled.
Mr. Zabel, who was inducted into the Iowa Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame in 1994, was proud of his busy schedule.
“If you want to know what to put on my tombstone,” Mr. Zabel said in 1994, “just three words: I HAD FUN.”