Fred Hickman, the pioneering sports broadcaster and broadcaster who helped launch two major cable networks and influenced and reported on a generation of sports journalists and fans, has passed away.
Hickman, who turned 66 on October 16, died peacefully in hospital after suffering from liver cancer, according to his widow Sheila.
“The light went out,” Sheila Hickman told CNN.
Hickman was one of the first announcers on CNN. On June 1, 1980, the network’s first day on the air, he and Nick Charles were the first hosts of “Sports Tonight,” the 11 p.m. ET sports news and highlights program that competed with the network’s “SportsCenter.” ESPN, which often wins the time slot.
He stayed with CNN and Turner Sports for most of the next 21 years,
“Fred really succeeded in everything he did and was loved by his colleagues both on camera and backstage,” said Corey Charles, Nick Charles’ widow. Charles Passed away in 2011.
“Fred and my late husband were known as Nick & Hick. I have so many memories over the past 30 years, not just as Nick’s partner, but as a dear friend and brother,” she said. “The two were not only great on air, but hysterical off-camera together. .”
In 2001, Hickman moved to YES, the regional sports network that broadcasts Yankees games and Brooklyn Nets, among other programming. He was the first announcer to appear on the network’s initial broadcast on March 19, 2002, and the network’s primary broadcaster for the network’s first three years.
YES announcer Michael Kay said in a statement that was included in Network Honor him wednesday. “The complete professional I felt comfortable knowing will lead you to the right path on air. He was the first voice heard on YES and his professionalism put us all on the right track.”
After his time at YES, he moved to ESPN in 2004, and served as host for “SportsCenter” among other shows there until 2008. He then moved to Fox, where he worked as a pre- and post-game host for Atlanta Braves broadcasts on Fox Sports South and Sport South, until 2011.
Recently, he worked as an anchor and managing editor at Black News Channel.
He was praised by many of his former colleagues and fans when news of his death broke on Wednesday.
“I was the only anchor on CNN Sports, and Fred was a welcoming presence…always with a laugh, sarcasm and story…and so talented,” ESPN’s Hannah Storm chirp Wednesday.
“I had the privilege of working with him and Nick on CNN Sports. A huge talent with a big heart,” chirp Dan Hicks of NBC Sports.
“If I was close to my age, he was one of the faces in your crazy esports youth on CNN. He was a real OG in the field,” chirp Pittsburgh Radio Sports host Colin Dunlap, who called Hickman and some of his colleagues at the time “our internet before the internet.”
“No matter if you were a high-profile CEO or production assistant on your first day, Fred made you feel special as soon as he met you. He was an amazing guy around the corner — someone who lit up every room he entered,” said YES announcer Bob Lorenz in his YES tribute.
“As a professional, Fred was noteworthy for his studio acumen, presence that gave instant credibility to emerging New York, dedication to his craft and excellence under pressure,” said John Filippelli, Head of Production and Programming at YES.
Hickman began his broadcasting career on radio, first in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, while he was in college, and then at a station in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois.
He soon became an anchor, director, and reporter for WICS-TV, also in Springfield. He worked there after two years of college before transferring to CNN.
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