Remembering... 1979 and the birth of ESPN

Sep 15, 2015 3:00 AM

It was a short story, maybe 150 words on page 8 of Sports Form on this date in 1979. Hard to believe that was all ESPN was.

The nation’s sports information leader was born as a 24-hour network to four million subscribers. Known as the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, it started as the full 24 on weekends, but just 10 to 12 hours during the week.

It began with tapes of four college football games – Oregon-Colorado, South Carolina-North Carolina, Villanova-Maryland and Grambling-Morgan State. Of those eight the most successful football program was Grambling under the legendary Eddie Robinson. A lot has happened since then.

In boxing, Mike Rossman was making a comeback at, would you believe, 23! A half year into his reign as champ Rossman came to Vegas to defend his WBA light-heavyweight title against Victor Galindez. The bout never came off.

Galindez walked out at fight time, saying he didn’t like the officials. Rossman eventually fought Galindez a month later, broke his hand and had the fight stopped in the 10th round. Rossman’s comeback fight was against Ramon Ranquello at Giants Stadium in the Jersey Meadowlands.

The entertainment world on the Strip featured Sammy Davis, Jr. at Caesars Palace, Steve Martin at the Riviera and Gabe Kaplan at the Aladdin. Kaplan was headlining as Gabriel with the undercard Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. formerly of the Fifth Dimension.

Mr. Las Vegas, Wayne Newton was performing at the Sands. Sports Form wrote, “the spontaneity of each Newton show is the plus ingredient which wins him at least three or four standing ovations during the evening.”

And finally, our longtime favorite Dawg, Dennis Ball, dug up some bones on well-known bookie Bob Dark, the manager of the Fremont race and sportsbook.

Dark was the first manager at the Union Plaza book and a decade earlier operated the horse room at Del Mar in North Las Vegas.

We don’t have Dark, or the Del Mar but Denny is still going strong. Check out his picks on page 12.

Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Twitter: @MarkMayerGT Email: [email protected]