NBC Sports in Action
First episode: January 12, 1963
Bill's first episode: January 9, 1966
Last episode: June 5, 1966
Bill's version seen Sunday afternoons
OK, how many of you game show fans knew about this one?
Bill and veteran sportscaster Jim Simpson were co-hosts of the 1966 season of NBC's attempt to duplicate the success of ABC's Wide World of Sports. Like that program, Sports in Action showcased competitions in sports that were seldom broadcast on television.
The series was frequently pre-empted in favor of live sports action, twice by golf tournaments and four weeks of Stanley Cup playoff action. Also pre-empting the series was a special four-episode series of made-for-TV matches between Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player called Big Three Golf, hosted by Jim Simpson alone. In addition, many listings (denoted by an asterisk below) identify Simpson but not Bill as the host for a particular episode. Remember that at the time, Bill had just started hosting Eye Guess, and was still involved with I've Got A Secret and the Emphasis segments for NBC radio, so his travel time was probably limited. Bill may have actually appeared as co-host in as few as a half dozen episodes.
Although Bill officially became co-host on January 9, 1966, he appeared as a special guest on the December 25, 1965 episode (the National Model Airplane Championships) to promote his new role on the series.
In an interview later in the year, Bill bluntly remarked, "The money wasn't too good and it was a lot of work. But at least I got to cover a few track meets and prove, at least to myself, that I can still describe events well."
In the same profile, Bill says that his main motivation for doing the show was to "re-establish" himself. The biggest hit of his career, The Price is Right, had ended four months earlier, and Bill reasoned it might be a good idea to establish himself as something other than a game show host to give him more chances at finding new work.
The 1966 season premiere had Simpson covering the spearfishing championships off Tahiti, while Bill teamed up with John Travieso to cover the world drag racing championship finals from Tulsa, Oklahoma. The latter played into a childhood interest Bill had with automobiles and racing. The show concluded with a montage of drag racing highlights set to a rock music soundtrack, a fairly new concept for sports coverage at the time.
Despite some online references to the contrary, Bill and Jim did NOT provide commentary for the Stanley Cup broadcasts. According to vintage newspaper accounts, sportscasters Win Elliot and Bill Mazer covered the live action for those games. Bill did cover hockey on the radio back in Pittsburgh in the 1940s. Bill later said that NBC asked him to be on the commentary for the Stanley Cup games, but he declined because they wanted him to leave the table throughout the game to conduct interviews in the locker room or at the ice, and with his bad leg, Bill felt it would be too much work for him.
None that we know of, but who knows what NBC Sports has in its archives?