When a celebration of the life of Charlie Jones was held last week at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, none of the men wore ties - that was how Jones wanted it, as specified in his will, a longtime friend said.
The casual nature of the reception, held June 18 at the club Jones had long been a member of, fit perfectly with Jones’ personality. Friends said he was an approachable man who knew how to have fun, enjoyed life to the fullest and left an impression on everyone he met.
Jones, the longtime sports broadcaster whose deep voice was most recognizable from his many years calling professional football for NBC, died of a heart attack June 12 in his La Jolla home. He was 77.
A few days later, family, friends and former colleagues - many of them famous names from the sports and broadcasting worlds - showed up at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club to honor him.
“He just loved life,” longtime friend and colleague Kim Doren said. “Unfortunately, in the end, his body just couldn’t keep up with his spirit, because his spirit was that of a 13-year-old boy.
“He was on the air exactly who he was in person - the jovial, upbeat guy you saw on air was the same guy you saw in person.”
Jones and Doren, a lifelong La Jolla resident, collaborated on seven books including “What Makes Winners Win,” a New York Times business bestseller.
Doren’s family was close with Jones‚, but she didn’t know him closely until she starting crossing paths with him regularly when she worked for Cobra golf in the 1990s. When she left the company in 1996, a year before Jones’ retirement from full-time broadcasting, she began to work with him on other projects.
“The great thing about Charlie was that it wasn’t just broadcasting,” Doren said. “He’s known for broadcasting, and he’s super-proud of his accomplishments, but he loved creating. He just constantly had projects going. He wrote screenplays, he wrote lyrics for songs, he painted, he had TV show concept ideas - he constantly had to be working on something.”
Jones’ career in sports broadcasting spanned 45 years. He worked for ABC from 1960-65, covering the American Football League, and then moved on to NBC, where he worked until his retirement in 1997. Jones covered the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul for NBC, and also the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and during his extensive career, he broadcasted the action from nearly every sport imaginable.
He was honored in 1997 with the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award, and he won an Emmy in 1973 for his work on the TV program “Is Winning the Name of the Game?”
In an Associated Press report, Dick Ebersol, the chairman of NBC Sports, called Jones “one of the great pioneers of NBC Sports - his work, in particular on the NFL, golf and the Olympics, left a lasting legacy.”
Jones clearly left an impression on sports fans across the country. On a Web site visited regularly by sports journalists, one admirer and colleague wrote this: “I think the last thing I heard him announce was one of those double-headers ABC would do with the Mountain West Conference getting the nightcap. It was Utah, or maybe UNLV at Wyoming, with snow everywhere. I could have cared less about the game, but I watched it just to hear Jones announce it. Can’t say there are many left like that.”
In his later years, when his health began to fail him and the best therapy was time spent in front of the computer, Jones even started a blog CharlieJonesOnSports.BlogSpot.com - which Doren plans to keep active after his death.
Jones spent many years in La Jolla. Because of his busy broadcast schedule, he was always on the road on the weekends, so he would spend much of his off time during the week attending his children’s sporting events, Doren said.
Bill Kellogg, who runs the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club and whose family opened the club back in 1927, said Jones was a fixture at the club - when he wasn’t busy broadcasting, of course.
“He played with a group of guys that loved to play tennis and tell stories,” Kellogg said. “He’s been a club member for many, many years, probably dating back to the 1950s.”
Kellogg summed up perfectly the life of a man whose career was communicating and who never seemed any different when the cameras and microphones were off.
“He was always such a positive guy - he’d always have a sparkle in his eye,” Kellogg said. “Whenever you’d meet him, he’d always have a story about something fantastic going on, and he was always working on something new. He was always so good with people.”