Iowa History Daily: On May 23, 2013, legendary Iowa radio broadcaster Jim Zabel passed away. An iconic presence on the airwaves across Iowa, Zabel called over 6,000 sporting events during a career highlighted by serving as the voice of Iowa Hawkeye football and men’s basketball.
Born on September 5, 1921, in Davenport, Iowa, Zabel grew up in Scott County and graduated from Davenport (Central) High School in 1939. A track standout for the Blue Devils, Zabel once ran in an exhibition against the world-famous sprinter Jesse Owens. The experiences gained on the track helped inform decades of detailed analysis while Zabel served as the voice of the Drake Relays.
A Hawkeye through and through, Zabel spent the next four years in Iowa City. Zabel served as editor of ‘The Daily Iowan’ while working toward a degree in journalism. Hired by WHO as sports director following his graduation in 1944, a legendary career started to take shape. Zabel eventually worked for radio station WHO-AM and WHO-TV where he hosted both sports and general interest content.
Long-running television programs including “Beat the Bear” and “Let’s Go Bowling” paired with Zabel’s notable play-by-play acumen over a decades-long career. Although catchphrase calls like “I love it, I love it, I love,” “Hug and kiss those radios, folks,” and “Man-oh-man-oh-man,” still resound with Hawkeye fans who remember the 49-year run of consecutive games called, Zabel’s legacy extended well beyond sports.
Zabel’s voice continues to resound in the minds of many Iowans, and the lives he impacted with his carefree demeanor continue to remember him fondly. "If you want to know what to put on my tombstone," Zabel said in 1994, "just three words: I HAD FUN." #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar #IowaOTD