ESPN analyst Hank Goldberg died on his birthday Monday at his Las Vegas home. He was 82. Goldberg's sister, Liz Goldberg, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that her brother's cause of death was complications from a battle with chronic kidney disease.
Goldberg was a major figure in sports talk radio in Miami, starting in the 1970s. He earned the nicknames "The Hammer" and "Hammerin' Hank" because he slammed a gavel whenever he disagreed with callers and co-hosts. He was also the Miami Dolphins' radio color analyst from 1978 to 1992. The NFL Today contributor Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder was Goldberg's handicapping mentor and even hired Goldberg to ghostwrite his syndicated newspaper column.
In 1993, Goldberg joined the ESPN team at the launch of ESPN2. He appeared on ESPN's NFL Countdown, where he made NFL predictions. He also used his expertise in horse racing to analyze Triple Crown races for SportsCenter. During the height of his popularity at ESPN, he was celebrated at Caesars Palace like a major star, Red Rock Resort sports book director Chuck Esposito, the former Caesars sportsbook assistant vice president, told the Review-Journal.
"Hank used to come out for every Super Bowl and started doing his Super Bowl segment (for ESPN) live from the sportsbook at Caesars Palace," Esposito recalled. "We had the centurion guards carry him in on a big chair like Caesar would be carried in on, and they put him down in the book. We had Cleopatra girls fanning him with the big palms and feeding him grapes, and I said, 'Hammer, what's your Super Bowl pick?' That's how big he was when it came to his handicapping and prognostication and hearing what he had to say when he broke down a big game or horse race."
Goldberg also contributed to ESPN's Daily Wager, CBS Sports HQ, and SportsLine.com. He made his final appearance on the network in May when he called in for a phone interview from the Kentucky Derby. Chris Berman told ESPN Goldberg was "a bigger part of ESPN's soul than anyone will ever know."
"I can assure you, he was no phony," retired Las Vegas bookmaker Art Manteris told ESPN of Goldberg's handicapping talent. "The Hammer always put his money where his mouth was, and that immediately earned him a high level of respect with me. As a longtime Las Vegas bookmaker, there were few opinions I valued more than Hank's on the NFL."
Goldberg, who grew up in New Jersey, moved to Las Vegas in 2018. He is survived by his sister Liz, a TV executive. "He loved all of his careers, but he was happiest with a microphone in front of him," Liz told the Review-Journal. "Nothing made him happier than that microphone."