Jim Irwin, a radio voice of the Green Bay Packers for 30 years, died on Sunday at the age of 77.
Multiple media outlets have reported that Irwin died of complications from kidney cancer.
Irwin, pictured at left above, originally joined the Packers radio broadcasts for color commentary in 1969, working alongside Ted Moore and Gary Bender. Then in 1975, Irwin took over play-by-play duties until retiring after the 1998 season. Irwin's color commentators included Lionel Aldridge, Max McGee (above right in photo) and Larry McCarren (center of photo).
“As a broadcaster, I thought he had the unique ability and talent to turn up the intensity, and that just didn’t mean turning up the volume,” McCarren said. “Sometimes, people just holler louder when something big is going on. Jim turned up the intensity. I could hear his big calls spooling up, and it was great stuff.
“To do that without just yelling and screaming, I always admired that, and certainly the listeners did too.”
Irwin and McGee, who died in 2007, worked side by side for 20 years. McCarren, who remains on Packers radio broadcasts today, joined the duo for their final four seasons together from 1995-98.
“I thought Jim and Max got to the point that all of us that do this kind of work would like to get to, and that’s becoming part of the fabric of the game,” McCarren said.
“If anybody wants to identify success in that particular arena, to me it’s that. ‘It’s not a game without Jim and Max.’ They became part of the fabric of the game, as much a part of the game as the coin toss, the kickoff, all that stuff. That’s where Jim and Max were.”
Former Packers president and CEO Bob Harlan also remembered the Irwin-McGee tandem fondly.
"He and Max gave us a real warm broadcast team," Harlan said. "Max had his folksy ways, and Jim truly loved the Green Bay Packers.
"He had to broadcast through some tough times. The '70s and '80s were not very good to the Green Bay Packers. In that 20-year period, we had four winning seasons and two playoff appearances. It wasn't always easy to make us sound exciting, and he did."
In two of Irwin's last three seasons, the Packers went to the Super Bowl, winning the title following the 1996 season. As the Super Bowl XXXI victory over the New England Patriots concluded, Irwin famously said, “The Lombardi Trophy is coming home.”
“I remember the pure joy he had at the NFC Championship Game at Lambeau against Carolina when he could say the Packers are going back to the Super Bowl,” McCarren said. “He was so genuinely happy. That wasn’t just a call. Jim Irwin felt that to the core.”
During his distinguished career, Irwin also worked as a play-by-play announcer for Wisconsin Badgers football and Milwaukee Bucks basketball. He originally came to Green Bay in 1964 as sports director at WLUK-TV.
"He would have weekends where he would do a Badgers football game on Saturday afternoon, be in Milwaukee that night to do a Bucks preseason game, and be back in Green Bay on Sunday to do a Packers game, and he had the same enthusiasm for all three broadcasts," Harlan said. "He was a great, very durable broadcaster."
Irwin was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 2003. He was named the Wisconsin Sportscaster of the Year 10 times and is a member of the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame.