NorCal Staff | May 1, 2017
The year was 1986, the match was John McEnroe against Jimmy Connors played at the Cow Palace. The effect, Ted Robinson was hooked on tennis.
Ted, born in Queens and raised in Rockville Centre, New York, first came to California in 1980 to work with the Oakland A’s. In 1982, he began working with KCBS Radio in San Francisco. His current moniker, “The Voice of the 49ers,” comes from his role as the radio play-by-play announcer for the iconic San Francisco team which began in 2009.
In 1986, a couple of producers at USA Network asked Ted to tryout as a tennis announcer. That’s how he came back to cover the event at the Cow Palace. But, Ted said, it was that McEnroe-Connors match that injected him with the tennis bug. “The match was great,” he said. “It was the first match I ever called and the next year, 1987, was the first opportunity I had to call the U. ADVERTISEMENT S. Open.” Ted covered that tournament for 22 years on the USA Network, until 2008. As Ted describes it, it was an extraordinary opportunity and “the best sports television that I was involved in. We were able to capture the flavor of the event, New York and the spirit of NY.”
Since USA Network covered through the quarter finals, he never got the chance to call the finals. “But I had a chance to call several French and Wimbledon finals,” he said. “The U.S. Open is still the event I’m identified with when folks call out to ‘tennis guy, we love watching you.’ It was appointment television.”
While covering tennis, he continued covering the four major Bay Area sports teams. He served as the play-by-play voice for the Golden State Warriors from 1983-1985; he covered Oakland A’s on television from 1985 to 1987. From 1993 to 2001, he was covering the San Francisco Giants on both radio and TV. In 2009, he began his current stint as the Voice of the 49ers. He’s announced for Stanford Football for 13 years and for Cal Basketball for four years. Ted covered 10 Olympics Games, which started in 1998. He noted his only tennis coverage was the Gold Medal match between Andy Murray and Roger Federer at the 2012 London Games.
“I’ve covered a range of sports,” he said. “Of course, I’ve been in Major League baseball for 23 years, but I called the Equestrian Championships, World Championships in Swimming and Diving—a lot during the Olympics—I covered the World Nordic Skiing Championships, Sky Jumping and White Water Kayaking. I’ve had a wide world of sports experience.”
Tennis continues to be a focus for Ted. In 2000, he joined NBC as a tennis play-by-play announcer. He called Wimbledon Championships from 2000 to 2011. He covered the French Open from 2000 to present. He also began working with the Tennis Channel, since 2006, to cover a wide range of events from the French Open to the Davis Cup, Indian Wells and others. He’s covered tennis matches for the Pac-12 Network since 2012.
Ted connected with the USTA NorCal through its events, like the Hall of Fame Luncheon, in the early 2000s. After working with Dick and Anne Gould, he was drawn to the organization because of its support for the volunteers. “The most rewarding part of the association with USTA NorCal is to learn about the work of the volunteers and to see these people that make tennis happen be honored.” He noted that hegets to watch the professionals play, but “we understand how important it is at every level.”
The two-time Emmy Award winner was inducted into the Bay Area Radio Hall of Fame in 2012. In 2014, he joined the Board of East Palo Alto Tennis & Tutoring (EPATT). “Tennis and my appreciation for the sport has grown on me,” Ted said. “That request ‘way back when’ to cover the McEnroe-Connors match kicked off an unexpected 30 years of fascination.”
Tennis continued to grow on Ted over the years. He wasn’t around the sport growing up, but covering the sport, learning about it from his colleagues and learning to play has been enlightening. “That said, I’m really humbled by all the volunteers that I meet at the USTA NorCal events. These people are what make tennis work at all levels. It’s most rewarding to be able to be recognized among them.”