Television director and producer Tony Verna, who revolutionized live sports coverage with the invention of instant replay more than 50 years ago, has died. His daughter Tracy Soiseth tells The Associated Press her father died Sunday at his Palm Desert home from acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He was 81.
Verna produced and/or directed more than two dozen television events during his career, beginning in 1955 with Baseball Game Of The Week With Dizzy Dean. He directed four Olympics and five Super Bowls but is best known for the invention of instant replay in live sports. It was first used during the broadcast of the Army/Navy football game he directed for CBS Sports on December 7, 1963. During the game, announcer Lindsey Nelson warned viewers that the video they were watching was not a second touchdown scored by Army quarterback Rollie Stichweh. “Not many things you can do in life where you can change the way things were happening before,” Verna told the AP in 2008.
In recognition of his directorial accomplishments and contributions to the genre, the DGA honored Verna with the Lifetime Achievement Award in Sports Direction in 1995. “By any measure, a career spent directing major sporting events like the Super Bowl and the Kentucky Derby would be accomplishment enough,” DGA President Paris Barclay said in a statement today. “But Tony Verna’s legacy replays on television sets around the world every day. With the creation of instant replay 50 years ago, Tony changed the future of televised sports, and sports direction, forever. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”
Verna’s other TV credits include 12 Kentucky Derbys and the Live Aid concert in 1985. He received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Sports Programming for The Triple Crown Of Racing in 1973. Here’s a video of Verna talking about the first use of instant replay: