Kensington’s Johnny Holliday: From 60’s Rock Jock to Famed Sports Voice in DC

Broadcasting and Maryland legend still going strong at 74.


“Phenomenal." That’s how Kensington’s Johnny Holliday describes the Washington Nationals’ sensational pitching and their surprising early season start.

Much the same can be said for Holliday himself, the long-time radio voice for Maryland football and basketball, pre-and post-game host with Ray Knight on Nationals’ telecasts on MASN, radio network sports anchor and even an actor in his ‘spare’ time who has appeared in numerous local theatrical productions.

At age 74---he’ll celebrate his 75th birthday in October—the amazing Holliday just keeps rolling along.

Back in the 1960’s this writer first heard Holliday when he was a rock n’ roll DJ on KYA, a San Francisco Bay area radio station.  In the early 60’s he starred on major stations in Cleveland (WHK) and New York City (WINS).

He began his transition from a nationally-known DJ to sportscaster out west by doing public address work for the NBA San Francisco Warriors, then switched full-time to sports broadcasting here in Washington in the late 1970’s.

Holliday is best known in these parts for his play-by-play radio work on University of Maryland football and basketball games--more than 1,200 of them since 1979. That body of work has earned him a place in the Maryland Hall of Fame.

Leonard Shapiro, long-time Washington Post sportswriter and sports TV critic (now retired) bestowed Holliday as the best all-around sports voice in the DC region for the past 40 years or so.

His calls on Maryland games on the radio are classics, especially the Terps’  comeback from a 31-deficit to upset win the No. 5-ranked Miami Hurricanes in the 1984 Orange Bowl  and his work on Maryland’s stunning run to an NCAA basketball championship in 2002.

Holliday will be inducted into the Washington Basketball Hall of Fame in May 5 (with Len Bias, Phil Chenier, Earl Lloyd, Bob Ferry, Stu Vetter and Georgetown broadcaster Rich Chvotkin) for his yeoman’s work on Terps’ hoops over the years, as well as his charity work where he’s raised more than $1.5 million through his softball and basketball teams.

The Terps’ 2001-2002 basketball season remains the most memorable for Holliday.  “That’s the tops,” he told Patch in an interview.  “Winning the NCAA is the pinnacle in basketball.” 

Johnny’s colleagues at MASN realize they are working with a legend in the broadcast business. “When I sit in for Ray Knight on Nats-Xtra, it’s like sitting in with the Beatles,” says sportscaster Phil Wood.  “Never less than a thrill and more fun that anything in this business.”

The reference to the Beatles is apt because Holliday emceed the Beatles’ final concert in the United States in San Francisco way back in 1966.

And how does Johnny explain those Amazin’ Nats? “When you’ve got good pitching, like they have, it makes it much easier to come back and win games you otherwise would lose,” he told Patch.

Is this the year the Nationals make the playoffs? “That’s wishful thinking…it’s way too early but it’s certainly not out of the realm of the possible,“  he replied. He added that the confidence instilled by manager Davey Johnson and the expanded playoff format may help get them in sooner than expected.

Holliday and his wife Mary Clare moved to Kensington in 1970 after he took a job as the morning drive DJ with WWDC, then the hottest radio station in the DC area.  And he’s been here ever since, now working out of an office in his home.

“You probably couldn’t afford to move me out of here now,” Holliday said of his home in Rock Creek Hills just off Kensington Parkway. “It’s just too good a neighborhood, great neighbors and near the Beltway, very convenient to everything.” 

It’s simply a shame that Holliday has never had the opportunity to regularly do major league baseball play-by-play on a regular basis.   Then again, Washington didn’t have a team from 1971 (when Bob Short moved the old Washington Senators to Texas) until 2005 when Ted Lerner purchased the Montreal Expos and brought big league baseball back to town.

And Holliday’s been a major part of Nats’ coverage with his entertaining pre-game and post-game shows. He’s even done some play-by-play on a ‘fill-in’ basis on Nats’ TV games over the past two seasons.

He’s one of the hardest workers in the business.  At times, he signs off on Nats’ telecasts on MASN close to midnight, then he’s up at 5 am for radio network sportscasts early the next morning.

And yes, Johnny Holliday is his real name. It’s not Johnny Holiday, a DJ monicker. Johnny Holliday Bobbitt was born in Miami, FL on Oct. 15, 1937.

Jerry Watkins May 03, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Let's hope he keeps on doing it so well at least until the Terps and Nationals both reach contender level. Jerry Watkins
Jerry Watkins May 03, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Let's hope he keeps on doing it so well atleast until the terps and National both reach contender levels.
Marty Chase May 04, 2012 at 02:31 AM
By the way Johnny Holliday will be doing the TV play-by-play in this weekend's big series against the Phillies on MASN filling in for Bob Carpenter who will be attending his daughter's college graduation.


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