Lee Leonard, an urbane host of sports activities and leisure applications who launched ESPN to a small viewers on the day of its debut in 1979, died on Sunday at his residence in South Orange, N.J. He was 89.

His spouse, Kelly Bishop, confirmed his loss of life.

Mr. Leonard was a well-regarded veteran of native and nationwide sports activities studio exhibits when executives at ESPN, which was simply getting off the bottom, requested him to be a co-anchor of “SportsCenter,” envisioned because the community’s flagship information and highlights program. And it was “SportsCenter’s” inaugural broadcast that launched the community, with Mr. Leonard delivering its first phrases, on Sept. 7, 1979, setting ESPN on its path to changing into a tv empire.

“In the event you love sports activities — for those who actually love sports activities — you’ll suppose you’ve died and gone to sports activities heaven,” Mr. Leonard mentioned.

After a montage of sports activities footage, he added, “Yea, verily, a sampler of wonders.”

George Grande, his co-anchor that night time, recalled that their first present fell eight minutes quick and that they needed to ad-lib till the top.

“I mentioned to Lee, ‘Are you in favor of a soccer playoff?’ and we flipped a coin and took sides to indicate what SportsCenter might be,” Mr. Grande mentioned by phone.

Mr. Leonard introduced maturity to the fledgling community. By then he had been a disc jockey, radio discuss present host and the co-host with Invoice Mazer of a pioneering Sunday night time program — “Sports activities Additional” on WNEW-TV in New York — that supplied in depth highlights, scores and commentary.

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