Fred Hickman, an influential sports broadcaster who became one of the early stars of CNN as host of “CNN Sports Tonight,” has died.
CNN reported that Hickman died Wednesday after battling liver cancer, according to his widow Sheila.
Hickman was a CNN original — one of the first faces seen on the network when it launched on June 1, 1980 as he co-anchored the network’s nightly sports highlight program alongside Nick Charles.
For years, “CNN Sports Tonight” competed against ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” and helped popularize a breezier style of presenting sports highlights on television.
“Fred along with Nick Charles helped establish the prototype for sports anchors on cable,” said Lee Berke, president of the consulting firm LHB Media, Sports and Entertainment. “Incredibly intelligent, nimble, and funny, Fred turned his shows into destination television, and demonstrated how long-form sports news could work to engage fans on a nightly basis.”
Berke added that Hickman’s legacy “can be seen all over national and regional sports networks today, as anchors look to emulate the qualities that Fred effortlessly offered up show after show.
Hickman was also the inaugural host of YES, the regional sports network that carries the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets, when it launched in 2002.
“As a professional, Fred was noteworthy for his studio acumen, his presence that gave a fledgling network instant credibility, his dedication to his craft, and his excellence under pressure,” John Filippelli, president of production and programming for the YES Network, said in a statement.
Hickman moved to ESPN in 2004 where he was a host on “SportsCenter,” “Baseball Tonight” and “NBA Coast to Coast.” He joined Fox in 2008, serving as host of post and pre-game shows for Atlanta Braves games on Fox Sports South and Sports South Networks.
After 2011, Hickman worked in local TV news recently served as an anchor and managing editor on the now defunct Black News Channel.
Hickman was born in Springfield, Ill. and graduated from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he landed his first job as a radio news anchor.
Hickman was just 21 when he became an anchor, an anchor, director and reporter at Springfield station WICS. He worked there two years before moving to CNN.