January 7, 2005

Buddy Diliberto Dies At Age 73

Buddy Diliberto, legendary sports commentator for the BIG 870 WWL has died at the age of 73 of an apparent heart attack. Buddy D spent over 50 years covering the New Orleans sports scene, first for the newspaper... then on television... ending his career as "The Big Daddy of Sports" on WWL radio. Buddy was named "Louisiana Sportscaster of the Year" more times than you can say...W-W...W-W...W-W...L!

Diliberto began his sports career as a sportswriter at The Times-Picayune while attending Loyola University in 1950. In his last two years at the T-P, Buddy D. was the newspaper's daily sports columnist. He got his first broadcast job as sports director for WVUE-TV in 1966, where he worked until he became sports director and sports anchor at WDSU-TV from 1980-90.

Born Bernard Saverio Diliberto on August 18, 1931, Buddy served as a correspondent for Stars and Stripes during the Korean War. He suffered shrapnel wounds and earned a Purple Heart.

Diliberto was one of the first local television sportscasters, beginning his career in 1966. His linguistic struggles added to his lore and Diliberto often poked fun at himself and his troubles with words, especially in his later years.

Diliberto also injected himself into the sports scene, in sometimes controversial ways.

He was banned from the Saints team plane for criticism of the organization under their first owner, John Mecom. Diliberto’s relentless assaults included a campaign that had fans wearing bags on their heads during the team’s 1-15 season in 1980.

Controversy also surrounded some comments Diliberto made about Bears’ quarterback Jim McMahon during the team’s stay here prior to the Super Bowl in 1985. Diliberto was off the air for a while following the incident, but as resilient and popular as ever, he continued a television career, before moving to radio in 1991.

During his stint there, Diliberto hosted the ever-popular post game show following Saints football contests, where he took calls and delivered commentary, which was often stinging at the team, which struggled after some good years in the late 80s and early 90s.

In 1995 Diliberto suggested that owner Tom Benson hire Mike Ditka as head football coach, and the former Bears’ coach became the team’s head coach. During his tenure, Ditka had little on field success and gained fame for trading his entire draft for Heisman Trophy running back Ricky Williams and posing with the star in a wedding photo that appeared on the cover of a national sports magazine.

In 1997, Diliberto had bypass surgery following a series of heart attacks.

However, his health, nor any of the missteps hurt Diliberto, or his career. He has been named the Louisiana Sportscaster of the Year 13 times and his radio talk shows continued to be the most popular in the Crescent City.

Year after year as faithful expectations for the coming season built, fans would tease Buddy about his pledge to wear a dress if the Saints ever won a Super Bowl. He never got close to having to make good on that promise, though he probably would have been glad to do it.

Diliberto is survived by his children: Chris, 48; Mike, 47; Katie, 45; and Debbie, 39.

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