Anthony F. Verna, a producer of television sports and the inventor of the instant replay, died January 18 in Palm Desert, Calif. He was 81.
Verna debuted his invention during CBS’ telecast of the Army-Navy Game from Philadelphia, his hometown, in 1963. Before the instant replay was first used during that telecast, Verna had announcer Lindsey Nelson explain to the audience that “this is not live! Ladies and gentlemen, Army has not scored again.”
He directed the broadcast of the Kentucky Derby a dozen times, as well as five Super Bowls, NBA and NHL championship games, the Olympics and, in France, Grand Prix racing.
“By any measure, a career spent directing major sporting events like the Super Bowl and the Kentucky Derby would be accomplishment enough,” said DGA president Paris Barclay upon learning of the director’s death. “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.”
Though he devoted a great deal of his time to sportscasting, Verna actually had a wide-ranging career that saw him direct the World Circus when it was in London and “The Mike Douglas Show” when it was broadcast from Moscow. He also did a stint in Las Vegas as president of Caesars Palace Productions.
He also directed interviews with two presidents, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; a Christmas special with Mother Teresa and the broadcast of “Live Aid,” both in 1985; and Pope John Paul II’s “Prayer for World Peace” telecast, viewed live by an audience of more than 1 billion people.
Verna began his career as a director at Philadelphia’s WCAU-TV when he was just 19.
He received the Directors Guild of America’s lifetime achievement award in sports direction in 1995.
Verna is survived by his wife, Carol; two daughters and a son; and three grandchildren.