CLEVELAND — Fred McLeod, a longtime sportscaster and television play-by-play announcer for the Cleveland Cavaliers, died suddenly Monday night at the age of 67. His prolific career took him to different sports teams and cities, but his heart always remained in the city that raised him: Cleveland.
"The entire Cavaliers organization mourns the loss of their great friend and teammate. Fred’s deep love for Cleveland and the Cavaliers was clearly evident in everything he did in and around the community and on-air during his more than 1,000 Cavalier game broadcasts. He was a true, heart-felt ambassador for the team, fans and entire greater Cleveland community," the Cavs organization said in a news release.
A source confirmed that McLeod died from a heart attack.
His die-hard dedication for all things Cleveland sports began after he moved from Pittsburgh to Strongsville with his family just after kindergarten.
McLeod was 23 and working in Steubenville at the time when he got the call asking if he wanted to come back home. During a one-on one with Cavs beat writer Joe Gabriele in 2014, McLeod reminisced about the first time he got the offer to come back home. “I literally got on my desk and did a dance!” he said, calling it one of the most exciting days in his professional life.
Even when he did play-by-plays for other teams like the Pistons, he says Cleveland was always near and dear to his heart.
“My heart was always with Cleveland sports. My wife will tell you, I threw a shoe at the TV when we lost the 1997 World Series. She said, ‘Calm down, It’s just a game!’ And I’d say, 'You don’t understand what we’ve been through in Cleveland,'” he said during an interview with Gabriele.
At one point, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert was his broadcast intern.
“But seriously, I could tell back then that this guy was too smart to be a television broadcaster. You could just see he would process things so quickly. By the way, Dan says I demoted him from the Monday-through-Friday shift to a weekend shift. But I don’t remember doing that! And to this day, I still think: ‘WHY did I do something so stupid and demote him?’ (If I did.)”
McLeod was an announcer for the team on FOX Sports Ohio since the 2006 season. As one of the most accomplished announcers in the NBA, Fred recently celebrated his 36th season of broadcasting games, having spent 22 seasons announcing for the Detroit Pistons, before coming home to join the Cavs.
Fox Sports Ohio released the following statement about his death.
"Fred was among the NBA’s most respected play-by-play voices and an incredible ambassador for both the Cleveland Cavaliers and FOX Sports Ohio. His smooth delivery and passion for both NBA Basketball and particularly the Cavaliers, created an unforgettable soundtrack to some of the most iconic moments in Cleveland sports history. Off the air, he was a friend and trusted teammate. He will be greatly missed, and we send our heart-felt sympathies to his wife, Beth, and his entire family," Fox Sports Ohio said.
Even before LeBron returned to Cleveland after a stint in Miami, McLeod talked about how it felt for hometown hero LeBron to make his return home.
“I knew LeBron never fully detached himself from Cleveland, because every game we were in Miami, he would – literally seconds before the ball was thrown up – he would run over and shake my hand and shake Austin Carr's hand and look us right in the eye. He wouldn’t do that if he was cutting the cord. I think that was his way of always staying in touch.”
Throughout his career, he covered eight professional championships and fulfilled a dream of broadcasting in his hometown of Northeast Ohio. He received multiple regional Emmy awards as part of the Fox Sports Ohio Cavs broadcast crews, along with his beloved game broadcast partner Austin Carr.
"The Cavaliers extend our deepest condolences to Fred’s entire family, including his wife Beth, mother Marilyn, sister Lynn, and his three children, Sean, Jenna, Molly and each of their families," the Cavs said in a news release.
Watch a Fox Sports video of McLeod going through his game day routine:
As the city reflects on his prolific career and contributions to the Cleveland Cavaliers organization, players like LeBron James and Channing Frye reacted to the news of his death.
Man WHAT!!!!??? 😢😢OMG this is extremely sad. @CavsFredMcLeod May you rest in Paradise my friend! @BethHMcLeod my prayers sent up above to you and your family!! 🙏🏾❤️❤️❤️ #RIPFred https://t.co/XWMHUqWJxf— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 10, 2019
Frye called it "an honor to work with him."
It was a honor to work with him, his passion for the CAvs was infectious and created a culture of pride for the team and the city of Cleveland. Serious prayers go out to his family. https://t.co/sGhZYKhf8T— Channing Frye (@channingfrye) September 10, 2019
The Cleveland Browns shared their condolences with his family.
McLeod who worked for the Tribe, was remembered by the Cleveland Indians.
The Indians are saddened to hear of the passing of Fred McLeod, who was part of the broadcast team for the Tribe in 1979 on WJW 8.— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) September 10, 2019
Our thoughts are with the entire @cavs organization, @FOXSportsOH and the McLeod family. pic.twitter.com/8cbJLai600
His partner with the Indians, Joe Castiglione, remembered his time with McLeod.
"Fred was an outstanding talent and the hardest working and best prepared broadcaster I have ever known. He was a wonderful and giving broadcast partner and I was honored to share the Indians TV booth with him in 1979 when we formed the youngest broadcast team in Major League Baseball that season."