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Boston Sports Guru Don Gillis Dies at 85

Don Gillis, known as Boston’s first sports anchor, died. The Canada-born retired newsman was 85 and had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

A veteran of radio, Gillis began a nightly sports segment on WHDH in 1962, and he is said to be the first anchor in Boston to do a sportscast. Gillis then shifted to WCVB, where he was the sports director from 1972-83. He was also the play-by-play guy for the Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics, New England Patriots and Boston Bruins at various points in his career.

Gillis was well-known for hosting a program centered on quirky New England pastime candlepin bowling for over 37 years. “It’s been a long and beautiful ride,” Gillis said when he signed off on his final Candlepins program in 1995.

WCVB called Gillis “a beloved and founding member of the channel 5 family. Generations of local viewers grew up watching Don as both a sports anchor and host of the popular Candlepin Bowling program. A true Boston legend, there was no one better.”

Gillis’ son Gary followed him into the sports-broadcasting business. “My father was proud of his versatility,” Gary told the Boston Globe. “He was a good reporter and a good anchor, and he was most proud of his relationships with the athletes he covered because he felt there was mutual respect.”

Michael Malone
Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.