​Tony Verna, inventor of instant replay for TV sports, dies at 81

PALM DESERT, Calif. - Tony Verna, a television director and producer who invented instant replay for live sports 51 years ago, has died. He was 81.

Verna died Sunday at his Palm Desert home after battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia, daughter Tracy Soiseth said.

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In this Nov. 26, 1999 file photo, TV director Tony Verna poses in his home in Pacific Palisades, Calif. Verna was just 29 when he launched the first instant replay during the 64th annual Army-Navy football game in 1963.
CHRIS PIZZELLO/AP

CBS used instant replay for the first time in the Dec. 7, 1963 Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, after Verna developed a method to cue the tape to pinpoint the play he wanted to immediately air again. He said he was looking for a way to fill those boring gaps between plays during a football telecast.

The concept was so new that when Army quarterback Rollie Stichweh scored a touchdown, announcer Lindsey Nelson had to warn viewers: "This is not live! Ladies and gentlemen, Army did not score again!"

Instant replay quickly became a staple of sports broadcasting, and Verna's innovation gave fans a new way to look at the games.

"Not many things you can do in life where you can change the way things were happening before," Verna told The Associated Press in 2008.

Verna would go on to produce or direct five Super Bowls, the Olympics, the Kentucky Derby, and even "Live Aid."

His lasting legacy, though, is pulling back the curtain on sports and revealing what really goes on.

Verna is survived by his wife of 45 years, Carol, daughters Tracy Soiseth and Jenny Axelrod, son Eric Verna and three grandchildren.


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