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Berl Rotfeld, 77, Producer of 'Greatest Sports Legends' Series

December 8, 2005
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Berl Rotfeld, 77, creator and producer of the television series "Greatest Sports Legends," died Nov. 18. He was a resident of Penn Valley.

Rotfeld graduated from Overbrook High School, and attended Temple University.

As a youngster, he played the classical piano. He won the Philadelphia Cultural Olympics at age 15, and started an early career as a songwriter. He had more than 150 songs published and sung by artists such as Steve Lawrence, Edie Gorme, Dinah Shore and Sammy Davis Jr.

In 1972, Rotfeld came up with the idea of memorializing on film the greatest athletes in history. He hired football star Paul Hornung as host and proceeded to make a pilot show on another football star, Hugh McElhenny. He sold his pilot and, over the next 20 years, produced more than 200 shows on sports legends.

Today, his show still lives on ESPN Classic and around the world.

Athletes profiled on the show included Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose, Joe Frazier, Bobby Clarke, Steve Carlton and Billy Cunningham. The show was produced at the old San Marco restaurant on City Avenue (now a Kentucky Fried Chicken). The narrators were John Facenda, Harry Kalas, Al Meltzer and Bob Bradley.

Each athlete would consent to be interviewed by the various hosts who included Hornung, Tom Seaver, Michael Jordan and Reggie Jackson, among others. The program was nominated for three Emmy Awards, and won one.

He also produced a TV program titled "The Gifted Ones," which spotlighted talented youngsters.

Rotfeld is survived by his wife of 39 years, Carole Bellino Rotfeld; sons Bruce Rotfeld and Steve Rotfeld; sister Beatrice Mogill; and four grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, 2004 Sproul Rd., Suite 208, Broomall, PA 19008.

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