Alcoholism suspected as CBS gives Summerall indefinite period off

April 21, 1992|By Larry Stewart | Larry Stewart,Los Angeles Times

CBS has given sportscaster Pat Summerall an indefinite period off to take care of what it calls "a personal medical problem," a network spokeswoman said yesterday.

The spokeswoman called it a private matter, but other sources indicated that the problem is alcohol-related.

Summerall, who has been with CBS for 32 years, will be welcomed back when he is ready to come back, the spokeswoman said. In the meantime, Jim Nantz will replace him on golf television assignments.

Summerall, 60, has been battling alcoholism for some time, and after a bleeding ulcer almost killed him on Dec. 9, 1990, he quit drinking. But for how long isn't known.

During the past year, he has at times been seen holding drinks. But Summerall, in an interview with USA Today last January, denied that he had resumed drinking.

"They [witnesses] don't know what was in the drink," he said. "It sure wasn't liquor. Only I know what I have to go through and how I'm handling it."

Summerall's ulcer ruptured after he had worked an NFL game in Washington and was flying home to Florida. On a flight to Atlanta, where he had to switch planes, he had a couple of drinks and began vomiting.

While waiting to board a plane for Jacksonville, he vomited again, and after boarding the plane, he coughed up blood.

"When the plane landed, I felt weak," Summerall told USA Today. "I called a friend and he got me to the hospital. I remember a doctor asking me if I was Catholic. I said, 'No, why?' He said, 'If you were, I was going to call for a priest to give you last rites.'

"Then I heard someone say they'd have to operate. But someone else said, 'We can't because he doesn't have any blood left.' The next thing I knew, it was four days later."

It was after that brush with death that Summerall said he could no longer drink. "It's simple," he said. "The doctors said, 'If you drink again, you die.'

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