Chet Forte, longtime director of ABC's "Monday Night Football" who became a radio sports talk-show host at age 55, died at 5 a.m. yesterday from a heart attack at his home between Del Mar and Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. He was 61.
Forte, who had a history of heart problems, had triple bypass surgery on June 17 of last year.
For the past five years, Forte had been paired with Steve Hartman on San Diego-based XTRA radio, and the two billed themselves as "The Loose Cannons."
Forte, a 5-foot-8 guard for Columbia, was a consensus All-American and the United Press International player of the year in 1957, when he averaged 28.9 points per game, second in the nation to Kansas' Wilt Chamberlain (29.6).
He spent nearly 25 years with ABC, from 1963 to 1987, winning 13 Emmy awards. He was best known for his 17 years with "Monday Night Football," but produced and directed a variety of events, including the Indianapolis 500.
He was at the 1964 race when a seven-car crash killed two drivers, Dave MacDonald and Eddie Sachs. XTRA's Lee Hamilton recalled that Forte brought up that race in a conversation they had at the station Friday afternoon, right before Hamilton was to go on the air.
Hamilton had taped an interview with Scott Brayton on Thursday morning and was debating whether he should play it Friday, only a few hours after Brayton had died in a crash at Indianapolis.
Forte told Hamilton that ABC played an interview that had been taped with Sachs on the day he was killed, and that it was the right thing to do.
"That was my last conversation with Chet," said Hamilton, who did play the 12-minute Brayton interview, which included a discussion of the dangers of racing and the driver's addiction to speed.
Of Forte, Hamilton said, "He was a creative genius beyond 'Monday Night Football.' He belongs in somebody's TV hall of fame."
Pub Date: 5/19/96