Van Miller, known as “the Voice of the Buffalo Bills” for 37 seasons, has been voted onto the team’s Wall of Fame.
Miller, 86, will become the 29th honoree on the facade inside Ralph Wilson Stadium. His induction ceremony will be held Oct. 12 when the Bills play host to New England.
“First of all, I was totally shocked,” Miller said from his Town of Tonawanda home. “I never expected this.”
“Mary Wilson called me to congratulate me,” Miller said, referring to the widow of the Bills’ founder. “And she told me how thrilled she was. And she said Ralph would be very happy this happened. I’m honored.”
By all available accounts, Miller holds the NFL record for longest tenure as a team’s radio play-by-play man. In 2004, he received the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award. There have been 25 winners. All have held national broadcasting positions except for two – Miller and Pittsburgh’s Myron Cope.
Miller served from 1960 through 1971. He took a hiatus from 1972 through 1978, when WKBW held the Bills’ radio rights. Then he served from 1979 through the end of the 2003 season. He is in the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. No other “voice” of an NFL team is on a team’s wall of fame. Miller was adamant about expressing his gratitude toward Ralph Wilson.
“If we didn’t have Ralph Wilson here, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” Miller said. “Things were tough in the early years in the AFL. Oakland was ready to throw in the towel. Boston had 10 different owners in its early years. He helped out clandestinely under the table, giving them money. I think the AFL would have collapsed without Ralph. And obviously the Bills wouldn’t be here without Ralph.”
The Bills’ current play-by-play man, John Murphy, has great admiration for Miller.
“Can you tell the story of the Buffalo Bills without including Van Miller?” Murphy said. “You can’t. His voice is synonymous with Bills football, thanks to NFL Films and our memories. All of the highlights in franchise history are with Van’s voice.”
Miller’s distinctive voice helped make him a broadcasting legend.
“What really got me once I started working with him was his energy level and his enthusiasm,” Murphy said. “That never went away, no matter how poor the team was playing, no matter if it was a preseason game or a meaningless game in December. Van’s energy and enthusiasm was infectious and brought the whole level of the broadcast up.”
Miller is part of the eight-member media panel that votes on the Wall of Fame. He was outvoted during the selection meeting held last week.
“I voted for Cornelius Bennett, and he’ll be on the Wall soon,” Miller said.
Miller has many famous calls, including “Fandemonium,” which he used to describe fan celebrations in Orchard Park.
One of his best was the call in the final moments of the Super Bowl XXV loss to the New York Giants. Miller concisely painted a vivid picture of the scene, got the key facts into the call before the kick and delivered it with passion and consummate professionalism.
“Scott Norwood, rarely raises his voice above a whisper, he can fire the shot heard round the world now and win a Super Bowl with eight seconds to play. … He’s made only 6 of 11 outside the 40. Here we go. Lingner ready to snap it back to Reich. Eight seconds to play. Norwood takes a practice swing with the right leg. Everyone up on their feet, watching intently. Norwood reaches down and takes something off his left cleat, now does it again. Still standing up near his holder, concentrating, waiting for the snap. Here we go. The Super Bowl will ride on the right foot of Norwood. Waiting for the snap. Reich, arm extended, puts it down, on the way, it’s long enough … and it is no good. He missed it to the right with 4 seconds to play. It was long enough but it was no good. And Norwood, walking slowly and dejectedly off the field. Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal that would have won the Super Bowl for the Bills.”