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Michael A. Wittman

Posted By jim starks On June 5, 2019 @ 8:02 pm In Obituaries | 9 Comments

Michael (Mickey) Alexander Wittman, basketball legend, father of aerial sports broadcasting and dedicated family man, died on Tuesday, June 4, 2019, at the Hanson Hospice Center in Stevensville. He was 74 years old.

Never one to settle for less than his absolute best, Mickey continually challenged himself and strove each day to be better than the day before. From hardwood courts to the skies above the world’s biggest sporting events, Mickey achieved tremendous success through his own tenacious efforts. His loved ones are reeling from the loss of a man who lit up every room he was ever in. They will never forget the kind, funny and generous person they were fortunate to call a husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.

Born on Sept. 26, 1944, in Queens, New York, Michael was the second child of Mike and Emily (Dischley) Wittman. Like the famous New York Yankee Mickey Mantle, Mike was the first to call his son by his lifelong epithet.

From a young age, Mickey demonstrated natural athletic ability. While attending Nanuet High School, where he excelled in multiple sports, Mickey once leaped onto the scorer’s table before tip off to declare he was going to get 50 points and “nobody can stop me.”

Even in his time at the University of Miami (Florida), there were few who could stop Mickey. One of the Hurricanes’ all-time leading scorers and rebounders, the two-time MVP was a Miami Sports Hall of Fame inductee and Atlantic Coast Conference Legend. After earning his bachelor’s degree in English Literature, he continued his basketball career with the Phillips 66ers and Akron Wingfoots in the National Industrial Basketball League.

Mickey capped off his playing days with first-team all-league recognition in 1968. Although no longer on the court for the Wingfoots, he stayed on with Goodyear and began working with the tire company’s iconic blimp. Mickey recognized the potential for television opportunities and was instrumental in the development of the gyro-stabilized camera.

Inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2013, Mickey was known throughout the industry as the “father of aerial sports broadcasting.” During his career with Goodyear, he directed the blimp in covering more than 2,500 live sports events including six Olympics, 30 World Series, 26 Super Bowls and countless college football games.

While it was a thrill to broadcast three of his beloved Canes’ national championships, one of his proudest moments with Goodyear came during the 1989 World Series in San Francisco. The blimp was floating above Candlestick Park when a 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck. Staying up 60 consecutive hours, Mickey organized vital coverage of the devastation. Broadcasting colleagues credited Mickey and his crew with saving lives that day.

On the return flight from San Francisco, Mickey met Susan Contreras, a Delta Air Lines flight attendant. Upon arriving in New York, Mickey called his mother and said, “I just met someone, and I think she’s going to change my life.” The two married on Oct. 12, 1990, in St. Joseph and started a family in Akron, Ohio.

When Mickey retired from Goodyear in 2001, the family moved to St. Joseph. After nearly three decades of traveling more than 300 days a year, Mickey adjusted to small town life. In recent years, he became particularly passionate about bike riding. Forgoing a car just because he could, Mickey donned neon and rode his fat tire bike all over the area. When he wasn’t peddling, Mickey enjoyed reading, cheering for the Yankees and eating Chinese food.

But, even more than chicken and broccoli, Mickey treasured his family. Those closest to him never doubted his unconditional love for them. The definition of selfless, he worked tirelessly to provide and celebrated the successes of his family as though they were his own. Mickey enriched many lives, and his family members are better people for having known him.

Mickey will be missed by his wife of 28 years, Susan (Contreras), their two daughters, Alex and Colby, and his daughter, Paige, with first wife, Shirley. Among others remembering him fondly are his brother, Scott, grandchildren, Emerson and Scott, son-in-law, Eric (Nasstrom), and Susan’s family.

He was preceded in death by his mother and father, Emily and Michael, and his sister, Patricia (Bayles).

His family would like to thank Caring Circle’s Dr. Jason Beckrow, Kelly O’Donnell and Kunga Nyima along with the staff at Hanson Hospice Center for the compassion they showed Mickey in his final months.

In accordance with his wishes, there will be no services. Cremation has taken place. To offer condolences and share “Mickey stories,” please visit purelycremations.org.

 

In lieu of flowers, Mickey’s family asks anyone wishing to pay tribute to his memory simply gives his fellow bike riders adequate space on the road. For those wanting to take to two wheels themselves, Mickey would want all riders to remember to dress in bright colors

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Condolences for the family of “Michael A. Wittman”

Condolence from TOBY PAGE on June 7th, 2019 6:06 pm

My heart goes out to Mickey’s wife and girls. Mickey was truly one of the best people I have ever met. I loved him like a father and he had a profound impact on my life. He taught me many things about life and I spent many years working closely with him and had so much fun. The world has lost one of the most special people and I will remember him and his worldly advice fondly as long as I live on this earth.

Condolence from Howard A. Tolley on June 9th, 2019 7:34 pm

Sue and I send our deepest condolences to Susan and family on Mickey’s
death. As director of public relations services for Goodyear —- 1981 – 1991
when I retired, the blimp program was a major part of my responsibilities.
Mickey reported to me. That was my good fortune. His reputation in the
sports broadcasting world was outstanding. And because of it the blimps
were —- and still are —- synonymous with television coverage of major
sporting events. He was one of a kind and well deserving of all the honors
bestowed on him. It was a real pleasure to know and work with Mickey. His
passing leaves a deep void.

Condolence from Scott Baughman on June 10th, 2019 12:16 am

Was fortunate to see Mickey just a month ago when he visited Akron for a reunion with the Wingfoot basketball team. Worked with and for Mickey at Goodyear with the blimp program. He was larger than life, had an outrageous personality – despite being an introvert, was never one to take no for an answer, hated to lose – at anything and bled Blue & Gold for the Goodyear Blimps. He was generous to friends and delighted in sharing stories and laughs with anyone he met. I’m shocked and saddened at his sudden passing. My sympathies to Paige, Susan and the girls. When I talked with him last month, he gushed about all of “his girls” and was so proud of them all.

Condolence from John Routh on June 10th, 2019 8:54 pm

The University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame is saddened to learn of the passing of one of our members, Mickey Wittman. Our thoughts and prayers go out ot his family, friends and Hurricane teammates at this time. He will be missed by all those he touched.
John Routh
Executive Director
UM Sports Hall of Fame

Condolence from Art McDonald on July 8th, 2019 4:45 pm

Mickey was a special person during our years at The University of Miami. An outstanding basketball player, and a special Brother at Kappa Sigma. His business successes always included that shy smile of accomplishment…. we’ll certainly miss him.

Condolence from Steve O’Keefe on August 31st, 2019 2:04 pm

My most sincere condolences to Susan and all of Mickey’s family members. I knew and admired Mickey since elementary school days, and we were teammates in high school basketball and baseball. He excelled in both, was always a leader, and amused countless friends and strangers with his wonderful sense of humor. I was delighted to meet up with him in the 70s In Houston and in Florida in the 2000s. I am so sorry to learn of his passing.

Condolence from Kinney Gause on September 12th, 2019 6:10 pm

I had the wonderful experience of hiking with Mickey and Susan in Switzerland a few years back. What a great person to get to know and funny as hell. My thoughts are with Susan and the girls. Always remember Mickey messing with this southern boy!

Condolence from Dick McDonough on March 22nd, 2020 12:48 am

So sorry to hear of the passing of your beloved Mickey who was a college fraternity brother of my dearly departed bother Jim McDonough.
I had the pleasure of meeting and spending some wonderful times with him and my brother at the University of Miami many years ago.
He had a fabulous sense of humor even way back them. May he Rest In Peace a truly wonderful human being. Love and fond remembrances ! Dick McDonough Boston Ma.

Condolence from Martin Ventre on March 22nd, 2020 3:40 pm

I am saddened to learn of the death of Mickey. He was an inspiration to me from the first day I met him at the University of Miami. He was not only a great athlete, but one of the smartest and funniest guys I have ever met. We had many rendezvous over the course of our lives since school and I was fortunate enough to see him get inducted into the U’s Hall of Fame. He has given me many quotes to remember his wisdom and always inspired me whenever we talked. One of his greatest gifts was helping me with sobriety. He told me, you’re only allotted so many drinks in life, you just took all of yours early. His “wit” was remarkable and funny and one couldn’t contain the laughter. It still lingers today and will always be with me. For anyone that knew him would know his…..is it necessary laments. The only one I have now is….is it necessary for you to leave us so soon. I miss you buddy until I see you again. ❤️ So sorry Susan. Love and hugs to you and your daughters. Sorry Paige.

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