ESPN has found its new voice for “Monday Night Football,” and it’s a familiar one to New England sports fans.
The network officially announced Monday that Sean McDonough will succeed Mike Tirico and become just the fifth play-by-play voice in the storied history of “MNF.” He will join holdover analyst Jon Gruden in the booth. Lisa Salters will remain the in-game reporter.
Tirico is leaving ESPN after 25 years for NBC, a move that also was formally announced Monday. He will remain at ESPN until his contract expires in June.
McDonough, who turns 54 Friday, is one of the most versatile and accomplished broadcasters of his generation. He was the voice of CBS’s World Series broadcasts in the early 1990s, and has also called the Final Four and the Olympics.
In recent years, he had been most prominent on ESPN’s college football and basketball broadcasts, as well its weekday baseball broadcasts.
“Things certainly have been fine for me,” McDonough said. “I’ve done a lot of great events, major bowl games, the British Open, the US Open, a lot of things that anyone would want to participate in. But I always felt there was that one next level to climb back up to.”
According to McDonough, he had received assurances from John Wildhack, ESPN’s executive vice president for programming and production, that he would get that opportunity. Two weeks ago, it came in the form of a phone call from the executive to the broadcaster.
“I was leaving the gym, saw John’s number, and of course you always think, ‘What did I do?’ ” said McDonough. “I was pleasantly surprised.”
McDonough had an inkling that his good friend Tirico might be moving on. Once Wildhack found out — word of Tirico’s pending move broke in an April 25 story in Sports Business Daily — he soon reached out to McDonough. The deal was sealed late last week.
“I had a very, very short list,’’ said Wildhack, who confirmed that no one else had been offered the job. “Sean was at the top of that list from the get-go.”
McDonough remains best known in New England as the popular longtime television voice of the Red Sox, primarily on Channel 38 and NESN, a role he held from 1988 to 2004.
Watch: McDonough calls Tom Brunansky’s catch that put the Red Sox in the 1990 playoffs:
It was during those years that he honed a sharp sense of humor that typically brought out the best in his broadcast partner and should serve him well with Gruden.
“Whatever popularity [Red Sox analyst] Jerry Remy and I had together, I like to think it was at least in part because we weren’t afraid to have conversations that were perhaps not related to everything that was always happening in the games all the time,’’ McDonough said.
McDonough sometimes jokes that Red Sox fans who approach him often ask where he’s been in recent years. It’s an amusing commentary on New Englanders’ sports parochialism and tepid interest in big-time college sports.
But he does acknowledge that the “Monday Night Football” play-by-play job is one of the highest-profile roles in sports broadcasting, and he knows it is to be appreciated.
“[I learned] never to take anything for granted,” McDonough said. “Even though I had opportunities at a young age, there’s no guarantee that they’re going to keep coming your way. I’m living proof of that.
“For a long time, I’ve had really good opportunities, but it wasn’t the World Series and it wasn’t ‘Monday Night Football.’ You realize there are very few of these kinds of jobs, and when you have them, you’re fortunate to have them.”
McDonough has been with ESPN since 2000, though he previously worked at the network from 1985-89 as well. He recently signed a new contract, and the “MNF” role will give him a salary boost.
He joins Keith Jackson, Frank Gifford, Al Michaels, and Tirico, who called the past 10 seasons on ESPN, as the play-by-play voices in the 46-year history of “Monday Night Football.”
The NFL might not be the first sport with which McDonough is associated, but his football bloodlines are well-known. He is the son of the legendary late Boston Globe columnist and NFL insider Will McDonough, and his brother Terry McDonough is a longtime NFL executive who currently works for the Arizona Cardinals.
“This is a dream come true,” said McDonough, who will make his “MNF” debut at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 7. “One of my favorite memories of my childhood was watching ‘Monday Night Football’ with my dad, who I know is smiling down on me today.”
McDonough will continue his ESPN college basketball assignments after the NFL season.