Joe Zagacki, one of Mr. Goldberg’s producers at WIOD, recalled in a phone interview a day when “Hank had an argument with a caller — he had one of his volcanic explosions — and I said, ‘My goodness, you just hammered that guy. You’re ‘Hammering Hank Goldberg.’”
The nickname stuck. After he started at ESPN in 1993, Mr. Goldberg began banging a mallet on a studio desk to express his disagreement with a colleague or his disdain for a sports figure. He referred to himself as “Hammer.”
He initially appeared on ESPN2, which was new at the time and was attempting to reach a younger audience with anchors who dressed in a casual, cool style. Not Mr. Goldberg, who was definitely not cool but brought a quirky, brassy personality to the network — although it was more congenial than his in-your-face radio demeanor.
“Hank could fit into any genre; he could fit anywhere,” said Suzy Kolber, a longtime anchor and reporter at ESPN who worked with Mr. Goldberg on ESPN2 and in Florida. “Plug him into the horse-racing crowd or the ESPN2 bunch. He fit right in.”
Henry Edward Goldberg was born on July 4, 1940, in Newark and grew up in South Orange, N.J. His mother, Sadie (Abben) Goldberg, was a homemaker; his father, Hy, was a sports columnist for The Newark Evening News. Hy Goldberg frequently took his wife and children to the Yankees’ spring training in Florida, where young Hank became friendly with Joe DiMaggio, who called him Henry, Ms. Goldberg said in an interview.
At 17, Mr. Goldberg went to the racetrack for the first time and won $450 when he hit the daily double at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. When he brought his winnings home, he recalled, his father told him, “Oh, you’re in trouble now.” In an interview this year with The Las Vegas Review-Journal, he added, “He knew I’d never get over my love for the races.”