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‘Monday Night Football’ Pioneer Chet Forte Dies

May 19, 1996

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Chet Forte, a producer and director who helped launch ``ABC’s Monday Night Football″ but was forced out of his job 25 years later by a gambling addiction, died Saturday of a heart attack. He was 60.

He was pronounced dead at his San Diego home, the medical examiner’s office said. He had a history of heart problems dating back to the 1980s, said Lee Hamilton, a friend and fellow radio talk show host.

``He was fun loving, funny, and had been everywhere in the world of sports,″ Hamilton said. ``The sad side was that he destroyed a million-dollar-a-year career through gambling addiction.′

Forte, an All-America basketball star at Columbia University who beat out Wilt Chamberlain as NCAA player of the year in 1957, had worked since 1990 as a talk show host at XTRA-AM, an all-sports station in San Diego.

Forte won 11 Emmy Awards during a 25-year career at ABC as a producer and director. His work included ``ABC’s NFL Monday Night Football″ and the network’s coverage of the 1968 and 1984 Summer Olympics.

Forte left ABC in 1987 and by then, he had gambled away nearly $4 million and lost a million-dollar home in Saddle River, N.J., because he couldn’t pay the $750,000 mortgage.

He defrauded a New Jersey businessman of $100,000 to get more gambling money, got into trouble with the IRS, and, in 1990, pleaded guilty to mail and wire fraud, as well as income tax evasion.

``I lost all my money. I lost all my respect,″ Forte said in 1992. ``I hurt my family, and I hurt my friends.″

His legal problems stemmed from gambling that began in the early 1960s. He bet on sports and at casino gaming tables and lost about $4 million over the years.

In 1992, Forte was sentenced to five years’ probation, community service and fines. The judge said the only reason he didn’t throw him in jail was because he had reformed. His television career, however, was ruined.

But he had already started rebuilding his life. He had moved from New York to California in 1990, where he worked as a radio talk show host for XTRA. He started at $57,800 a year; he was making $900,000 annually at ABC.

In a 1994 interview, he said he hadn’t gambled in more than six years and attended Gamblers Anonymous meetings regularly.

Forte was born on Aug. 7, 1935, at Hackensack, N.J. A 5-foot-9 guard, he played three seasons at Columbia. He still holds 11 school records.

He is survived by his wife Patricia and daughter Jacqueline. Funeral arrangements were not expected to be complete until Sunday.

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