BALTIMORE — When Jim McKay traveled to St. Andrews in Scotland to cover the 2000 British Open, it was his final overseas event in more than 50 years of broadcasting.
Sportscaster Jim Nantz visited McKay in his tiny, sparse hotel room before the final round. He recalled that McKay wasn't emotional about the end of his career; he was upset about being away from his family.
"He longed to be home. That's all he wanted to talk about," Nantz said Tuesday at a funeral Mass for McKay. "He no longer had any appetite for the life of the lonely road warrior."
About 200 people filled the pews of the cavernous Cathedral of Mary Our Queen for the funeral of McKay, the venerable host of ABC's "Wide World of Sports" who died Saturday at 86 at his Maryland farm.
Relatives, friends and colleagues remembered McKay, born James Kenneth McManus, as a man who, despite his globe-trotting TV persona, longed for the simple pleasures of home and the company of his wife, Margaret, his son and daughter and his three grandchildren.
"He taught me how to drive a car and how to drive a golf ball," James Fontelieu, McKay's oldest grandson, said through tears. "He was my best friend."
Fontelieu also recalled his grandfather's zany sense of humor; once, at a birthday dinner, McKay inhaled helium from a balloon and recited the introduction to "Wide World of Sports."
Among those in attendance were NBC Olympics host Bob Costas, "CBS Evening News" anchor Katie Couric, NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol and former NFL quarterback Phil Simms, now a football analyst with CBS.
"He's one of the greatest broadcasters in the history of the medium," Costas said. "Jim essentially created the role of the modern Olympic host. He set the standard."
Armen Keteyian, a news and sports reporter for CBS and HBO, said the current generation of sportscasters ought to remember McKay's example.
"You felt like you knew him because he was such the antithesis of so much of what sports broadcasting is today," Keteyian said. "He wasn't a screamer. He didn't make it about him."
Doug Wilson, an ABC Sports producer and director and one of McKay's best friends, said he was amazed by the force and economy of McKay's writing. Spain, to McKay, was "that mysterious appendage of western Europe"; Saratoga Springs was "where the rich come for the waters and the wagering."
Said Nantz: "To millions of Americans, Mr. McKay was a poet; he was a storyteller; he was a modern-day explorer. He would take us all over the world, introducing us to people and to sport with his usual out-of-breath enthusiasm."
McKay's son, CBS news and sports chief Sean McManus, said his father had no regrets about leaving behind that glamorous lifestyle and retiring to his farm, where he spent his final 15 years.
"He passed away at home, lying next to the woman he loved," McManus said, "and that's pretty darn good."