One of the BBC’s most familiar voices for four decades, Edinburgh-born James Alexander Gordon, is bowing out from reading the classified football results on radio after having his larynx removed.
The 77-year-old has tantalised, delighted and disappointed listeners on Radio 2 and then Radio 5 Live but his voice is no longer strong enough to broadcast after surgery to treat throat cancer.
The presenter - popularly known by his initials as JAG - joined the BBC in 1972 and went on to become one of the most recognisable voices on radio.
Gordon, whose delivery often made it possible for fans to predict the fortune of their team simply from the inflection, has often admitted he knows little about football other than the results.
Just last year he said he had no plans ever to step down from his role. “I keep telling the BBC they will have to carry me out on a stretcher. I’ll die with the microphone in my hand,” he said in an interview.
But the BBC said today that although his surgery was successful, “sadly his voice is now not strong enough to broadcast”.
Richard Burgess, head of BBC Radio Sport, said: “This is desperately sad news for everyone at BBC Sport and we know our sadness will be shared by many millions of listeners.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say that Saturdays at 5pm will never be the same again without the warm, melodious sound of James’s voice just after the Sports Report theme on BBC Radio 5 Live.
“A voice which is, of course, recognised around the globe through the BBC World Service and a voice which embodies authority, clarity and charm.
“For so many of us, James has been a mainstay in our lives - a reassuring and reliable presence every week. He is a broadcasting legend.”
Mark Pougatch, presenter of 5 Live Sport, said: “Even people who don’t really even like football knew who James was, even if they didn’t realise it.
“Such was James’s unique style of reading the classifieds, his wonderful inflections and stresses, that even non-believers of the sport knew the result after the home team’s score.
“Nobody else will be able to say ‘Wolverhampton Wanderers’ with quite such mellifluous tones.
“But enough of this ‘James’. To those of us lucky enough to work at BBC Radio Sport, he is JAG. And JAG is an institution, a legend and a gentleman all rolled into one.”
Gordon, who contracted polio as a child and had to wear leg supports until his late teens, officially retired from the BBC many years ago but has continued as a freelance.
He joined the BBC as an announcer and newsreader after a career in music publishing. He began reading the results in 1974.