Longtime ESPN Anchor John Saunders Dead at 61

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NEW YORK, NY - MAY 28:  ESPN host John Saunders speaks on stage at the Paley Prize Gala honoring ESPN's 35th anniversary presented by Roc Nation Sports on May 28, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Paley Center for Media)

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 28: ESPN host John Saunders speaks on stage at the Paley Prize Gala honoring ESPN’s 35th anniversary presented by Roc Nation Sports on May 28, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Paley Center for Media)

John Saunders, the sports anchor whose baritone voice was a fixture on ESPN programming for 30 years, has died, the network announced Wednesday. He was 61.

The cause of death was not immediately known.

ESPN president John Skipper saluted Saunders for his “extraordinary talent” and “friendly, informative style.”

“He was one of the most significant and influential members of the ESPN family, as a colleague and mentor, and he will be sorely missed,” Skipper said. “Our thoughts are with his loved ones at this extremely difficult time.”

Born and raised in Canada, Saunders joined ESPN in 1986 as an anchor of the network’s flagship program, “SportsCenter.”

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Saunders filled a variety of roles over his three decades at the network, contributing to ESPN’s coverage of both college football and basketball, the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball.

Since 2001, Saunders served as the host of “The Sports Reporters,” ESPN’s Sunday morning roundtable with some of the nation’s best-known sportswriters.

He is survived by his wife and two daughters.