New Orleans Saints

Jim Henderson announces retirement as Saints play-by-play announcer

Jim Henderson
Jim Henderson

The pigs are in the pen.

Hell has thawed.

Jim Henderson is on his way to retirement.

The soundtrack of the Saints will be narrated by a new voice next season. After bringing every play to life for the last three decades during radio broadcasts, Henderson announced on Thursday that he is stepping down as play-by-play announcer.

In a market that is leery of outsiders, one where your name is as much a part of your identity as for where you attended high school, the 71-year-old Henderson arrived here in 1978 and managed to become a local icon, one as well known and revered as the players he covered.

New Orleans Saints radio play-by-play voice Jim Henderson has called his final game as he announced his retirement Thursday.

Known for his eloquence and way with words, Henderson, who grew up in Ontario, New York, first served as the sports director at WWL, succeeding Lloyd “Hap” Glaudi. He got his first taste of calling Saints games he when moved into the booth to serve as an analyst for preseason games during the 1982 season.

In 1986, he took over as the play-by-play announcer on radio broadcasts. Henderson later teamed up with the late Hokie Gajan, who passed away due to cancer in 2016, and worked the last two seasons alongside former Saints running back Deuce McAllister. A search for Henderson’s replacement will soon commence.

While he was considered a local treasure, Henderson also built a national profile by covering other sporting events throughout his career, including the Masters, Major League Baseball, boxing and several Super Bowls. He retired from WWL in 2012 but continued working in TV with WVUE.

Before getting into broadcasting, Henderson served in the Army and worked as an English teacher.

Some of Henderson’s calls throughout the years have become as iconic as the moments themselves. After Garrett Hartley hit the game-winning field goal in the NFC Championship game that sent the Saints to the 2009 Super Bowl, he proclaimed: “It’s good. Pigs have flown. Hell has frozen over. The Saints are on their way to the Super Bowl.”

The call quickly began showing up on T-shirts and will forever be remembered by Saints fans, much like Henderson himself. Last June, he was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame as the 2017 recipient of the Distinguished Service Award for Sports Journalism. He was also a 13-time winner of Louisiana Sportscaster of the Year award.

Henderson got his start working in Panama City, Florida, and later moved onto a job at WSB in Atlanta before arriving in New Orleans. In a profile written for the Louisiana Sports Writers Association last year, Henderson said that he never planned to stick around and initially viewed this as a pit stop.

He didn’t know anyone in the city. He had no ties to it. His goal was to come here for a year and move onto something bigger and better. He was initially treated the same way by fans. Locals were not happy that Glaudi, who was beloved, had retired and picketed Henderson during his first week on the job.

Nearly four decades later, some might want to picket his retirement, and he’ll leave a shadow even longer than the one he eventually eclipsed.

Some might say he was the unlikeliest hero of all.