Pat Sajak’s Ups and Downs Through the Years (2024)

Pat Sajak’s journey to becoming the longest-running TV game show host has had its ups and downs over the years.

The TV personality became a staple of the small screen after taking over for original Wheel of Fortune host Chuck Woolery in 1981 and was joined by cohost Vanna White one year later.

“When I started hosting Wheel (with Susan Stafford) on this date 40 years ago, the top 10 TV shows included Dallas, Three’s Company, The Jeffersons and The Dukes of Hazzard,” Sajak tweeted in December 2021, in honor of his 40th anniversary as host. “Ronald Reagan was in his 1st year as president. Number 1 song: Olivia Newton-John’s ‘Physical.’”

Five years after taking on his now-iconic role, Sajak split from his ex-wife, Sherrill James. He later tied the knot with Lesly Brown, and the two became parents to son Patrick and daughter Maggie in 1990 and 1995, respectively.

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In addition to helping make contestants’ dreams come true with fun prizes and trips, Sajak’s actions as host have occasionally garnered him backlash from Wheel of Fortune fans, from taking a jab at White to bickering with contestants.

Scroll below for a timeline of Sajak’s ups and down through the years:

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Pat Sajak’s Ups and Downs Through the Years: ‘Wheel of Fortune’ Mishaps, Health Scares and More

Pat Sajak’s journey to becoming the longest-running TV game show host has had its ups and downs over the years.The TV personality became a staple of the small screen after taking over for original Wheel of Fortune host Chuck Woolery in 1981 and was joined by cohost Vanna White one year later.“When I started hosting Wheel (with Susan Stafford) on this date 40 years ago, the top 10 TV shows included Dallas, Three’s Company, The Jeffersons and The Dukes of Hazzard,” Sajak tweeted in December 2021, in honor of his 40th anniversary as host. “Ronald Reagan was in his 1st year as president. Number 1 song: Olivia Newton-John’s ‘Physical.’"Five years after taking on his now-iconic role, Sajak split from his ex-wife, Sherrill James. He later tied the knot with Lesly Brown, and the two became parents to son Patrick and daughter Maggie in 1990 and 1995, respectively.In addition to helping make contestants’ dreams come true with fun prizes and trips, Sajak’s actions as host have occasionally garnered him backlash from Wheel of Fortune fans, from taking a jab at White to bickering with contestants.Scroll below for a timeline of Sajak’s ups and down through the years:

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1986

After tying the knot in 1979, the Celebrity Wheel of Fortune host and James called it quits.

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1989

Sajak married Brown in 1989. One year later, they welcomed their son Patrick, followed by their daughter, Maggie, in 1995.

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November 2019

Sajak temporarily stepped down from hosting duties following emergency surgery. “Our taping on Thursday was canceled because host Pat Sajak underwent successful emergency surgery to correct a blocked intestine,” read a social media statement at the time. “He is resting comfortably and looking forward to getting back to work.”

White filled in as host during his absence, an experience she exclusively told Us she was both "nervous" and "excited" about.

“I have never even thought of hosting the show. Never crossed my mind," she shared in December 2019. "But obviously, I stepped in, took one for the team to fill in for him because I’m very familiar with the show after all these years. And our executive producer thought I was the perfect person to do that in his absence. So it was good. It was different. It was fun. But I’m glad he’s back. … I learned that I was very uncomfortable doing it and agreeing to do it because it was just so out of my comfort zone, but I learned that I could step up to the plate if I had to.”

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December 2019

Sajak opened up about his life-threatening health scare, telling Good Morning America that he was in surgery within two and a half hours of experiencing “horrific pain.”

“You couldn’t do anything. I was in [a] fetal position, lying on the bed,” he recalled. “They try to give you various drugs for the pain. And none of it — none — was working. And then they gave me something, I couldn’t even tell you the name of it, but suddenly, I wasn’t thinking about the pain. I just had these beautiful pastels and lovely faces coming out of it.”

Sajak continued: “In the background, I could hear my wife and daughter talking. It sounded like they were a mile off, but they were right next to me. They were talking to each other. And I remember thinking, not in a morbid way, ‘I think this must be death. This must be what death is like.’ … Hearing their voices, I thought, ‘Boy, their lives are gonna change now.’ And I felt badly for them. I didn’t feel badly about dying. I felt badly that they were gonna have to deal with the aftermath. As it turned out, I was just high.”

Feeling “great” at the time of the interview, Sajak noted that he had been feeling “ridiculously good for several weeks,” adding, “I’ve been back in the studio actually, doing shows. Even spinning the wheel and, you know, nothing has popped. So I think it’s OK. … I’m as good or bad as new, and that’s great. I still have my wits about me. They didn’t remove that, so I’ll be selling vowels for a long time.”

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April 2021

The TV star unintentionally revealed the answer to a puzzle on an episode of Wheel of Fortune. Taking a look at the board — which read “_ _ _ T E _ R A N _ L _" — Sajak quipped, “Yikes! Well, I’d rather be standing here than there, quite frankly.”

The answer ended up being "quite frankly,” though the contestant didn't figure it out before their time was up.

“I did [realize I gave away the answer] right after I said it,” Sajak stated in a video that aired after the episode. “I wonder how many people at home caught it. There weren’t many letters up there and I said, ‘I’d rather be here than there, quite frankly’ — which was the puzzle. But it goes to show you that people are concentrating and they’re not paying any attention to me.”

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March 2022

During their intro, a contestant detailed the story of how paramedics saved his toe from falling off following a bike accident as a kid. After Sajak’s response — "That may have been the most pointless story ever told. And you told it, Scott. Congratulations to you" — the host was immediately criticized by fans.

One Twitter user wrote, “I felt so bad for the contestant. Pat Sajak should be well aware of how mean it is to belittle someone on nationwide television."

The backlash came just a few days after the Days of Our Lives alum showed grace towards contestants who continuously failed to solve a puzzle. "It always pains me when nice people come on our show to play a game and win some money and maybe fulfill a lifelong dream, and are then subject to online ridicule when they make a mistake or something goes awry," he tweeted earlier that month.

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April 2022

Fans called out the host for making an inappropriate comment aimed at White. Following an opera singer contestant's big win, Sajak asked his cohost at the end of the episode, “Are you an opera buff at all?” After she answered, “Yes, I’m not a buff, but I like opera," he joked in response, “Have you ever watched opera in the buff? I’m just curious.” White did not publicly address the joke.

After the episode, one fan tweeted, “I feel like I just witnessed a #metoo moment on @WheelofFortune?” Another user defended Sajak, writing, “People love shows and sitcoms with filthy language and violence then want to jump on Pat Sajak for everything he says. I’m sure his intent was a play on words from Vanna’s I’m not an opera buff. I don’t think he was trying to insinuate anything inappropriate.” White did not publicly comment on the joke.

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September 2022

Sajak teased that his time on Wheel of Fortune may be coming to a close sooner than later. "Years go by fast. We're getting near the end. It's been a long [time]. We're not gonna do this for another 40 years. The end is near," he told Entertainment Tonight, adding, "It's an honor to have been in people's living rooms for that long. People were out there welcoming us. We're happy and proud."

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January 2023

The producer bickered with a Wheel of Fortune contestant in January 2023. After a contestant failed to guess the Fun & Games category puzzle "Taking a quick jog," Sajak remarked, “Wow, that was so unclose. You just didn’t have the letters.” The contestant quipped, “I just don’t consider jogging fun and games."

Two months later, Sajak came under fire once again after he told another contestant to “Please, solve the darn puzzle!” that had two letters remaining. Though they guessed the answer correctly, Sajak stated, “It’s a horrible moment when you know that everyone in America knows what this is, why don’t I? But you got it.”

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June 2023

Sajak announced his plans to retire from Wheel of Fortune after more than 40 years.

"Well, the time has come. I’ve decided that our 41st season, which begins in September, will be my last," he wrote via Twitter. "It’s been a wonderful ride, and I’ll have more to say in the coming months. Many thanks to you all."

Credit: YouTube

June 2024

Sajak shared a funny moment with a contestant during his final week of Wheel of Fortune episodes. “Ooh, you were so not close,” he quipped after a contestant named Allison failed to solve the bonus round puzzle “Facts and Figures.”

Taking the loss with a smile on her face, Allison stated, “I’d rather that be the case.” Sajak agreed, adding, “Then you don’t have to kick yourself for that.”

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