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'Painting 'em Purple'

From the Booth
Monday, November 4, 2002
By Jeff Charles
Voice of the Pirates

Legendary announcers key threads in the fabric


Listen to FROM THE BOOTH with Jeff Charles live on Thursday nights at 7 p.m. on WCZI 98.3 FM, or play the audio archive the next day on Bonesville Internet Radio.





I’m big on traditions. Things that are passed on from generation to generation. Sports have traditions. Teams have traditions. College football has a lot of traditions.

Texas has the hook’em horns hand gesture. Purdue has the world’s largest drum. Clemson has the rock and the hill. Ohio State has the dotting of the “i” in Ohio by the band.

Many schools have the so-called “walks” — rituals of sorts during which the team heads into the stadium on foot through the fans a couple hours before kickoff. One could go on and on.

Another tradition is the play-by-play announcer who has carved out a certain identity with the team.

Thursday night on my radio show, “From the Booth,” I interviewed a gentleman who wrote a book on longtime play-by-play broadcasters.

It seems that the South has more of these guys than the other parts of the country. I think there is a reason for that. There weren’t any major league professional teams in the South for many years until Atlanta broke through in the sixties. The prime play-by-play jobs were the college jobs.

It was a different story in the Midwest and Northeast. Many of those guys over the years were college play-by-play announcers and then moved up to the pro level.

Did you know Harry Carey did Saint Louis University Billiken basketball before moving on to the Cardinals? Jack Buck did college sports. A lot of the Midwest guys came through places like Peoria, Topeka and Kalamazoo on their way to major league jobs.

The South was different and that’s why Matt Fulks has written a book entitled “The Sportscaster's Dozen.” It’s an off the air story of Southeastern legends.

The twelve guys featured are Otis Boggs at Florida, the late Al Ciraldo at Georgia Tech, Jack Cristil at Mississippi State, Woody Durham at North Carolina, Paul Eels at Arkansas, John Ferguson at LSU, John Forney at Alabama, Bob Fulton at South Carolina, Bob Harris at Duke, the late, great Cawood Ledford at Kentucky, Larry Munson at Georgia and Jim Phillips at Clemson.

Most of these guys are still working. Cristil has the longest tenure, I believe. He started in 1953. This is his fiftieth year as the “Voice” of the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

As in any profession, there are fascinating stories about the characters involved.

Munson, the longtime “Voice” of the Georgia Bulldogs, actually broke into the business in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and followed Curt Gowdy.

Boggs has a cousin… baseball great Wade Boggs.

Fulton worked with and knew some of the greats in the business — Gowdy, Vin Scully, Jack Brickhouse, Al Helfer and the one and only Dizzy Dean. Bob worked the old Mutual Radio Network baseball game of the week with ‘ol Diz.

Did you know Durham and Harris have known each other since their high school days back in Albemarle? Woody was hired by Homer Rice thirty-two years ago as the “Voice” of the Tar Heels when Rice was North Carolina's athletic director. Years later Rice would become AD at Georgia Tech and guess who he would hire as the “Voice” of the Yellow Jackets? Woody’s son, Wes.

Phillips answered an ad in Broadcasting Magazine in 1968 and has been the “Voice” of the Clemson Tigers for thirty-four years.

Ledford was a beloved legend in the state of Kentucky who loved horses as much as hoops.
Cawood passed away a few years ago and was raising miniature horses on his farm in Kentucky.

Ferguson after many years as the “Voice” of LSU worked in fund raising for the Tigers.
All of these guys have one thing in common and that is a passion for what they do. They love broadcasting and they love sports.

To my knowledge, none of them are millionaires. That’s one of the myths about our business. Guys don’t make as much money as some people think they do. I tell young people starting out that about one percent make big money, about twenty percent make a decent living and nearly 80% starve. That’s pretty much the deal.

Money isn’t everything and I dare say that these distinguished gentlemen wouldn’t trade their memories and the respect they have in their communities for a CEO’s salary.

I look up to these men. They’ve all persevered and become great credits to their profession.

[Note: The Sportscaster's Dozen is available at THIS PAGE in's book store.]

News ‘n Notes From Pirate Land.

  • I get the oops award for a column last week. The 1992 ECU win over Virginia Tech was in Greenville, not Blacksburg. Thanks to those of you who pointed that out. I’ll walk the plank at sunrise.

  • Antwane Yelverton is working on his MBA. He’s a success story and a nice young man.

  • Does Texas Christian play hard or what? That defense absolutely swarms people.

  • Marvin Townes tells me he thinks his cramping problems are over. The answer, two bananas.

Till next time, “keep painting’em purple.”

Send an e-mail message to Jeff Charles.

Dig into Jeff Charles' Bonesville Archives.

02/23/2007 10:23:53 AM

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