Categories
News

Tribute to local sportswriters and sportscasters

(Editor’s note: The following submission is the second in a two-part series paying tribute to the men and women who has kept Tyrone residents up to date with the local sports scene. The first installment in the series was published on Saturday, Nov. 1, 2003 in The Daily Herald. The submission was printed with the permission of the author and The Tyrone Historical Society.)

JOHN HARLOW
Several years ago, John Harlow replaced Len Slother as sports editor of Herald and became very skilled at ‘showcasing’ standout local sports stars in print. Not only did this help to increase newspaper circulation, but it also has resulted in press exposure that has brought statewide attention to these athletes, resulting in scholarship offers, all-star nominations, and national attention. There are a surprisingly large number of Tyrone and Bellwood-Antis athletes who are attending or have attended college on scholarships that came to them this way.
In the old days, colleges and universities would have alums as unofficial ‘scouts’ to watch for good prospects in their area. Today, the process has been changed, and state rankings and newspaper clippings help the assistant coaches and others from different schools in finding prospects. John would be sure they got copies of stories about standout local players, and in addition, he’d ‘tout’ the players to fellow sportscasters and writers across the state and exchange votes. Then rather quickly, Tyrone and Bellwood-Antis players began to appear in state rankings. This didn’t just “happen.” Perhaps some of the scholarship winners have thought they did it on their own.
KELLIE GOODMAN
Kellie Goodman, sports director at WTAJ-TV, Altoona, always has had a warm spot in her heart for the Golden Eagles. A “good word” from her has helped to gain recognition for the hometown players. She’s invited to many dinners and events in Tyrone, and whenever possible, she attends.
BOB MILLER
Today, Bob Miller, of Bellwood, is the sports editor for The Daily Herald and has the daily responsibility to fill two pages with local and national sports stories.
FAMOUS SPORTSCASTERS
Regionally and nationally, radio and TV sportscasters always have built up huge followings as they would weave word pictures of the excitement for the fans out there listening. For decades, people recalled names such as Graham MacNamee, who became so excited in doing the first broadcast of a heavyweight championships in the 1920s. Or Ty Tyson, famed sportscaster from Detroit, who married “Gussie” Lukenbach, a Tyroner. Or Bill Stern, who would do an entire college football game by himself, talking continually for three hours every Saturday afternoon. And those who were baseball fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates, listened as `Rosey’ Rowswell and Jack Craddock talked about ‘Aunt Minnie,’ who had to raise her window each time a Buc would hit a home run. Rosey’s son, of course, married Alice (Tid) Lotz, another Tyroner.
But, back to the Bucs. Later, Jack was replaced by a young man, Bob Prince. Bob was around for many decades and also was the sportscaster for Penn State Nittany Lions football for several years after Micky Bergstein retired. Then Fran Fisher, and later Steve Jones, have done the Lions, and today, Lannie Frattere and Bob Walk do the Pirates games. And Rob Egan is the voice of the Altoona Curve baseball team.
A LONG WAY FROM YMCA’S SCORECARD
Surely, the next best thing to being there is to listen and hear the excitement. Communications have come a long way since the times when the YMCA used to put up a card outside its door with the latest score each inning of a big game.
WIN OR LOSE
There’s nothing like a winning team to fill the stands. But, fortunately, there are thousands of rock-ribbed fans in this area who love the teams and attend every week, win or lose. They go to every game or meet they can, and they want to hear the games on the radio or read about them in the newspaper when they can’t be there.
It’s more fun to win, but the team members really need your cheers when the score isn’t going their way. And you must remember that those guys and gals are trying just as hard, perhaps trying harder, in a tough game than when they could win easily.
Sports in our schools and for our kids and grownups have contributed greatly to the physical and emotional well-being of a great number of people in this area. And, it’s been important that the local media should “be there” reporting on the games and events.

Categories
News

Tribute to local sportswriters and sportscasters

(Editor’s note: The following submission is the first in a two-part series paying tribute to the men and women who has kept Tyrone residents up to date with the local sports scene. The final installment of the series will appear in Monday’s edition of The Daily Herald. The submission was printed with the permission of its author and The Tyrone Historical Society.)

Tyrone area sports teams have been well-reported over the years, thanks to writers and broadcasterswho have followed the action. Most have gone on to other pursuits or moved to that “Great Press Box in the Sky.” But while here, all provided a boost to the hometown guys and gals.
In the earliest days of organized sports, there was scant attention paid to the games, other than a report in the paper along with the box score or statistics. But as team sports and other organized sports activities gathered steam, it became necessary for the editor and publisher of The Daily Herald newspaper to secure someone who would work specifically on covering and drumming up support for the local teams.
PAUL PRICE
Let’s begin with W. Paul Price, although there were others before Paul who began to cover the area teams. He knew sports inside and out and gave factual reports on all sorts of activities. Paul later moved to the Altoona Mirror, where he covered sports, and then returned to the Herald as editor. His writing style was clear, factual, and easy to read. His headlines told you what had happened.
STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
In 1940, there was no radio in Tyrone, but when Tyrone played the high school state championship football game at Shenandoah that fall, interest was so high that radio station WFBG, in Altoona, sent station manager Roy Thompson and chief engineer George Burgoon all the way to that town in Schuylkill County, and a special telephone connection brought the play-by-play description back to fans here in Blair County.
The scoreless tie sounds like it wasn’t an exciting game, but Roy made it sound just as exciting as his counterparts would do on the national networks. Many listeners remember to this day, sixty-three years later, how the sound of the fans came through the speakers as if the event were taking place next door. Perhaps some of the rowdiness of the fans made them sound a bit louder than normal. Or perhaps it was because in those days, press boxes were scarce and writers and broadcasters had to sit in the stands alongside of, and in front of, and behind fans who expressed their enthusiasm quite vocally — in other words, loudly!
Since that day in 1940, both Tyrone and Shenandoah have gained local hometown radio stations, so when a return game took place some sixty years later, both WTRN, Tyrone, and WMBT, Shenandoah, broadcast the game. Sadly, a few months ago, WMBT ceased operations and no longer exists.
LEAVING HIGH SCHOOL
But, let’s go back to the years that followed 1940. In a short time, the nation was plunged into World War II, and professional sports lost all of their players except those who were classified 4-F because of a physical handicap.
The Pittsburgh and Philadelphia pro football teams merged as the ‘Steagles.’ Reporting local sports became a problem, too, as those who normally would be the sports reporters were all drafted or volunteered and went off to become GIs. However, The Daily Herald did report on the Golden Eagles games, and all were played even though there was no ‘Falcon’ class yearbook in 1942 because of the war. So no record exists of the sports achievements of that year other than in the archives of the newspaper. Incidentally, the microfiche at the newspaper office is a priceless part of the heritage of this area.
During World War II, many high school athletes who approached their seventeenth birthday decided to leave school and enlist, and others who became eighteen during their senior year, were drafted and their teams had to do without them. As Harry Sickler said at a Monogram Club meeting earlier this year, many of these athletes could have achieved greatness except for the fact that their country came first. Not only did they miss playing high school sports, but also college sports and a chance at the pros.
HERB WERNER
After World War II, Herb Werner became the sports editor for The Daily Herald and W. Paul Price was the editor. In early 1955, WTRN went on the air in Tyrone, and Herb became the sportscaster in addition to his duties for the newspaper. After several years, Herb moved to the Altoona Mirror, where he served for many decades; however, he never lost his interest and concern for the sports scene in Tyrone.
RADIO COVERAGE
As WTRN progressed, Will Walk, WTRN’s first program director, did some of the play-by-play broadcasts, as did Lee Ray, the first station manager. Little League baseball games were broadcast that first summer, when they didn’t compete with the nightly ‘Dairy Dip’ broadcasts. Ron Elder and John Eschbach also did many of the sports play-by-play broadcasts. Danny Morningred, as a teenager, used to broadcast summaries of the Little League games each day on the radio.
MORE PIX
When The Daily Herald converted to offset printing, this changed the way that the newspaper was put together and largely ended the necessity to take prints of photos, including action shots of games, to an engraving plant in Altoona. Instead, photos could be taken and get into the paper without a lot of extra driving. Charlie Barr became very skilled at catching the action in a football or basketball game, or finding the right angle to capture a wrestling pin. He and his wife, June, were at almost every event.
LEN SLOTHER
After the Philipsburg Daily Journal, which had been owned by The Daily Herald’s, ceased publication, Len Slother, the Journal’s sports editor, began a long tenure as the Herald’s sports editor. And Steve Michaels replaced Charlie Barr as staff photographer. Readers became accustomed to seeing lots of photos of the action at each game.
RADIO PLAY-BY-PLAY
On the radio side, John Eschbach became the lead sportscaster in the early 1960s and was joined by Cary Simpson in covering the games. When John lost his life in 1965, Cary assumed the duties and recruited others, including a young high school senior, D. Brooks Smith, who has become a jurist on the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. Brooks fondly remembers his days as a sportscaster in the press boxes of the area and also as a news and editorialist for WRTA, in Altoona. Tom Morrow, and later Del Hamer, began doing the wrestling broadcasts.
A cute story should be inserted here. Willard Hickes, president of the Tyrone Area School Board, told things the way he saw them. One day, he said, “Cary, it’s a shame you can”t get somebody good to do your sports.” Cary retired from sportscasting shortly after that.
‘Radio Rich’ Saupp joined WTRN. Today, thirty-three years later, Rich is still the station’s sports director. In recent years, some of the wrestling broadcasts have been done by Mark Westley and Pastor Jay Jones, and John Harlow has broadcast various sports.