Over the years, I’ve enjoyed making friends with members of the Wabash Valley broadcast media.
Some have come and gone — moving to far-away markets before you could blink your eyes — while others have stayed long enough to call Terre Haute home.
In the newspaper business, we’re not in direct competition with our television and radio counterparts. Sure, we like to scoop each other on important stories. But we don’t engage in ratings wars the way WTHI and WTWO do or the way radio stations do with each other.
So when I run into TV/radio guys and gals while covering a game or pursuing a hot story, I feel no tension carrying on conversations with them.
Shoot, Channel 2 sports director Jason Pensky used to play on my slowpitch softball team at Glenn Civic Center years ago.
Many years ago.
Another one of my favorite “competitors” to shoot the breeze with at Valley sporting events is radio veteran Jimmy Kendall. He doesn’t look old enough to have been calling games since 1995, but that’s when the 31-year-old Kendall debuted.
Actually, Kendall called in high school football reports to WSDM-FM in the fall of ’95 when he was a student at Terre Haute South. He made $15 a report, he said.
“I was pretty much calling in South games,” he admits now.
Kendall didn’t become a real broadcaster until the 1997-98 basketball season when he and Kevin Lanke teamed up to do high school games on what was known then as WTHI-AM 1480. The energetic Kendall, a student at Indiana State University, was gaining valuable broadcasting experience for the future.
In the fall of 1998, Kendall and Mike Telezyn combined to call games on WBOW (which could be heard at 640 on the AM dial at the time).
Kendall also worked football, basketball and baseball games for student station WISU-FM 89.7 before he received degrees in radio-television film and social studies education from ISU in 2001.
Not limited to the traditional “ball” sports, Kendall said he really enjoyed describing the 2000 Terry Ray-Rod Bensonhaver pro boxing match — won by Ray in a 12-round unanimous decision — with WBOW partner Scott Gant inside Terre Haute’s Zorah Shrine Temple.
Not all has gone perfectly in Kendall’s broadcast career. He acknowledged that he’s been given some “time off” over the years, not necessarily by his choice.
In 2000, for example, WBOW 640 went off the air because of a legal issue. When the smoke cleared, he returned to the airwaves for what is now known as ESPN Radio (which includes WBOW-AM 1300 and WSDX-AM 1130) in the fall of 2001.
Kendall learned of another unexpected break before the 2003-04 high school season when ESPN Radio management informed him that it would not need his services.
“They went in a different direction [by using a different primary broadcaster],” Kendall recalled. “It was kind of a mystery to me.”
Much to his relief, Kendall was called back to his old duties in the fall of 2004. He also was asked to host a high school coaches show on Thursday nights.
During the 2000s, when high school baseball became part of the ESPN Radio schedule, Kendall was grateful to work side-by-side with such fun partners as Walter Gordon, Pete Emmert, John Brush and Mike Gant in addition to those previously mentioned.
One of Kendall’s favorite moments to report live was Chris O’Leary’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer, which enabled Terre Haute North’s boys basketball team to defeat Plainfield in the Class 4A Martinsville Sectional in 2008.
“That was probably the wildest I’ve ever gotten on a call,” he admitted.
Kendall also mentioned South’s run to the Class 4A state championship in girls basketball in 2002 as a fond memory.
“That was a phenomenal experience,” he reflected. “We probably covered a dozen of their games that year. By the time they reached the championship game [in Indianapolis’ Conseco Fieldhouse], we were very familiar with these girls.”
Although Kendall doesn’t do this for free, his motivation for broadcasting Valley sporting events isn’t money. In case you didn’t know, he’s worked as a full-time social studies teacher at Booker T. Washington High School since 2002.
“That’s what pays the bills,” Kendall emphasized. “I’m perfectly content calling games on the side.
“I love calling the games. I do it because I love sports and I’m a high school teacher and I like to talk up youths who are doing well in the community.”
Kendall said he’s not sure what his broadcast future holds, so we don’t know if we’ll still get to hear him yell “perrrfect!” when someone hits a 3-pointer next basketball season.
“Fifteen years in radio have been great,” he told me last week.
Sixteen would be even better.
• Congrats to Panthers, beware of lightning — Riverton Parke’s 1-0 softball victory over Indianapolis Lutheran for the IHSAA Class A state championship Saturday was my favorite event to cover since I returned to work in late March.
Great job, Panthers and coach Joe Cox.
Now if the weather cooperates, I’ll hopefully get to cover an event equally as fun — Terre Haute North beating Hamilton Southeastern for the Class 4A softball title — as action resumes with the score tied 1-1 in the fourth inning at 5 p.m. today at Ben Davis’ field in Indianapolis.
One scary thing that Todd Golden, Dennis Clark and I noticed from different locations Saturday night was how nonchalantly fans reacted to the deadly lightning that caused postponements of central-Indiana sporting events, including the North-Hamilton Southeastern game.
Let me offer four words of advice for when this happens again: Please take it seriously!
I speak from experience. I was present at Riverton Parke’s baseball diamond April 8, 1995, when a bolt of lightning struck and killed North Vermillion left fielder Kirk Gentrup during the championship game of the Banks of the Wabash Classic. Most spectators, including myself, didn’t think the lightning was close enough to pose a threat.
We were wrong.
When lightning approaches again, take cover in your car and don’t make jokes about it. Don’t be the subject of the next Tribune-Star “lightning claims innocent victim” story.
• Personal note — On Monday afternoon, for the first time since early 2009, I jogged 1 mile around the track at Woodrow Wilson Middle School.
It was probably the slowest mile I ever ran (more than 13 minutes), but the temperature was 92 degrees, I’m 51 and I’m recovering from semi-recent, cancer-related surgeries. So give me a break.
By the way, this Saturday will mark the one-year anniversary of the nine-hour surgery I had in the University of Cincinnati Hospital to remove what my surgeon called “a good-sized tumor” from my abdominal region.
Man oh man, it’s been a looooong journey back to relatively good health.
David Hughes can be reached by phone at 1-800-783-8742, Option 4, or at (812) 231-4224; by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.