Update: Whitaker passed on August 18, 2019
Happily, Tom Hedrick is still with us, as is the iconic essayist Jack Whitaker. They’re the only two broadcasters still alive, who called the first Super Bowl on January 15, 1967. Whitaker turned 95 last May 18th and spends most of his time in Pennsylvania and has a place in Palm Springs. Other than the nuisances that go with aging, both men are very current.
Hedrick who was 85 on May 5th was the Voice of the Kansas City Chiefs and also did football for the Cowboys and Nebraska. A son of a Methodist preacher, Hedrick grew up in New England and heard lots of Curt Gowdy. Listening to the Cowboy at the Mike, he learned not to talk at people rather to them.
Tom also covered baseball on television for the Reds and Rangers in the 1970s. In all, on the NFL front, he did three Super Bowls on national radio; 1967, 1968 and 1970.
Yet he’s best known through the last 40 years to many as Professor Hedrick. Tom taught sports broadcasting through much of his career at Kansas and later at Baker University, an NAIA school, in Baldwin City, Kansas.
His instructional book is widely read by budding broadcasters, The Art of Sportscasting. Now retired, Tom is generous with his time to both his former students and others who seek his guidance.
He kindly shared his top tips and listed his top all-time students.
Tom Hedrick’s Fabulous 15
Hedrick identifies 15 of the most talented announcers he’s mentored. They’re listed here in alphabetical order:
Gary Bender – Former CBS and TNT announcer
Nate Bukaty – Voice of Sporting K.C.
Brian Hanni – Voice of the K.U. Jayhawks
Kevin Harlan – Play-by-Play announcer, CBS and Turner, NFL, NCAA, NBA
Brock Kappelman – Voice of Liberal Blue Jays
Bill Kurtis – A&E anchor and former CBS morning anchor
Lief Lisec – TV host pre/post KU Jayhawk basketball
Larry Morgan – Voice of Drake Bulldogs
Laura Moritz – Channel 9 KC news anchor Bill Riley – Voice of Utah Utes
Brian Seiman – Voice of the LA Clippers
Brian Sexton – Voice of the Jacksonville Jaguars
Terry Shockley – Owner of 45 Midwest radio stations
Josh Whetzel – Voice of Buffalo Bisons and Rochester AAA baseball
Dana Wright – Former anchor KCTV 5; now KMBZ anchor
Tom Hedrick’s Dozen Tips for Successful Broadcasting
- Always be prepared. Get depth charts and memorize. Be sure to get the proper pronunciations of the players and coaches names.
- Give the score every 2 minutes, give it differently especially in baseball.
- Know the rules. Don’t be overly critical of refs unless it’s a play that influences the outcome of the game or if it’s a flagrant foul.
- Be conversational; talk to the audience not at them. Get excited when it’s exciting, pause, and then talk in your normal speech pattern.
- Vary terms, especially in basketball. Make “Bullseye”, “Nothing but net”, ”Not this time” phrases not just “It’s good” or “No good”.
- Always listen to your games on a regular basis. Listen to see if you were fair, gave the score often enough and watch for repeating phrases. Get a mentor to critically listen to your broadcast on a regular basis as well.
- The game can be bad but you can’t be; remember you have sponsors paying for this broadcast.
- Don’t drink cokes or carbonated drinks before the games. Also don’t drink milk; they both affect your voice.
- Get to the remote site 2-3 hours before the game. Check the phone lines, the scoreboards and the restroom locations. (see below – about someone who didn’t)
- Check the field before the game and check any last minute changes with a coach.
- Use stories to illustrate your point instead of using stats. Vin Scully says “I will trade one good story for 10 stats any day”.
- Be nice and professional during each game-broadcast you do. As Sparky Anderson told me once “It doesn’t cost you a dime to be nice”.
I call remember Coach Marty Glickman discouraging younger broadcasters not to drink Coke or Pepsi before or during a game but Hedrick’s warning not to have milk is one I haven’t heard.
Funny story about situating the scoreboard before going on-air. And this is as true as can be because there’s a recording of it. In the very early 90s, the husky voiced and basketball aficionado, Jim Karvellas called Knicks games on radio. One night in Atlanta, Karvo neglected to do what Hedrick suggests, ‘Check the scoreboard.’ Yes, there’s a tendency to take things for granted. Karvo was one of the warmest human beings alive and understood the finer points of the game. But he was unconventionally carefree about fundamentals.
Maybe two minutes into the game, a foul was charged against the Knicks and the Hawks’ Jon Koncak was at the foul line for two shots. After Jim’s no-holds barred commentator Walt Frazier quickly blurted that Koncak was vastly overpaid, Karvellas picks up the play-by-play in his casual manner, “First foul shot by Koncak is good and the Hawks lead 7-2.” Then Karvo’s own next words threw him into a sinking predicament:
Karvo: “7:42,” (long pause knowing he just put his foot in his mouth irreparably and couldn’t get out of it. So he lets it roll)….7:42 is the time here in Atlanta…..(pause again before finally finding the game clock), 10:12 to go in the first quarter.” Obviously, Jim never checked where the game clock was and became the first play-by-play announcer in Knicks’ history to give the time of day between foul shots. To have known the late Jim Karvellas was to love him.
Lots of wonderful broadcasters have worked in the Kansas City market; Merle Harmon, Kevin Harlan, Bob Davis, Denny Matthews , Monte Moore, Mitch Holthus, Steve Physioc, Buddy Blattner and Hedrick, among others.