Reagan got his start announcing play-by-play

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The Oakland Press - On The Radio, June 11 2004

 
As the country mourns the death of Ronald Reagan today with the first state funeral in more than 30 years, it seems appropriate here to recall that one of the former president's first jobs was in radio.

In the fall of 1932, he called the Iowa-Minnesota football game for $5 and bus fare for WOC in Davenport, Iowa. By 1933, he was hired as a staff announcer and his duties included playing records, reading commercials and serving as a vocal bridge between local and network broadcasts.

Reagan later transferred to WHO in Des Moines, Iowa, which had recently boosted its power to 50,000 watts. At WHO, he was the station's sports announcer where one of his tasks was calling play-by-play for Chicago Cubs games.

It required creativity, as he was not actually present at the games, but had to re-create events for listeners using only reports from a telegraph machine.

Reagan later commented, "I spent four years at WHO and they were among the most pleasant of my life. At 22, I'd achieved my dream: I was a sports announcer. If I had stopped there, I believe I would have been happy the rest of my life. I'd accomplished my goal and enjoyed every minute of it. Before long, during the depths of the Depression, I was earning $75 a week and gaining the kind of fame in the Midwest that brought in invitations for speaking engagements that provided extra income I could use to help out my parents."

Reagan's days in radio came to a sudden end in 1937 when he traveled to California to cover the Cubs' spring training. While there, he decided to pursue another dream and traveled to Los Angeles for a screen test. He was offered a seven-year contract by Warner Brothers and the rest, as they say, is history.

Although many will be watching today's events on television, there will also be outstanding radio coverage on both News-Talk WJR-AM (760) and News WWJ-AM (950) for those temporarily without access to a TV.

We hope both stations will simulcast the special programming on one of their sister FM stations for those unable to get AM inside of office buildings and factories.

Major kudos go out to the gang of the "Mojo in the Morning" show at Top 40 WKQI-FM (95.5) for their successful prank on Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm last week.

In case you missed it, co-host Spike successfully set up a fake phone call by maneuvering through Granholm's staff posing as member of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's staff.

When Granholm came on the line to propose a friendly wager over the results of the NBA Finals between the Pistons and Lakers with whom she thought was Schwarzenegger, impressionist Eric Harthen took over and pulled the ruse on Granholm.

The gag ended when Mojo finally jumped in and told Granholm that Schwarzeneger's favorite radio show is Channel 95.5's Mojo in the Morning. The Gov was good-natured about being pranked and even said, "That is so funny!"

To hear the whole thing, visit www.mojointhemorning.com and click on the Audio Clips link. It's easily one of the funniest radio bits I've heard in a long time.

Oldies WOMC-FM (104.3) morning man Dick Purtan has once again been nominated for the national Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago.

He's up against Cincinnati Reds baseball announcer Marty Brennaman, WOR New York hot talker Bob Grant, and KTAR Phoenix talk host Preston Westmoreland.

But you can cast a vote for Purtan - by joining the Hall of Fame for $15. Just visit www.radiohof.org.

Closer to home, Ted Heusel, an Ann Arbor radio legend for more than 50 years, will go into the Michigan Broadcasters Hall of Fame later this summer.

The veteran of WPAG, WOIA and WAAM has done it all - and even gave Ann Arbor native John "Records" Landecker his first radio job. Today, WLS Chicago icon Landecker does talk on The Windy City's 80 year-old WGN Radio 720.

Also going into the Michigan hall this year is retired WOMC manager Elaine Baker and WWJ Lansing correspondent (and fellow Fraser High grad and Oakland Press contributor) Tim Skubick.


Mike Austerman publishes the Web site Michiguide.com.

 

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Mike Austerman published on June 11, 2004 8:00 AM.

Infinity CEO's departure could bring shockwaves was the previous entry in this blog.

Pistons' victory fueled by local radio coverage is the next entry in this blog.

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