When ScoresBroadcast.com’s Jack Kramer got his start on the airwaves announcing college and high school sports, he filled in briefly at the 1968 Rose Bowl for a member of the Indiana University radio crew who developed laryngitis during the game.
Having held Southern Cal’s O.J. Simpson to less than 70 yards on his first 20 carries, the Hoosiers defense was playing very well, prompting Jack to say to the network play-by-play guy, “IU has bottled up the Juice.”
That memorable beginning, which momentarily cracked up Max Skirvin, the voice of IU athletics, marked Jack’s first-ever on-air stint.
The rest as they say is history.
Fifty years and a month later, Jack will call his 3,000th game this Friday, Feb. 9, when Jackson Center plays at Fort Loramie in Shelby County Athletic League (SCAL) basketball.
According to his family’s count, the number might be off a few games. Jack blended in some occasional coverage of Edison State Community College basketball with his high school broadcasts on WPTW-AM radio right after launching 26 years of service at Edison. He was employed as the college’s director of marketing in 1985 following eight years in a similar position at Clark Tech, now Clark State, in Springfield. He noted that possibly as many as “ten to 15” Chargers games played at Piqua’s old Roosevelt Fieldhouse were on the radio way back then.
“I liked that small, cozy gymnasium several blocks from downtown,” Jack said. “I could comment that every single contest was ‘darn near a sell out’ and be spot on.”
“Promotion” and “marketing” are synonymous with Jack. He said his most rewarding years professionally were his last ten at Edison, expanding enrollment with media success stories about graduates and faculty, targeting print and later social media at specific audiences, and advancing the college president and board of trustees. “Boosting Edison was in my blood,” he remarked.
Averaging at least 60 games annually on radio, television or the Internet for five decades and in excess of 100 in each of the last dozen years on ScoresBroadcast.com, Jack covered the Hoosiers as an undergraduate student and covered the Miami University (MU) Red Hawks while completing his master’s degree. His studies at Miami led to a connection with a fellow graduate student, Ed Clay, who soon after finishing at MU served as the executive director of Ohio State University Radio and Television.
In 1980, Clay selected Jack as the television play-play play voice for the delayed broadcasts of Ohio State football. For eleven years, the games were re-played statewide via twenty PBS stations on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings. The halftime OSU marching band performance was also shown in its entirety. For the final eight years of the coverage, Jack teamed with former Buckeye Paul Warfield, who starred for the Browns and Dolphins.
“Good fortune. Great friendships. And right place, right time,” offered Jack, noting how he luckily landed the OSU gig. He tried to pattern some of his style after IU grad and the legendary network announcer, Dick Enberg, whose fairly deliberate approach made every word count.
“Look at the shoeless Byars go,” was Jack’s succinct call of the 67-yard, zig-zag, touchdown run by the Buckeyes tailback versus Illinois in 1984. Missing his left cleats 20 yards downfield, Keith Byars still blew right past several Illini defenders. In recapping, Jack announced, “Illinois caught up with Byars’ left shoe, but not his right.”
Clay, Jack’s boss and stadium production manager, was a task-master, always demanding a professional presentation. In fact, the first former player to fill the color announcer role alongside Jack didn’t last.
“He liked to describe a kick-off through the end zone as a ‘beer can kick-off,’ or a ‘non-returnable,’ Jack remembered. “Needless to say, he got the boot.”
Through the 1980’s and 1990’s, Jack’s announcing of high school sports for the Piqua and Greenville radio stations included the Versailles state football championship in 1995. With his voice squeaking after 3 1/2 hours, he managed to weakly bark out the fourth-down scoring run by the Tigers who beat Bellaire in two overtimes.
“Another overtime would have outlasted me,” said Jack, revisiting that title game in Massillon. “I didn’t have any squeaks left.”
Among Jack’s most favorite experiences covering high school sports online are Jackson Center, Fort Loramie and Lehman Catholic state championships in volleyball; Anna, Fort Loramie and Versailles state championships in girls basketball; Fort Loramie and Minster state championships in baseball; and Minster state titles in football.
“I also enjoy chatting with coaches and players of other sports and inserting those conversations into the halftime breaks,” Jack stated.
For five years starting in 2002, Jack freelanced for WMVR-FM in Sidney, which broke its long-standing tradition in fall 2007 and dropped high school sports. At that time, Jeff Bray, Jack’s radio sidekick, said that “we can fill this void by providing the service online.”
Jack said he doubted the “Innernet” initially. “I didn’t even spell it correctly at first,” he laughed. “I was fearful our voices would fade away in space and never be heard again.”
Clearly ahead of the curve, Jack and Jeff marched on with a passion for delivering high school sports on the airwaves.
“On a lark, we launched SCORES — the Shelby County Online Radio Entertainment System — not knowing if there was a future or even a second game,” recalled Bray. A pioneer of the online service, Bray has since moved to South Carolina after living in Sidney and Russia.
More than 1,300 Internet webcasts later, Jack and Chuck McBee of Piqua are sharing play-by-play and color with listeners at 500 IP addresses, consistently, for each match or contest. Jackson Center boys and girls state semi-final basketball games on weekday afternoons in 2016 and 2017 attracted 2,000 IP addresses. Recent regular season games in 2017-18 involving Anna, Russia, Fort Loramie and Versailles boys drew in excess of 1600 IP addresses for exciting fourth quarter action.
“I got the bug for Internet webcasts of Sidney and Shelby County High School sports real fast,” McBee pointed out. “During my first year on the web with Jack, John Willoughby’s Houston Wildcats got red hot and reached Columbus. I have been hooked ever since.”
Jack and Chuck’s webcasts include schools in Sidney, the Shelby County Athletic League, the Midwest Athletic Conference, and occasionally Miami County. The two travel to tournament venues and local teams’ road games which have required journeys to cities including Columbus, Dayton, Canton, Lima, Toledo, Springfield, Zanesville, and Muncie, Indiana. A $5,000 budget is required to meet the needs of the Ohio High School Athletic Association which charges media for their presence at post-season events.
Numerous major founding sponsors still partner with ScoresBroadcast after twelve years. These include Lacal Equipment, US Bank, Barker Insurance, Wilson Health Sports Medicine, and American Architectural Glass. Additional key supporters are Frisch’s, Bambauer Fertilizer and Seed, and Dickman Electrical and Industrial Supplies. In Fort Loramie, partners for nearly ten years include M & A Muffler and Tires; Gaier’s Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, Ram; and Tom and Jerry’s Plumbing, Electric, Heating and Air Conditioning.
Thanks to the Internet and all of the SCORES partners, the webcasts have extended the coverage of games to local high school graduates away at college, former area residents living elsewhere, and upper Miami Valley folks vacationing inside and even outside the United States.
Several years ago, SCORES covered a Sidney High School (SHS)-Bellbrook girls soccer match in the district tournament. When the visitors bus arrived at SHS, Jack met the coach who was quickly joined by a Bellbrook player wanting to know the domain name for the website that was webcasting the match.
“My parents are traveling and wish to follow the game’s progress,” she said, Jack remembered. “My Mom and Dad promised me they will set an alarm and listen at 3:30 AM from Helsinki, Finland.”
Christian Netcast in Virginia performs the hosting and serving for SCORES and facilitates online streaming for nearly 100 additional schools, churches, and businesses in the eastern half of the country.
“There’s no online play-by-play media outlet that duplicates the uniqueness of ScoresBroadcast in Ohio,” said Todd VanTasel, the CEO and VP for Technology at Christian Netcast.
“It’s free of charge for all listeners. It’s supported by business and industry. It’s dedicated to coverage of the schools in its region. It archives all games for listening enjoyment at anytime. And its live webcasts originate from a single-page, attractive website that is easy to navigate by anyone, anywhere.”
VanTasel added, “ScoresBroadcast.com is your radio on the phone for high school sports. It has come a long way.”
So has Jack.
The sandbox was the home for Jack’s first “neighborhood” play-by-play calls. At age five, he hosed down the sand and molded it into a bowl, or a “miniature stadium.” He recalled using toothpicks as football players and taping two together to serve as offensive linemen. His mom’s flour denoted yard lines in the sand. A brown-tinted marble was the game ball.
“My parents often tried to calm me down from the back porch,” he said. “They wondered how every single play could sound so exciting.”
Jack marvels at how the live media coverage of high school sports teams during his career has evolved and been advanced many times over as a result of the World Wide Web and constantly updated streaming technology.
“I can remember in the early 1970’s setting up a six-foot tall antenna on top of the football field pressbox so that a part of Preble County could hear my radio coverage of the Gratis-West Alexandria contest,” Jack recollected about one of his first play-by-play broadcasts at commercial station WPFB-AM.
However, here in February 2018, people located most everywhere on planet earth can hear the coverage of west central Ohio’s important upcoming battles between the Fort Loramie Redskins and Jackson Center Tigers on Friday, the Fort Loramie Redskins and Anna Rockets on Saturday, and the Sidney Yellow Jackets and Vandalia-Butler Aviators on Tuesday.
Some 50 years and 3,000 games after his start, Jack is now describing the play-by-play of high school basketball as “shots literally heard around the world.”