Those of us who follow or cover sports on a regular basis tend to take the happenings on the field, court, or ice very seriously, sometimes too seriously in fact. Every once in awhile, in a game, meet, or match, something happens which causes us to pause for a moment and chuckle or just laugh out loud in hysterics.
Over the years having been involved with youth sports as a public address announcer, scorer, or commentator, I’ve enjoyed such moments. In order to keep the column at least PG-rated, many stories I am unable to publish. Some names and places need to be left out to protect the innocent.
It was homecoming at Brewer High School sometime in the late 90′s when the Witches were hosting Mt. Blue at Doyle Field. While I was working that night as the public address announcer, Dennis Kiah, Brewer’s athletic director was standing next to me in the cramped press box. A penalty flag was thrown on the scoreboard side of the field near the 30-yard line when all of a sudden a big roar erupted from the Brewer fans. Wow, this is much ado about a 10-yard holding penalty while Mr. Kiah was going ballistic. Lo and behold, a streaker was making his way across the field wearing nothing but his birthday suit and sneakers. The culprit jumped the fence and got into his getaway car.
I’ve had the opportunity to hear a number of great national anthem singers over the years. In one instance the vocalist did a fine job, only one problem: she forgot the words. When she could not recall the lyrics she ran off and left me holding the microphone. Now, I’m starting to panic as I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Fortunately, the football team along with the crowd did a nice rendition of the anthem, saving the evening.
The officials in various sports throughout the state are a dedicated bunch and do a fine job for the most part. Schools, however, can decide for whatever reason not to have certain officials work their games. There have been a number of reasons given for black-balling officials. The most bizarre explanation I’ve heard is a mother of a player claimed an official was demon-possessed. The school then decided they didn’t want this individual working their games. This has been confirmed by multiple sources and I can’t make this stuff up.
Mansfield Stadium has been a second home for me going on twenty years. Of course, baseball can lend itself to some inane banter because of the slower pace to the game. Rain delays and the like can make for long days at the ballpark. Such was the case at the 2005 state American Legion tournament. It was the final game of the day with the clock approaching midnight. Many of us, including some fans, were getting a bit punchy and haranguing the home plate umpire. This inspired tales from one of the writers in the press box regarding one of the best heckles of an official he had heard. According to the writer, at a hockey game which had gone into overtime, a fan shouted out “the ref must be pregnant, he’s missed three periods.” I lost it. For at least a half-inning, partly because I was tired, I just couldn’t compose myself.
Over the course of a couple summers, I had the opportunity to be in regular contact with legendary coach John Winkin. Winkin coached the Bangor American Legion club in the mid-2000′s. While he is a great baseball man, getting the line-up card before the game could be quite the ordeal. In one instance the Comrades were playing Andrews Post of Portland at Mansfield in the state tournament. I still didn’t have the line-up card twenty minutes prior to game time. I politely went down and asked for the starting line-up. Coach Winkin in his high-pitched voice exclaimed “You can have it when I see his left hand (pointing to the opposing pitcher warming up in the bullpen) come up. I don’t trust them.” Coaches are generally a paranoid bunch but sometimes it can be taken to extremes.
Of course, some of the best times and memories occurred in my ten years in the WABI radio corner at the high school basketball tournaments with broadcasting legend, George Hale. To Hale, the broadcasts were about more than just announcing the games, it was a show. Hale was the consummate entertainer. George could get himself into some predicaments at times, many of which are not fit to print.
Back in the late 90′s Deer Isle-Stonington’s boys knocked off Jonesport-Beals in the semi-finals. A certain woman from Deer Isle, or was it Stonington, was quite excited. The DI-S section was across the way from where we were broadcasting. As soon as the game ended this big woman, got up and headed down behind the cheerleaders, behind both benches, and hollered up to us “I want to speak to George Hale.” in a really thick downeast accent. Now we were located in the first few rows of seats in the corner, just above the bleachers. I turned to George and said, “this woman down here wants to speak to you.” She bellows out “That game was a lot better than the other day, wasn’t it George”, Hale responds, “Yes, they did a nice job” when she yells out “That’s DEER ISLE-STONINGTON.”
George turns to me and says “Well Bobby, I don’t know what her problem was but I’m glad she’s happy.” Following which, without quoting his exact words made reference to the possible shape of the family tree. They would go on to win the Eastern Maine Championship a few days later and we saw her coming. What a bunch of cowards we were, we all ran and hit.
Of course, one of the most memorable games in the history of the Bangor Auditorium occurred in 2001 when Bangor beat Deering for the state championship on Joe Campbell’s reverse tip in on Zak Ray’s last-second heave. I had the pleasure to be the color commentator that night with Jon Small. On the floor working TV that evening was Bob Cimbollek and Mike Hale. As soon as the final play was made and bedlam was taking place on the floor, Jon and I just went nuts. To this day, I still haven’t heard a recording of our call. Coach Cimbollek’s now famous clip was as matter of fact as possible “it’s all over”. Every time Jon Small and I see each other, we always seem to say in unison “it’s all over.”
Of course, not every tournament game has such drama. Such was the case in a class D girls quarterfinal, which was the final game of a seven-game day. Charlie Farley was originally scheduled to do the game but Don Shields asked to borrow him to do color for a radio station out of Washington County. George Hale obliged and decided to do the game with Al Hackett, Hale’s longtime broadcast partner. The game must have taken two hours with the incessant whistles throughout the contest. Following the game, Charlie comes back up to our corner and Hale exclaims, “Farley, I’m never calling another #!@#&# Class D Girls game again, you can have all of them.” And I don’t believe Hale ever did since.
Sometimes George would make a statement on air, ponder what he just said, and then try to explain himself. A classic example occurred in a boys D quarterfinal game sometime in the late 90′s in the final game of the morning session. Hale was working with Bob CImbollek when one of the players was bleeding and got blood on the playing surface. Of course the hazmat crew had to come out and there was quite a delay when George said, “we’re going to lose our lunch.” If he just left the comment alone, things would have been fine but as he kept explaining he kept digging the hole deeper.
It was my responsibility to keep statistics for most of the games in the corner. Most of the time these consisted of rebounds, assists, field goal percentages, etc. Every once in a while we would come up with some odd-ball stat just for amusement sake. Penquis coach, Tony Hamlin, was known to get quite intense on the sidelines. His coaching attire would feature a sweater vest, which he would hike up if the action got really tense. We took wagers and kept track of the number of times Hamlin raised the waist of his sweater vest during one game. I believe the total was around 45.
Coach Cimbollek has been known to have trouble with names at times. Once such instance was in the inaugural season of the Calvary Chapel basketball team. Cimbollek, who was working the game with the venerable Hale, kept referring to the team as Calvary Baptist. Throughout the night, I kept putting a sticky note in front of his face stating “it’s Calvary CHAPEL.” It still didn’t help.
As the now defunct Sabers team was playing Bangor Christian on this night, BC had a three point lead with about 1:30 to play. Hale then made one of my favorite calls when Calvary Chapel’s Kyle Bradford hit a three to tie the game. “Bradford for threeeeee, and the chapel is rockin’ tonight.”
The game ends with Bangor Christian winning and all of a sudden revival is breaking out in the Calvary Chapel fan section. Looking back I’m not sure who’s reaction Is more priceless, the look on the faces of the school administrators or George Hale’s. Again, to keep this column PG-rated, that is where this story will end.
Perhaps the funniest moment came around 2000. Melissa Pearch, who was a sports reporter for WABI-TV had just finished broadcasting a game with us when she complained of a headache. She was in need of some aspirin or ibuprofen to help relieve the pain. To the rescue came Al Hackett. Al would bring a briefcase with him and had everything but the kitchen sink in it. Food, tissues, scorebooks, pens, pencils, you name it, it was in there. Sure enough, he had some ibuprofen so he gave Pearch two pills.
As soon as the pills went down the hatch, Al turned to Melissa and asked, “Did I just give you those two little blue pills?” “Yes”, Pearch said sheepishly. “Oh, no”, Hackett said with all seriousness. “What?” Melissa asks. Al explained those were his pills for shall we say, male enhancement. You know, the pills that if they work longer than four hours medical attention should be sought after. You could just see the color go out of Melissa’s face. We all played along before Al let the cat out of the bag after about twenty minutes. Al and I still have a good laugh about that all these years later.
After all these years many of the games have faded from memory but I still laugh when I think of all the fun we’ve had.