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Written May 8, 2002

Background: At Richwood High School, I was one of the student managers.  I worked for three different athletic teams in season:  football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and track and field in the spring.  We managers took care of the footballs, basketballs, and uniforms, swept the gym floor, lined the football field, and so on.  I specialized in keeping statistics.

But I also discovered that I had a knack for describing basketball play-by-play as if I were on the radio.  I'd call the action under my breath while sitting at the end of the bench keeping stats on a clipboard.

Our basketball coach, Frank Zirbel (right), heard what I was doing.  He gave me the opportunity to leave the bench for several home games so that I could "broadcast" the play-by-play into a tape recorder.  One of the other managers sat next to me to keep stats, both for my use and the team's.  Later, Mr. Zirbel played part of these tapes to his civics class.  (Hear an excerpt below.)  

In my senior year, this experience of mine gave me the chance to call part of one of our games on WMRN.  Then, because I had on-the-air play-by-play experience, as a college freshman the next year I got the opportunity to call Oberlin College basketball games on WOBC.  Eventually I became station director, leading to a career in broadcasting.

I've found the notes that I used for these mock broadcasts.  Naturally, they don't include the play-by-play description, which couldn't be scripted in advance.  But these notes give us other information which is still interesting:

Details about our high school basketball team in the early years of the Lyndon Johnson administration

My mock commercials for Class of 1965 fundraising activities and my father's auto dealership

My innovative "white space" commercials



The time:  8:25 PM on Friday, December the 6th, 1963.

The place:  the gymnasium of Richwood High School in Richwood, Ohio.

And this is Richwood High School Basketball!

Good evening, everyone.  My name is Tommy Thomas, our statistician is Jeff Benton, and we're here to bring to you, pre-recorded, the basketball game tonight between the Tigers of Richwood High School and the Saints of Delaware St. Mary's.  We'll have the starting lineups for you in 60 seconds.


This program is being brought to you by the Class of 1965 of Richwood High School.  This class, the junior class this year, provides the concessions at all six home games of the Richwood Tigers.  The proceeds from this and other projects of the class will be used to make next spring's Junior-Senior Banquet a memorable one.  Please help to support the Class of '65 by your attendance at basketball games, class plays, and other functions.

The Class of 1965 also is the sole distributor in this area for Penrod's No-Film Glass Cleaner, manufactured by the Penrod Chemical Company of Alliance, Ohio.  Penrod's is sold in one-quart bottles . . . enough to last you all year . . . and comes with an eight-ounce unbreakable dispenser bottle which you simply squeeze to spray.  The quart of glass cleaner plus the dispenser cost you only one dollar, part of which goes to help the Class of 1965.  So remember that name:  Penrod . . . P-E-N, R-O-D . . . Penrod's Glass Cleaner.



As we await the start of this game, we might tell you that we're seated on a balcony near the top row of seats in the Richwood gym, overlooking the court, where the Richwood Tigers are taking their practice shots at the basket to our left and the St. Mary's Saints are warming up at the basket to our right.  This balcony is directly over the central entrance to the gym, and it's located between the Delaware cheering section to our left and the section for the Richwood fans to our right.  There are also many Richwood students on the stage across the court; there are some bleachers set up over there.  The Richwood gym isn't especially large . . . I imagine it will hold about 600 . . . but we still have a good crowd on hand to see a game between two teams that are not what you would call "traditional rivals."


Have you ever noticed that when the windows in your house are cleaned on a cloudy day, the next time the sun shines on them they look terrible?  You can blame the film left by your glass cleaner for this.

Or perhaps you have your own special preparation of ammonia and vinegar or something else.  But why go to all that trouble to get rid of the film left by ordinary glass cleaners?  Penrod's leaves no film.

Yes, that's Penrod's, the instant no-film glass cleaner in the unbreakable plastic spray dispenser.  Just spray it on and wipe it off, and your windows are beautifully clean . . . and not just on cloudy days, either!

Penrod's is sold annually in this area by the Richwood High School Class of '65.


Next week, the Tigers will be on the road for two games.

On Friday they'll be visiting the Byhalia Falcons.  By that time, the Byhalia and Richwood School Districts . . . known as Washington-York and Richwood-Magnetic . . . will probably have been consolidated into the North Union Local School District, so we may have two high schools belonging to the same district playing each other Friday night.

On Saturday, the game is at Elgin.  Richwood is actually the home team in this game with the Comets, but the game has been moved to the Elgin gym due to the limited seating capacity at Richwood.

Then, two weeks from tonight, Richwood opens its Mid-Ohio Conference action with a December 20th game with Buckeye Valley at the Marion Coliseum, Richwood again being the home team.

We hope to see you at these games!


Naturally, I prevailed upon my parents to buy a quart or two of Penrod's.  It was like Windex, except it was dyed a bright orange.  That was fine; orange and black were our school colors.  But after cleaning my glasses with Penrod's, I noticed that the edges of the lenses had taken on an orange tint!

That line "Yes" was intended to mean something like "Yeah, sure."


We've been talking about how Penrod's no-film glass cleaner is best for your windows, but we haven't mentioned its superiority in cleaning other smooth surfaces, also.

For instance, when Mrs. Murgatroyd looks at herself in the mirror each morning and sees only a dim, fuzzy outline, there may be more of a reason than the fact that it's 6 AM.  Perhaps Mrs. Murgatroyd's mirror is dirty.  Or maybe her eyeglasses haven't been cleaned for a few days.

What you need, Mrs. Murgatroyd, is a handy 8-ounce spray bottle of Penrod's on your dresser.  That way you can keep both your mirror and your glasses sparkling clean, and each morning when you awake you can see your true beauty, unhindered by the film of ordinary glass cleaners.  Yes.

Penrod's is sold annually in this area by the Richwood High School Class of '65.


That's the end of the first half, and the score is ___.   [change tapes]


December the 6th, 1963, and this is Tommy Thomas along with Jeff Benton speaking to you from the Richwood High School gymnasium, where the halftime score in this basketball game is ___.

We'll have the unofficial statistics on the first half for you in a few minutes, but first, here's some halftime entertainment.  At the piano is T. Buckingham Thomas . . . I wonder if he's any relation to me? . . . with Music of the 1930's.


Now here we have a commercial for an event that's a long way off at present.

Do you remember the hilarious fun of this year's junior class play, "Father Knows Best"?  Many members of this same fine cast will be back again in about 16 months to present their senior class play for your enjoyment.  The title has not yet been announced, but you can be sure the play will be enjoyable to watch.  That's the Senior Class Play of the Class of 1965, a year from this coming spring.

And for those of you who come to the home games of the Richwood Tigers this winter, remember to patronize the concessions.  Buy plenty of popcorn, friends!  The profits will be used to help pay for next spring's Junior-Senior Banquet.

Now back to this basketball game, being brought to you by the Richwood High School Class of 1965.


The Tigers will be on the road next week:  Friday night at Byhalia and Saturday at Elgin.  So until then, this is Tommy Thomas along with Jeff Benton saying good night from the Richwood High School gymnasium, where ___ has defeated ___ by the score of ___ to ___.

This program has been pre-recorded.


The time:  8:27 PM on Friday, January the 10th, 1964.

The place:  the gymnasium of Richwood High School in Richwood, Ohio.

And this is Richwood High School Basketball!

Hello again, everyone.  This is Tommy Thomas along with statistician Jeff Benton ready to bring to you tonight, prerecorded, a Union County League game:  the Richwood Tigers hosting the Panthers of Fairbanks High School.

Tonight's basketball game is brought to you by Union County's largest volume new and used car dealer, Vernon M. Thomas Chevrolet Incorporated of Richwood.



The Union County League has been reduced by school consolidations and annexations to a mere three schools for the 1963-64 season:  Richwood, Fairbanks, and Byhalia-York.  In a couple of years, the League as such will probably cease to exist, since last month the Richwood and Byhalia schools became part of the new North Union Local School District.  They will continue to operate independently for the time being, though.

The three-team County League plays six games each season.  Each pair of teams plays twice, once at each school.  So far this season, the Fairbanks-Byhalia and Richwood-Byhalia games have taken place, so now it's time for Fairbanks and Richwood to tangle here on the Tiger home court.

Looking over the results of these two games played so far, we find that tonight's encounter figures to be a close contest.  On December six, Byhalia traveled to Fairbanks and was beaten 57-46.  A week later, Byhalia played at home against Richwood and was beaten 57-49.  In other words, Fairbanks beat them by 11 and Richwood by 8, but the Panthers' home-court advantage might have made the difference.

So it's a tossup battle tonight.  The winner will take the lead in the County League at the season's halfway mark with a 2 and 0 record; the loser will be 1 and 1, and Byhalia will remain 0 and 2.

Under Coach Bob Brammer, the Panthers have won 5 games and lost 3 this season in overall play.  Coach Frank Zirbel has compiled a 2-6 record with his Richwood Tigers; they have lost both games they have played so far in the Mid-Ohio Conference.

One other set of statistics:  Fairbanks is averaging 61 points per game and gives up an average of 58.8.  Richwood scores 53.5 and allows 55.9.


These are the records of the teams; now meet the players.  Here is the probable starting five for the visiting Fairbanks Panthers.


Dan Stillings




Barry Cordell




Joe Lowery




Larry Boggs




Gene Trees



For the Tigers of Richwood High School, the following players will start:

Right Guard

Jack Bright



Right Forward

Dick Hill




Frank Carter



Left Forward

Joe Williams



Left Guard

Dick Retterer



And the officials for tonight's game will be Don Holly and Marvin Ramsey.



In compiling their record of two wins and six losses, the Tigers have had some good moments; but there have been times when they failed to live up to expectations.

That opener at home against Ridgemont was played on Friday night, November 22, 1963.

They opened their season at home and were defeated by the Golden Gophers of Ridgemont by a score of 73 to 59.  Ridgemont is still unbeaten; a few weeks ago they beat Fairbanks 73-58.  (There's an interesting comparison.  The Richwood game was 73-59, the Fairbanks game 73-58.)

The weekend after bowing to Ridgemont, the Tigers lost two more:  to Pleasant, 55-35, and to Marysville, 46-41.  But when they returned home to play Delaware St. Mary's, we got into the act with our play-by-play description; the score of that game was Richwood 85, St. Mary's 46, and Richwood had its first victory.

The following weekend the Tigers had to come from behind twice.  On Friday, December the thirteenth, they caught Byhalia in the third quarter and went on to win, 57-49.  But they spotted Elgin too many points on Saturday night.  Despite a valiant fourth-quarter effort, the Tigers fell by one point, 47-46.

Then came two losses in the Mid-Ohio Conference.  Buckeye Valley swamped the Tigers 70-47 on the 20th of December, and Mount Gilead triumphed 61-58 on the 4th of January.

So Richwood now stands 2 and 6, with two more conference games following tonight's Fairbanks game:  tomorrow night at Cardington, and back here next Friday against Olentangy.  Games with Logan Hills, Big Walnut, Byhalia, Fairbanks, and Marion Catholic round out the 1963-64 schedule; two of those are in the Mid-Ohio, two in the County League.


Tonight's basketball game is being brought to you by Vernon M. Thomas Chevrolet Incorporated of Richwood, Union County's largest volume new and used car dealer, selling a full line of new 1964 Chevrolets and Oldsmobiles.

You can get almost any type of automobile at Vernon Thomas, from the compact Corvair to the luxurious Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight, from the Greenbrier for campers to the Starfire for the sports-minded.  In the Oldsmobile and Chevrolet lines, there are 69 different models to assure you of getting exactly the car you want.

(And if you can't find exactly the car you want at Vernon M. Thomas, Jeff says to try Benton Motors!)

For the latest sports news, listen each weekday at 7:10 AM to WMRN in Marion for the "Sports Review," brought to you by Vernon M. Thomas Chevrolet.


When you think of used cars, think first of Vernon M. Thomas Chevrolet Incorporated of Richwood.  His OK Used Car lot is one of the finest in this area.  Recently blacktopped for your convenience, it holds a wide variety of cars, many late-model and some older, cheaper models.

As is the case with new Chevrolets and Oldsmobiles, the prospective buyer can find almost any type of automobile at Thomas Chevrolet.  And he will be able to look over the selection of cars without wading through snow and mud, because the blacktopped lot is kept free of snow with a new snow-blower.

Come down to 153 North Franklin Street and see one of the friendly salesmen:  Tommy DeGood, Dick Griffith, or dealer Vernon Thomas.  That's Vernon M. Thomas Chevrolet, Incorporated . . . Union County's largest volume new and used car dealer.

I compiled the third and fourth commercials from Olds and Chevy product brochures.


Oldsmobile's line of 28 models includes six sports cars for 1964, three full-size and three F-85 Cutlasses.

The finest of these is the Starfire, available as either a coupe or a convertible, and featuring the ultra high-compression 394-cubic-inch Starfire V-8 which produces 345 horsepower.  T-stick Hydra-Matic, power steering and brakes, leather-trimmed bucket seats and a center control console are all part of the package.  And optional sports car wheel discs, walnut-grain steering wheel, and cornering lights add extra glamour.

The Jetstar I, in the medium-price class, is 125 pounds lighter and is less fully equipped, but this bold new sports coupe has the same powerful engine as the Starfire for added action.

And the two Cutlass Coupes and the Cutlass Convertible have their own new V-8 engine for smooth performance.

This is why we say:  for '64 . . . Go Olds!  Where the action is!


Count on Chevrolet to build the one you want.  There's five in '64, five different types of cars from which to choose.

The Chevrolet Corvette, still America's only true sports car.

The Chevrolet Corvair, the exciting rear-engined compact.

The Chevrolet Chevy II, a practical car available in a 4, 6, or V-8.

The new Chevrolet Chevelle, youthful looks and Chevy spirit in a completely new car.

And the Chevrolet Chevrolet, jet-smooth and luxury-size in everything but price.

Chevrolet builds America's best-selling cars and trucks, and they are available at Vernon M. Thomas Chevrolet Incorporated, 153 North Franklin Street in Richwood.

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The final seconds of the game as described by your 16-year-old play-by-play announcer, January 10, 1964.

Six days later, the local weekly newspaper remarked, "The peanut gallery put on quite a show of joy when Richwood came on to tie Fairbanks in the last quarter of the basketball game last Friday night.  The yelling was so loud you couldn't hear yourself think.  Richwood went on to win the game 77 to 68."



The following night against Pleasant, I interviewed two other seniors on the team, Carl Martin and Ron Pratt.  They were the 11th and 12th men on the squad and didn't get much playing time.  My questions:

Why came out?

Played much?


What about team?

Mid-Ohio Conference?

Captain's duties?

Set plays?

Outlook for team?

Outlook for Pleasant game?  (not to be looking ahead too far)

Well, Gene, we don't want to keep you up here too long, so thanks for stopping by to talk to us, and we'll be seeing you in the game.

all pictures come from the 1964 and 1965 Tigrtrax yearbooks

Click here for a sample of my play-by-play
mentioning these names

Print ads use "white space" to add impact to the rest of the ad.  Here I adapt that technique to radio.

After introducing "this word," I shut up for 15 seconds; the listener hears only the background noise from the gym and perhaps thinks that someone made a mistake.  The tension builds.  Then, suddenly, I present the word!  (Even my statistician Harlan Burnside looked at me in surprise when I said "Dashing!")

In real life, radio folks have an aversion to "dead air," so it might be hard to actually produce ads like these.  But they do get the listener's attention!




Now let's hear this word about the Jetstar I.




Yes, "dashing" is the word for Oldsmobile's Jetstar I for 1965, a full-size sports model that loves to move!  You get comfort-contoured foam-padded bucket seats, console, twin pipes, dual headers . . . all at a modest more-for-the-money price!

Investigate!  Stop in at Vernon M. Thomas Chevrolet, 153 North Franklin Street, and ask about the Oldsmobile Jetstar I.  It has everything going for you . . . including an easy-going price!


Now let's hear this word about the Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight.




Did you perhaps expect some other word?  Elegant?  Cultured?  Expensive?  Well, this car isn't out of your class, my friend.  The fashionable new air of the Ninety-Eight clearly states:  This is a car that belongs . . . anywhere!

And every detail echoes it.  Its sleek, sculptured styling on noticeably longer, wider dimensions.  Its greater smoothness and quietness . . . compliments of a fully refined coil-spring suspension system.  Its incredible responsiveness from a new 425-cubic-inch Super Rocket V-8, coupled with new Turbo Hydra-Matic Drive.  Its many, many items of standard equipment . . . power brakes, electric clock, courtesy lights.

They all accentuate the ease and luxury that make the Ninety-Eight Oldsmobile's proudest series!


Note that my name changed from Tommy to Tom sometime between January and December, 1964.

Tomorrow night we'll be back here with another game, the last one the Tigers will play before Christmas; the foe this time will be the Spartans of Pleasant High School.  So until then, this is Tom Thomas speaking for Harlan Burnside and all our little helpers saying good night, Merry Christmas, from the Richwood High School gymnasium, where ___ has defeated ___ by the score of ___ to ___.

From the front page of the Richwood Gazette, January 28, 1965.  Back row, left to right: manager Tom Thomas, Rex Rader, Criss Somerlot, Kelly Drake, Frank Carter, Ned Cunningham, Ron Pratt, coach Frank Zirbel.  Front row: Jim Blue, Bill Dennis, captain Gene Somerlot, Rick Hoffman, Russ Baker, Denny Roberts.


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