Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sports Announcers I Grew Up With: Wes Strader

There is a special place in my heart for the radio and TV sports announcers I grew up with. From ABC's Wide World of Sports to roller derby and wrestling, and everything in between, sports was a big part of my life growing up. At my house, we watched on TV whatever sport was 'in season,' especially on Saturday's. If there was a sports event on radio, we listened to it. I was very blessed to grow up with many now- legendary voices and characters. Today, I want to pay tribute to Wes Strader.

Known as the 'Voice of the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers,' Wes Strader spent 36 years, from 1964-2000, calling play-by-play for Hilltopper football and men's basketball, and he was behind the microphone for some of the most memorable moments in WKU history, including men's basketball's appearances in the 1971 Final Four and the 1993 Sweet 16 and football’s trips to the 1973 and 1975 national championship games. Strader still works for the Big Red Radio Network. He hosts a radio show, and has been doing pre and post-game shows for football and men's basketball games.

In 2010, I was sitting beside Sid Scott in the front row behind the broadcast tables at E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green waiting to do a broadcast in the boys regional tournament. On the opposite side of the arena, up at the very top was the Big Red Radio Network press box. I had been a visitor there a few times in recent years and on one occasion, a couple years prior, had actually met Wes Strader.

Previously, I had spoken on the phone with Wes maybe twice in my life. He is familiar with radio folks here in the Lake Cumberland area, specifically my dad, Sid Scott, Welby Hoover, Steve Staples, Stephen Staples and Ray Mullinix. As we sat there at court side awaiting our turn to broadcast, I looked to my left and noticed that Wes was making his way toward our area. I figured he had spotted Sid from the press box was coming to chat with him.

I was surprised when he stopped directly in front of me and said, "Randy? I thought that was you!" Well, I sat up a little straighter as he continued, "I was up in the press box, looked down here and thought it was you." At that point I was sitting up a whole lot straighter and I am pretty sure my head started to swell. After all, I was sitting beside one legend and had another legend standing in front of me saying he had spotted me from across the arena and had made his way down and across to where we were sitting, and instead of going straight to Sid, he first spoke to ME! My first thought, after the initial shockwave had passed, was that I had officially arrived!

And then he said, smiling, "Wait, is this THE Sid Scott sitting beside you? And then, he began a conversation with Sid, whom he had not seen in a while. As they 'caught up' with each other, I wondered if anyone had noticed Wes Strader standing there speaking to me, or even better, had anyone heard what he had said? I actually looked around. No doubt, he had noticed Sid beside me and that is the main reason he made his way from the press box to us, but I was happy with the attention Wes Strader had given me. Yes, I had arrived, lol! Wes Strader is a class act.

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