Jack Dale is gone. And with that news, the voice of Texas Tech basketball and football for 50 years has gone silent as well. There is not much that I could add to the compliments and tributes that have already been written by so many who knew him like I did. Many more felt like they knew him because they grew up listening to his play-by-play narratives. I'd like to just share a few memories.
I count it as one the great pleasures and honors in my life to have worked along side Jack Dale for almost 20 years in the broadcast booth on Saturday afternoons. We shared some of Tech's great football victories and heartbreaks. Like so many others, I grew up listening to his "calls" of Red Raider football and basketball long before I ever attended my first game as a kid. It has been reported Jack called his first game for Tech in 1952. I was born in January of 1953.
As a matter of fact, when I graduated from Tech, armed with a degree in what was then called telecommunications, I headed straight to the original downtown location of KFYO radio and interviewed for an advertising sales job and perhaps some voice work. The sales manager for the station at that time was none other than Jack Dale.
I'd like to say I owe my start in the broadcast industry to Jack Dale. It was not meant to be. Jack holds the singular distinction of turning me down on my first job interview out of college. In doing so, he said he was doing me a favor, as this was a hard business. To this day, I know Jack loved the broadcasting and game day excitement of doing his job but I really don't think he cared so much the actual business part of it.
A few years later by sheer happenstance, I got the opportunity to work in the broadcast booth. When I showed up for that first Saturday gig nearly 33 years ago, there was Jack. Ever the gentleman, he recognized me and remembered not hiring me and apologized … as if he owed me one. He reiterated he thought he was doing me a favor but I apparently didn't get the message. We both got a good laugh out of it.
After helping for a few years in the booth with various tasks and responsibilities, personnel changes occurred and I was asked to consider becoming the producer and engineer of game day broadcasts. As the long time play-by-play and patriarch of the booth, I don't think that would've happened if Jack had expressed any reservations. That, or perhaps he just couldn't stand the thought of making me cry twice.
There were many memorable games but some of the things I think the radio crew remembers most happen off the air. My thoughts of Jack at this point are of the more personal nature and reflect his personality and very dry sense of humor few got to see.
Being the play-by-play guy and anchor of the broadcast means physically manning the booth from the time we go on the air until the final credits are read. This entails a one-hour pre-game show … the entire game portion of the broadcast, which could be as much as 3 ½ hours, to the 45 minutes or so devoted to post-game highlights and interviews. Having said all that, some bodily functions need to be put on hold … or at least be mindful that input relates to output.
On one particularly hot football afternoon, Jack was drinking quite a bit of water (never carbonated drinks) and by the end of the game was in a bit of pickle but couldn't leave the booth. As we were close to the end and in a commercial break, Jack was standing shifting from one foot to the other and in obvious discomfort. He turned to me and said, "Hey, Pitts, you think we can go any faster? My teeth are floatin'!" The booth exploded in laughter while Jack just had this sheepish but pained look on his face. Seconds later we were back on the air and Jack was the consummate professional.
I do have one final thought. When I started traveling with the team, Jack and I were assigned as roommates for road games. It was then that I fully got to know the man Jack Dale was. He traveled with a pocket sized New Testament bible in his shirt. Before we'd take off on the team-chartered plane, he'd read a scripture and quietly say a prayer. He never made a show of it. He never asked if I cared to join him. It was just something he did. If any of that matters, and I happen to believe it does, I felt better knowing I was sitting beside him.