Bob Harris…. Last Of A Breed

    BobLee
    July10/ 2016

    BobHarrisXGiven a Do-Over or 2nd-Time-Around, I’d opt for either baseball umpire or “Voice Of”. Duke’s Bob Harris doesn’t need a Do-Over to be exactly what he was born to do for the past 40 years – The “Voice of” The Duke Blue Devils.

    Bob announced his Farewell Tour last week. The upcoming 2016-17 football / basketball seasons will be it for Bob. He will be signing off next Spring.

    Here is a compilation of all of the details of Bob’s four decades “behind the mike” at The Wally and in Cameron and wherever his beloved Blue Devils were playing. – LINK .

    http://www.goduke.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=4200&ATCLID=211052312

    If there is a niche profession where “good guys” seem to thrive in abundance, I think Voice Of might be it. At least it has been so for the past 50 years or so in American Sports. Like so much in our rapidly evolving (dissolving ??) society, Voice Of ain’t exactly a growth profession. There is no next generation of Voices Of on the horizon.

    Bob Harris will always be linked to his fellow Albemarlian Voice Of Woody Durham. That both came out of Albemarle within a few years of one another and ended up as competing Voices Of heated 15-501 rivals thru the same four decades assures their permanent bond. Woody for the much larger fan base, and self-acclaimed, Flagship and Bob for the esteemed elite Gothic Rockpile eight miles to East.

    Have I mentioned that Bob is a long time regular enjoyer of a certain Internet Legend’s provocative website? He is. Something he most definitely does NOT share with Bre’r Durham. Ol’ Woodrow doesn’t much care for the opinions we offer here. Understandable.

    Upon the passing of Don Shea I said “Anyone who didn’t like Don Shea, never met Don Shea”. The same goes for Bob Harris. If you have a terminal case of HateDook and automatically include Bob, then shame on you. Yes, Bob is a Tru-DukeBlue Blood and a Tru-Hail Fellow Well Met.

    Perhaps the best summation of the Bob Harris / Woody Durham perceptions is a comment I recall from a quite passionate C-Blue Kool-Aid consuming Franklin Streeter about ten years ago…. To paraphrase:

    ….. I turn off the TV sound and listen to Woody call the games because I know he (Woody) will tell it like it is….. NOT like that pathetic “homer” Bob Harris over at Duke. ….. YEEE HAA! Even “my buddy” Chansky laughed at the absurdness of that.

    Woody Durham “telling it like it is” ranks along with Bill Clinton’s “I did NOT have sex with that woman” among grand knee-slapping comedic quotes of the past 50 years.

    To Woody’s defense and that fan’s criticism of Bob Harris….. all Voices Of are about as objective as “Baghdad Bob” reporting on Desert Storm… or whatever dead-eyed dimwitted Pinocchio is Press Secretary / shill for whoever is POTUS.

    A Voice Of who is not an overtly partisan “homer” / shill for his employer will last about as long as a PGA Tour golfer with the “yips”…. or an MLB pitcher with Steve Blass disease (can’t throw strikes) …. or an NFL place-kicker with plantar fasciitis. Not very long.

    He better be an eternal tub-thumping optimist for “our boys” …. and sincere as possible that “we” are God’s chosen team. Victory would surely have been “ours” had time not run out or the forces of pure evil not ganged up on us.

    Alas, with the retiring of the latest generation of Voices Of beginning with Kentucky’s Cawood Ledford…. Georgia’s Larry Munson…. and Woody and now Bob Harris it will end a most colorful era of sports entertainment.

    Oh to be a Bob Prince…. Harry Caray…. Milo Hamilton…. Johnny Most…. Ernie Harwell…. Jack Buck…. and The Best of The Best – kaiton_chuck_kkVin Scully.

    No mention of play-by-play Voices Of “good guys” is complete with including Chuck Kaiton – Voice Of The Hurricanes high on the list.

    There will always be play-by-play guys calling games for sure; but not the colorful “us versus them” homers we loved or despised depending on where we were on our radio dial.  Plus there was the “paint a word picture” aspect of sports on radio versus the “see for yourself” aspect of sports on TV.

    When I would hear a rabid partisan blasting Woody or Bob for being “homers” I would ask “so why were you listening to them?” Wouldn’t one have to be a real masochist to listen to a hated rival’s play-by-play guy call a game? I mean REALLY?

    I love following the St Louis Cardinals. Thru MLB.prime I can watch EVERY Cardinals game via the Cardinals’ Network – FoxSportsMidwest). The Cardinals’ guys know all the locker room scoop as well as team history and, yes, they are “homers”.

    Watching national telecasts I usually have no clue who the announcers are, nor do I care. Like so many, I do find Dick Vitale annoying and a pathetic caricature of himself.  I “blame Vitale”for many of the misplaced priorities in Big Time College Basketball.   Brent Musbarger is waaaay past his prime. Other than those two, I don’t pay attention.

    “Radio” is certainly not a growing media platform. I have had my current car for six months and have not turned the radio on. I am listening to audio books when I am driving.   Any sports event I care about is going to be on TV somehow.

    I am sure there are still a few fans sitting by their radios listening to an oh-so-familiar voice “describing the action”. But there aren’t very many of those left. If there aren’t many attentive ears, there won’t be advertisers wishing to promote their products…. and without a revenue stream, there won’t be Voices Of anymore.

    We wish “good guy” Bob Harris happy trails and pleasant memories of so many Blue Devils victories.

    We should all “love what we do” and be as “loved for doing it for so long” as The Voice of The Duke Blue Devils – our friend – Bob Harris.

    ##

    Those BIG CHANGES Are “Just Around The Corner” …..

    ###

    BobLee
    • Deon McCormick Reply
      3 years ago

      As a former Duke football player, it’s sad to see Bob Harris go. His voice alone would get any player motivated to play, any coach motivated to coach, and any fan motivated to cheer. You will be missed.

      Deon “Chop” McCormick #10 — Trinity ’07

      • BobLee Reply
        3 years ago

        Just “a darn fine fellow”. We need lots more “fine fellows”.

    • wolfdon Reply
      3 years ago

      Agree that Ray Reeve was fun to hear announce basketball games from Reynolds way back then, however, he was not really the voice of the WP “only ” , if I recall correctly. Seems to me he was also the voice of the Tar Heels in football for quite a while also. Just saying……

      • BobLee Reply
        3 years ago

        You may be right. I recall Ray Reeves and Nick Pond doing Championship Wresting from WRAL’s studio on Saturday afternoon. Haystacks Calhoun… The Von Brauners … George Becker / Johnny Weaver …. The Great Bolo …. Billy Two Rivers … etc etc …

    • ultraviolet Reply
      3 years ago

      “To Woody’s defense and that fan’s criticism of Bob Harris….. all Voices Of are about as objective as “Baghdad Bob” reporting on Desert Storm… or whatever dead-eyed dimwitted Pinocchio is Press Secretary / shill for whoever is POTUS.”

      You will need to listen sometime to Jeff Charles, voice of the Pirates, to witness the antithesis of that phenomenon. …much to our chagrin sometimes.

      • BobLee Reply
        3 years ago

        Why did I think Jeff Charles had left ECU for VaTech ???? How much a Voice Of should “tell it like it is” is an ongoing debate.

    • MercerMac Reply
      3 years ago

      Course my dawg is not in this deal/fight ( not really a fight ) but from a down east-er listening in, I always called him Woody Chapel Hill. He was a homer no doubt but that is expected and he lived up to that expectation. Just saying…I never heard Bobby Harris one time in my 70 yrs. I am sure he was a winner.

      • BobLee Reply
        3 years ago

        I kidded Bob that if Every Duke Alum in NC listened to his broadcasts, he could not top the ratings of The Soybean Report on WPTF. … Unlike Woody, or the State guys, Bob’s target market was never going to be but so large. Granted Duke did pick up considerable Wal-Mart fans as they became a Top Five National Juggernaut under K.

    • Doug Reply
      3 years ago

      It’s a shame many of us residing outside of Kentucky never got a chance to regularly hear Cawood Ledford and Ralph Hacker calling UK basketball games. I was almost always in Lexington or somewhere in the state during basketball season for almost 30 years plying my trade. Those two were the best tandem I’ve ever heard calling games. Listening on WHAS-AM in Louisville, when Cawood would say the Cats were moving from left to right on your radio dial, the listener immediately knew which end of the court at Memorial Coliseum and later Rupp Arena, UK was playing offense or defense. You could literally see the court in your mind. Although I was never a UK fan, I was a big fan of those two. After Cawood retired Ralph took over but the chemistry was never the same. Yes they also called football games too but UK football never really mattered too much in the Commonwealth. Best of luck to Mr Harris in retirement. 40 years from now someone, somewhere, will lament the retirement or passing of yet another broadcasting icon. And the band plays on……I think. Maybe.

      • BobLee Reply
        3 years ago

        The folks in Athens GA hold Larry Munson and his “step on their necks with hobnailed boots” in that same holy regard. Munson was a Southern Johnny Most of The Celtics.

        • Doug Reply
          3 years ago

          Forgot to mention, Cawood’s go to phrase for a player thinking about, but passing up an opportunity for a shot was, “he had a notion.” Simple and effective for the radio audience listening in from Paducah. Musta heard him say that thousands of times.

          • BobLee Reply
            3 years ago

            The best and most enduring catch-phrases are the unintended ones that just happen… reflecting the true personality of the individual. Trying to be “down-home” or “one of you people” NEVER works.

    • NCSU68Grad Reply
      3 years ago

      Admit that I have only listened to Bob Harris a couple of dozen times or so over his career. BUT, he is a true professional. Wish him well in his retirement. Wish there were MORE like him. He deserves to be in the lofty list of folks like Wally and Bill (Jackson). They, too, were also “hometown goobers” who had a certain bias towards the team that they were the “Voice of” BUT, they did it with pride and without “vengeance” against the opposition.

      Like BK of WP Fame, I have listened to NCSU games on transistor radios in Reynolds, driven high in the hills to get a “skip” from WPTF on vacation and scheduled “rest stops” on motor home trips so that I could get my DirecTV dish up and aimed to watch a FB or BB game… The list goes on.

      BK’s “static” memories reminded me of a personal and comical incident. Me and the DW eloped in 1965 and somehow the word leaked out and my parents confronted us. OK, time to then tell my “In Laws”. SO, we made the trip to Henderson and after dinner took the easy way out….tell my old softie MIL FIRST. My FIL was not the most pleasant person….but that changed as he got to know me.

      It was on the evening of an NCSU BB Game in December….right after Christmas. My FIL had 3 AM radios in the house. Each tuned to WPTF for the Farm News. At night, when WPTF cut power and went directional, they would fade like the WP against J J Reddick in the ACC Tourney. SO he would move from room to room and fiddle with the dial and listen to the one that had the least static.

      We were in the kitchen, where one of the Zenith’s was and he came in. My MIL looked up and him and said, “They are married and there is NO baby…..”. He paused and said…”That’s nice….State is up by 2….” and left the room. AFTER the game, he called us into the den and then welcomed me and we talked. He, too, was a diehard NCSU fan….Some 25 or so years later, we took him to his FIRST Reynolds BB game….and he was as happy as I have ever seen him.

      I also am saddened that Woody has developed some issues…..but can not classify him in the same category as the aforementioned. Woody would rarely give you the score….but that was minor compared to some of his harsh and offensive comments….”Wonder where TA is today…?” sticks out. I have some lifetime UNC friends and fans that actually apologized to me via email when Woody popped that little shot. I admit to being an NCSU fan, but am not your typical ABC’er. I lost a lot (most) of respect for Woody that day and IF he had ever publicly (and if I MISSED…I WILL APOLOGIZE) said that in the “heat of announcing”, strange things come out….THEN, I would forgive and move on. However, he is NOT in the Claude Sitton HOF of folks that I wish ill to….it takes a LOT to make that list….

      • BobLee Reply
        3 years ago

        IMO… Woody came to personify the most unappealing aspects of The Carolina Way arrogance in his last decade. My signature Woody Moment was 6-7 years ago in Kenan versus Spurrier’s USC. There was a pass interference situation along the USC sideline that went against Tar Heels. Woody launched into a lengthy “crooked SEC referees” tirade that was vintage rabid board monkey on steroids. I imagined Learfield suits looking at one another with a “it’s time for him to go” acknowledgement. He “did go” about a year later. … of course that sort of manic behavior was “red meat” to the IC board monkey faction, but well cross the line for broadcast professionalism. It was Deems May-ish!

    • 58WolfKennel Reply
      3 years ago

      “BL, your list of recent classic columns is growing impressively. Your promise of something big getting ready to happen must be a new book :>))
      .
      Great history on Bob Harris, but I must admit I have not been able to listen to him very much over the past 40 years, partly because I was out of State for 20 of those years and then listened to NC State announcers for the last 20 after retiring back to the State. The same goes for previous announcer subjects such as the Durhams.
      .
      Therefore my most salient comments on this “Voice of” subject are limited to NC State, Dodgers, and Hurricanes.
      .
      NC State: I grew up in New Bern listening to a very static-filled WPTF voice of Ray Reeves. He certainly had the floor at the time with Everett Case’s great basketball teams. However, NC State never has had a “Voice of” who was really long lasting going through Reeves, Ausley, Jackson, Dornberg, and our current announcers Hahn and Haines, some of whom died way too early.
      >
      Dodgers: Also grew up listening to the greatest Vin Scully from Brooklyn to Los Angeles to his current retirement year with MLB baseball channel getting him on TV as often as possible. What a sweet, melodic voice as well as the most prepared announcer I’ve ever heard. He blends his knowledge, experience, and turn of phrases to create small masterpieces of even dull games. After 67 years, I even heard him make a very minor word error last month. No matter, he’s just the greatest.
      .
      Hurricanes: I had never been a fan of ice hockey (or field hockey for that matter). When the Hurricanes came to the Triangle almost 20 years ago, they brought the announcer Chuck Kaiton. I became an instant fan of Kaiton even if still a poor fan of the Hurricanes. He comes closer to Scully than anyone I’ve ever heard for the thing he does. Part of that he is a teacher with more patience for this Triangle fan base than is probably deserved (can’t change culture overnight :>))
      .
      However, he is truly astounding at the word pictures he paints of a hockey game with all the little moves woven in with a difficult array of multi-syllabic names without missing a beat. Without fully understanding the sport, I fully understand his HOF credentials.
      .
      As an aside, earlier this Spring Elaine honored Elliott Avent on his 60th birthday with a small gift at one of State’s home games at Doak Field. I added a piece of “poetry” on the life of mankind that said simply:
      >
      Birth – Loss of Innocence
      Age 20 – Energy and Enthusiasm in Perpetuity
      Age 40 – Choosing One’s Spots Carefully
      Age 60 – Beginning of Wisdom
      Age 80 – It’s All Memories

      One of your readers from my graduation class read this on Pack Pride and said he had just joined the latter category. I wrote back that what it meant was that he and I had 20 years of wisdom built up trying to find a place to use it. So good to see people like Scully exploding the values of the “80”s. God Bless !! Keep up the good work !!

      • BobLee Reply
        3 years ago

        “The State Guys” were all certainly memorable within their eras… as with Maha’s mention of Bill Currie. The uniqueness of Durham / Harris is that both endured thru four decades at area rivals. Ray Reeves “coming to you from William Neal Reynolds Coliseum” is a boyhood memory for sure as was “Cinderella’s shoe fits….”
        .
        I’ve never listened to Chuck Kaiton but have been with him at various events over the years. THE #1 Ambassador of Hockey to The Triangle for sure. Heckuva Guy!

    • Maha Reply
      3 years ago

      I always liked Bill Currie and Jack Callahan. What did you think of them?

      • BobLee Reply
        3 years ago

        Who was Callahan? Was he Currie’s sidekick / foil. Who was “Rowdy Richard” Raley?

        Currie really wasn’t around these parts that long in the mid 60s. He bolted for Pittsburgh after only 6-8 years. He was the first of the “can he say that?” shock guys in play-by-play. Our era remembers him because he was “of our era” and he was provocative. Woody and Bob’s longevity is probably due to NOT being provocative.

    • RaleighJacket Reply
      3 years ago

      One of the best play by play announcers I have heard in my 50+ years of listening to college sports on the radio is Woody’s son, Wes Durham. Woody had a certain charm, but Wes was the best at letting you know what was actually going on in the game and painting a word picture in your mind of the game. We Georgia Tech fans miss having him as he was a great follow on to the legendary Al Ciraldo at Tech. Our loss is the rest of the country’s gain since he has taken a position on Fox. It is unfortunate that the siren call of TV (and the $) ends up consuming all of the future great play by play announcers. I don’t think you’ll ever find someone like Bob Harris who stays at a school for 40+ years if they are good unless that’s the extent of their ambition.

      • BobLee Reply
        3 years ago

        Wes is another one that “everyone who knows him likes him”. Must be something magic in those microphones. The ones who become Legends with their programs develop a bond with their audiences that $$$ can’t buy.

        • Bill Brockman Reply
          3 years ago

          Sorry to chime in so late, but I was out of town over the weekend with my wife, celebrating our 41st anniversary. So much better than sports, etc.

          Back to reality now, I just had to note that a local announcer has somehow resisted the siren call of network television and remained the voice of the New Orleans Saints since 1978. He has won 13 National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Sportcaster of the Year awards yet has stayed right here with his beloved and in the early years, beleaguered Saints.

          His tones are dulcet and his observations are invariably “spot-on.” After all these years, it is still obvious that he does his homework and that he loves what he is doing. His name is Jim Henderson and if you ever have a chance to catch him in action, you are in for a treat.

          Cheers,

          Bill

          • BobLee Reply
            3 years ago

            I find it very comforting to know that are so many Voices Of through out America that have brought pleasure to so many over so many years. As technology changes, we will lose “the Breed” but not our memories… 🙂

            • Bill Brockman
              3 years ago

              Guess I should also note that Jim Hawthorne served as the Voice Of the LSU Tigers for over 30 years in FB, MBB and Baseball and just retired. However, as often as I listened to him, I just never thought of him as particularly excellent. Maybe listening to Jim Henderson spoiled me.

              Thinking further back, we were blessed to have Hot Rod Hunley as the voice of the late N.O. Jazz when Pistol Pete Maravich played for them. Brief as that time was, Hunley was nevertheless unforgettable. He coined “good if it goes,” “from the parking lot” and “string music,” if I remember correctly. And he was nearly as animated as Dick Vitale, without being as annoying.

              Fun stuff, recalling such good memories.

            • BobLee
              3 years ago

              We’re in to “recalling good memories” here. 🙂

    • Allen W. Smothers Reply
      3 years ago

      Great call BobLee… As a sports broadcast lifer and friend of Bob Harris (although, everyone he ever encountered will call Bob Harris a Friend!), our industry is losing its soul… My idols Wally Ausley & Garry Dornburg, Jim Phillips, Bob Fulton, Al Ciraldo, Bob Ward, Larry Munson, et al, Woody a couple of years ago, now Bob Harris….. They paved the way and painted the pictures in our mind, when there were no TV broadcasts. They were an intimate part of our lives and were the only outlet to follow our beloved teams! I love each and every one of them and a little piece of my heart is broken every time one of them hangs up the mic. You’re also right that each of the men I mention above and below are some of the kindest and most helpful men I’ve ever encountered in mylife! They love what they do, they love life and they just love people,,, Let’s all turn on the radio and cherish however moments we have left with Gene Deckerhoff, Johnny Holliday, Gary Hahn, Stan Cotten, or whoever directs the theater of your mind on gameday,,, It’s a dying art, but one I love dearly and will NEVER give up on as long as I can tune my radio OR program my IT device to get the radio call of my team!

      • BobLee Reply
        3 years ago

        Yep. ?

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