I have welcomed Texas Rangers fans to Arlington Stadium, Globe Life Park and Globe Life Field over the past 38 years. Most Rangers fans know my history, but I’m sure there are some baseball fans who have no idea that I had another great career before moving to Texas.
Imagine spending most of your working life either introducing country music stars on the radio and at The Grand Ole Opry or announcing players coming up to bat in Major League Baseball.
In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I did the late-night radio show on WSM in Nashville. Traditionally, working that shift was prime time for country music stars to bring in their new records, talk about their careers and where they were going to play on the road. That time of night, WSM would reach 35 to 40 states. And it was also a tradition for the announcers that worked those shifts at WSM to become announcers on the Opry. Guys like Country Music Hall of Famers Ralph Emery and Grant Turner. Being fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, I was also an announcer at the Opry.
1982 was a special year for me. In April, WSM started the first-ever, satellite-delivered country music radio show, “The Music Country Network.” I was named the primary host on 100 stations. My competition at the time was Larry King talking politics. I talked country music and interviewed the stars that came by night after night. Willie Nelson, Marty Robbins, Waylon Jennings, Barbara Mandrell, Conway Twitty and, well, name them and they came by. I was hosting a couple of TV shows on The Nashville Network that was just starting up. I made appearances in the Hee Haw cornfield and in October, I was named the Country Music Association’s DJ of the Year.
In December, I got a call from Larry Schmittou, owner of the Nashville Sounds. I was the Sounds PA announcer in their first three years. Larry told me he was taking a job with the Texas Rangers in Arlington. He said, “I know it’s a shot in the dark, but how would you like to work in the big leagues?” Larry was a good friend, but with so much good going on in Nashville, I turned Larry down.
It wasn’t long after that call that one of my good friends, Marty Robbins, passed away. I spent hundreds of hours with Marty on the radio at WSM and at the Opry. Losing Marty had a big impact on me. I think Marty’s passing played a role in my decision to leave Music City, USA.
After reconsidering my decision, I visited Arlington in February of ’83. When I first saw Six Flags and Arlington Stadium and its Texas-shaped scoreboard, I knew I was home. I fell in love with Texas and Arlington. However, I knew I couldn’t make a living just being the PA announcer; selling Rangers sponsorships would also be part of my responsibilities.
Saturday, March 5th, was my last night on The Grand Ole Opry. I loved the Opry and what it meant to country music and Nashville. The King of Country Music, Roy Acuff, called me out to center stage to the “circle.” Mr. Acuff and every one present that night wished me the best of luck in Texas. A month later, I was announcing Buddy Bell playing third base for the Texas Rangers.
Looking back, it was one of the toughest decisions I have ever had to make. I made the right choice – Arlington was home.