ON THE AIR: Ralph Black marks milestone anniversary in broadcasting

Published 3:00 am Saturday, January 2, 2016

After 50 years in radio broadcasting, a safe bet would be that Ralph Black’s most memorable broadcast would be in 1984 when Ted Clem kicked a 50-yard field goal as time expired to give Troy State University an 18-15 win over North Dakota State to win the Division II National Championship. Or maybe the university’s baseball or basketball championships or maybe a high school state championship.

But, Black said all bets are off.

His most memorable broadcast had nothing to do with sports but it was all about winning.

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Black leaned back in his chair, folded his hands and sat thoughtfully before responding.

“It was about 10 years ago,” he said. “We were doing a remote broadcast from Dairy Queen here in Troy. There was some kind of fundraiser – I don’t remember. But a young girl, a pretty young girl, Delaney Davenport, came in from Children’s Hospital. She had just learned that she was cancer free. That brought tears to my eyes that day. That topped any broadcast I have ever done. She had won the greatest victory of them all.”

Black had taken a few minutes at the close of his early morning broadcast to reflect on his long and storied career in radio broadcasting.

As the clock ticked to 9 a.m., Black said, as he has hundreds of time before, “Don’t touch the dial. More good music is coming your way.” He then took off his headset and drifted back to 1964.

On December 28, 2015, Ralph Black celebrated 50 years in radio broadcasting.

It all started when he was playing with The Auburn Knights, “a good little band,” and a friend suggested that he interview for a job with WAUD in Auburn.

“He said I had a good voice for radio, so I applied and got the job,” Black said. “I enjoyed being on the radio but I didn’t really think about it being a career job.”

And, for a while Black’s only, interest in the radio was “turning it on.”

“I got into insurance and was living in Birmingham and stuff was going on that made me want to get out of the big city,” he said. “That was 1971. That’s when I came to Troy and to WTBF. I called high school sports, play by play. And, I would hate to hear what I sounded like.”

Black said technology back then was nothing more than stringing up a line on a telephone pole.

“The quality of the broadcast was not good, to say the least,” he said. “Too much treble or too much bass.”

Black was broadcasting back when he had to time the breaks with a stopwatch.

“We did all the commercials live,” he said. “Sometimes the audience could hear the pages flap when you turned them to read the next page. All the music was on tapes and it you’d have to be looking for the next tape while the other one was playing. It was a juggling act.”

Black said has enjoyed all aspects of radio broadcasting but being a play-by-play announcer for Troy University was as big an education as anything in his life.

“I got to travel all over the country,” he said. “I went to Connecticut, Massachusetts, Indiana, Ohio, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, New York, California, Texas and, if that’s not an education, I don’t know what is. I had a good time, all the time.”

From all of his travels and all of his experiences, Black said he learned something very important.

“There are good folks and bad folks in every part of the United States,” he said. “I was very fortunate that I got to know so many good folks.”

As the play-by-play announcer for WTBF-Radio, Black called high school state championship games and Troy University’s national baseball, basketball and football championship games.

Black cited the Troy Red Wave’s NAIA National Football Championship in 1968 and Troy University Division II Baseball National Championships in 1986 and 1987 (his son was on those teams) as standout memories.

“One basketball game that was a heartbreaker was the national championship game against Cal-State Bakersfield,” Black said. “The Trojans lost that game but we could have won. Back then, you didn’t have a day between games and we had played late the night before and had to play the championship game at noon. Our team was exhausted. If we’d had a day’s rest, we would have won.”

Black shook his head in remembrance of Troy’s game against DeVry, which is the highest scoring game in NCAA basketball history with a final score of 258-141.

“The Trojans won but I don’t even like to think about all that,” he said.

Black said the Trojans’ national football championships are among his favorite memories. The Trojan won the NAIA national championship in 1968 and the NCAA Division II championships in 1984 and 1987.

“Every championship is memorable but the one that was a real nail-biter was the 1984 game against North Dakota State at the Palm Bowl in McAllen, Texas,” Black said. “The Trojans were trailing 17-15 with time expiring, Ted Clem trotted on the field and kicked a 50-yard field goal as time ran out giving the Trojan a 18-17 win. Talk about exciting. Talk about a celebration.”

For Black, there have been so many memorable moments but none of them top the victory he announced at the Dairy Queen in Troy.

After 50 years “in the business,” Black said he’s not yet ready to “sign off.”

“I like what I’m doing so why not keep on doing it,” he said. “So, I’ll just keep going cause there’s more music coming your way.”