In Their Words is a weekly feature appearing Sundays in The Blade's sports section. Blade sports writer Joe Vardon talked with Bill Clark, play-by-play man for Central Catholic football, area high school basketball (boys and girls), and baseball on WCWA (1230 AM). A graduate of St. John's Jesuit (1971) and Defiance College (1975), Clark has worked in Toledo for more than 30 years as a broadcaster and in advertising. In addition to his prep coverage, he is the interim radio color commentator for Toledo Mud Hens home games and hosts pregame and postgame shows for the Michigan State basketball network.
Bill Clark said he feels like he's never worked a day in his life.
Ask his wife, Carol, though, and she might tell you it seems like her husband never stops working.
Clark, 55, is more than just the voice of Central Catholic football, seemingly the only local radio broadcaster regularly covering girls high school basketball, or the man filling in for Toledo icon Frank Gilhooley at Mud Hens games.
He's also a salesman. Since joining WCWA in 1997, Clark purchases the airtime from the station and sells some of it to advertisers so he can broadcast games and host in-season, call-in shows.
Before his current two-year run with Michigan State basketball, Clark hosted pregame and postgame shows for University of Michigan football and basketball, and had some in-game commentator duties as well. It was through his gig with the Wolverines that he ended up handling play-by-play responsibilities for UM's NIT championship victory at Madison Square Garden in 2004.
But what Clark is most known for locally is his coverage of high schools. He said broadcasts between 75-90 high school events a year, and is spending his time now preparing his notes and lining up advertisers for Central Catholic's upcoming football season.
They are time-consuming tasks indeed, but Clark said he can do them because of his family's support. His eldest daughter, Christi, kept his scorebook when he first started broadcasting games in the mid-90s, and his son, Jason, produces many of Clark's broadcasts. Bill and Jason co-hosted a talk show on WCWA earlier this year.
"MY WIFE HAS been such a huge supporter. She's spent a lot of nights at home by herself, but she knows how much I love this. She's gone to wedding receptions by herself, she's gone to anniversary parties by herself, because I'm working pretty much from August to May. And then in June, I shut it down. I don't do anything, and for a while it used to bother me. Carol would say, 'Look, from August to May, you don't stop. So don't worry about it.' Now with the Mud Hens, it never stops. But it's fun. The hardest part is the selling it. The preparation and the actual broadcasting is the fun part.
"I CAN'T WAIT to go to [Fifth Third Field]. I look forward to going every day. Jim Weber and Jason Griffin have been amazing. They've been doing it for so long, and the fact that Frank's not there, I still consider him a part of the team. I do a thing on the pre-game show called 'Gilhooley's Gallery,' and I wanted to do it even before I knew he wouldn't be able to do the games. He's got so much knowledge and he knows so many people. He's an icon, an absolute icon in this town. And he's been so good to me since 1977 when he helped me get into [Toledo television channel] 13."
"ONE OF THE neatest things I ever did was when I was working for Michigan and Michigan played UCLA at Pauley Pavilion, and I met and talked with John Wooden. He was walking across campus with Keith Erickson, and Matt Shepard and I - Matt was the play-by-play guy at Michigan - we were walking across, and we saw him. He was with his daughter and Keith Erickson. We introduced ourselves and said, 'Coach, this is a real thrill.' Matt had one of those disposable cameras, and he said, 'Coach, would you mind if we took a picture?' And he said 'absolutely not,' and we took a picture with all of us. I still have it in my office. The guy was amazingly open and cordial.
"THE NIGHT OF the state championship when Central [Catholic] was playing [in 2005], I was 10 feet off the ground. I probably could've hit somebody too. It was cold, and it was an amazing game. It's probably one of the best broadcasts that I've ever done. Tom Guitteau and I did it. We were both just so geeked up. And the game was amazing. Central ended up making a CD and giving it to the players of that entire game, which is kind of neat because they won it and it sounded that good. When St. John's Jesuit plays Central, plays St. Francis, those games go off the charts. They're such rivalry games in town, and that's part of having lived here all my life. I know how important these games are and I don't take them for granted.
"EVER SINCE I started doing basketball games we've done girls games. And to be honest, my youngest daughter [Kati] played girls basketball at Central, and I always liked girls basketball. But it goes back to giving them a chance to get some publicity as well. She was fortunate enough to play in a state semifinal game and score a basket, and I was doing the game. That was a thrill, to be able to call you daughter's game in the state championships. My son, Jason, played at Central too and they won the district championship his senior year. He made a 3-pointer that gave them a lead they never lost, and I called that game. People came up to me after the games and said 'Is that Clark your son?' or 'Is that Clark your daughter? Because we can't tell by the way you do the game.' And I said, 'Well, that's important.'•"