The voice of Mark Beier climbed higher for the moment, lifting his sunken heart.
Radio play-by-play announcers long for a career-defining call, be it a walk-off home run in October or a clinching 15-foot putt at Augusta.
Mark Beier will forever be attached to his call Wednesday, not for the words he spoke to describe the breathtaking final 2.4 seconds at Savage Arena but for the healing delivered to him by University of Toledo point guard Julius Brown’s buzzer-beater against Buffalo.
One day earlier, Beier’s mother died after a merciless battle with dementia. Her son, whose attendance record is exemplary in a broadcasting career spanning almost two decades, never considered not showing up to his office on press row.
“I thought to myself, selfishly, that it would be a nice little two, two-and-a-half hour escape,” Beier said. “A little getaway if you will.”
Brown’s 18-foot dagger for a 67-65 win proved cathartic, causing Beier to choke up during his postgame interview with Rockets coach Tod Kowalczyk.
Beier, in his 18th season covering Toledo basketball, has missed games only because of scheduling conflicts with Rockets football. He’s called football games for 19 years, missing just one — the 2012 regular-season finale against Akron over a health issue.
“My mom was at peace,” Beier said of his decision to work on Wednesday.
Mollie Beier was a “terrific lady,” said her son, and she never shied from sharing her opinion.
Mark was born in England, where his father served in the U.S. Air Force. At 10 months, Mark sailed to the United States with his mother to join Mark’s father after he completed his tour of duty.
The family settled in Sandusky, and two more children followed. Mollie’s husband, David, died in 1994, one year before Mark started calling Toledo games.
“He really would have enjoyed it,” Beier said. “He got me listening to the radio growing up.”
Mollie never heard her son call a game either. She spent retirement in Florida before moving to northwest Ohio last April to an Alzheimer’s community in Northwood. Her condition worsened in the days leading to her death.
Though not a sports fan, Mollie would have enjoyed listening to her son break down the final frames of Wednesday’s battle of Mid-American Conference title contenders. It was his second time calling a UT win at the horn, the other coming on Feb. 6 when Nathan Boothe beat Miami with a 3-pointer.
Wednesday’s call went like this: “Smith ... looking to pass, does, baseball pass to Boothe. Boothe over to Brown, he’ll fiiiiiiiirrrre. Got it! He’s got it! For the win! Un-be-liev-able! What a play by Coach K! Rockets win it 67 to 65!”
Beier said the call was organic, preferring to roll off the cuff rather than reciting a premeditated reaction. He’ll broadcast another game today when the Rockets visit Akron at 11 a.m.
“I just try to go with whatever is happening when it happens, kind of like a fan,” he said. “I was going through the same emotions everybody else was going through.”
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6160, or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.