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Published: Wednesday, 5/4/2011

Longtime voice of radio sports in Fulton Co. sidelined by disease

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Larry Christy, long-time broadcaster at WMTR radio in Archbold, with sports memorabilia at Icky's restaurant in Archbold. He recently retired because of a rare kidney disorder. Larry Christy, long-time broadcaster at WMTR radio in Archbold, with sports memorabilia at Icky's restaurant in Archbold. He recently retired because of a rare kidney disorder.
THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge | Buy This Photo

ARCHBOLD - For roughly 40 years, Larry Christy was the voice of radio sports in Fulton County.

If there was an important high school football game, Christy was there. If there was a basketball title to be determined -- either boys or girls, it didn't matter -- Christy would be behind the microphone, describing the action to listeners of WMTR, 96.1 FM.

What's more, Christy broadcast high school volleyball matches, baseball and softball games, even wrestling matches.

But Christy's voice has been silenced by an incurable disease called amyloidosis, which occurs when a protein called amyloid builds up in an organ or tissue.

The potentially fatal disease is so rare that it is diagnosed in just 3,000 people in North America each year.

"I refuse to feel sorry for myself -- there's just no point of it," said Christy, who will turn 64 in July. "I plan to fight it as hard as I can for as long as I can.

"The prognosis I got was that I would live for one, maybe two more years. I've already beat it for more than a year, and the way I feel now I feel I can beat that second year, too."

But the disease took such a toll on Christy's health that this past fall he had to give up his job as morning sports reporter and high school broadcaster at WMTR, a station he joined in 1971.

It was a job he fell into by accident.

IF YOU GO

Larry Christy Appreciation Night will be at the Knights of columbus Hall in Archbold, May 14. The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. and include a raffle and silent auction. A cash bar and hors d'oeuvres will be available.

Tickets are $50, include admission for two to the event, and are available at WMTR-FM. For more information, contact the station at 800-686-9687.

"I was a senior at Ohio State in 1970, and that year Pettisville made it to the state baseball tournament," Christy said. "The owner of the station [Max Smith, Sr.], asked if I would do a little color commentary for their state semifinal game.

"I did that, and when they advanced to the state title game, I did the play-by-play. I really liked it, and in the spring of 1971 I went to work for the station full time."

A few years later Christy added Neal Spengler, an Archbold graduate like Christy, to the broadcasts as a color commentator.

Christy and "Blue," as Spengler is known, worked together for the better part of 37 seasons.

"I had known Blue all my life, he loved sports, and I needed someone to work with," Christy said when asked how the pairing was formed.

"I never had a bad moment with Blue; he was so knowledgeable and so fun to be around.

"We would broadcast all the state tournament basketball games, and those drives back home from the state tournament made everything worth it.

"We would take the back roads to make the trip longer, and Blue would tell so many great stories, it was so much fun."

Christy was a regular covering the Fulton County teams that played in the Northwest Ohio Athletic League, and his love of high school sports was evident in the passion that flowed from his broadcasts.

That passion was recognized by the Ohio High School Athletic Association, which honored Christy with the Northwest Ohio Media Services award for the 2003-04 school year.

"My favorite memories all revolve around watching area teams," Christy said. "There have been so many great seasons. Plus, the NWOAL has such great rivalries.

"And these are great schools -- they are able to advance fairly far in the state tournament, no matter what sport you talk about."

What's more, Christy provided sports reports -- and traded quips -- with Max Smith, Jr., on the station's morning show, lent a steady hand every Friday morning when Smith and local sportswriter Johnny Fryman teamed for a popular show called The Prognosticators, and took part in the Buckeye Breakfast Show with Bummer Dominique on Saturday mornings before Ohio State football games.

"People probably don't realize how much fun it was to banter with Max while doing the morning sports," Christy said. "I always enjoyed taking part in those other shows as well.

"And in recent years we put together a show called The Grid, where we talked to area football coaches, and we called it The Winter Sports Zone when we talked to area basketball coaches."

Christy said he enjoyed the give-and-take with the sports community in the area the station covers.

"I miss the camaraderie with the area coaches and athletic directors," he said. "I enjoyed the time with area sportswriters and broadcasters, too, and I really miss that."

Those same faces have helped Christy and his family -- his wife of nearly 35 years, Becky, his grown children, son Ryan and daughter Tracy, and three grandchildren -- deal with the effects of amyloidosis.

"The support of my family has helped keep my spirits up," Christy said. "And you don't realize how many friends you have until something like this happens.

"I've had people come to see me, the number of phone calls I get is amazing, and the cards, notes, and letters have been overwhelming.

"I have been amazed, I've been thrilled, and I've been grateful for all of those people who have supported me. And I've been really appreciative, too."

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com or 419-724-6481.



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