Behind the Mic: Dick Tracy

I spent 35+ years working alongside Dick Tracy announcing football, basketball, and baseball.  I knew Dick as a coach, a teacher, a professional colleague, and, most importantly, as a friend ever since I began my broadcasting career.  He passed away on Friday, September 4.

Six years ago, while I was on vacation and out of the country, the news broke about Dick Tracy’s retirement after 40 years of announcing basketball, football, and baseball here at RCN.  Dick and I chatted about his decision right before I left and he specifically asked that there be no publicity.  And, at the very end of his life, he still did not want any publicity.  His instructions to the funeral director included this line:

“Others will write and talk about all of the accomplishments, so why should I pay to talk about myself.”

He was right.  I will happily write about him for free!

His coaching career speaks for itself with his phenomenal record (205-51) and a state basketball title in 1982.  I can still vividly recall following the ’82 team to their state semifinal win only to be told that we could not broadcast the state championship game from Hershey.  Bob Gehris and I could not have been more disappointed.  We had followed this wonderful team made up of wonderful young men, coached by a defensive basketball genius. We wanted to call their last game.  I watched Dick’s team put the defensive clamps on that night to win the state title.  The telecast was on Channel 6 out of Philadelphia and all night long they showed the school librarian who was on the Whitehall bench and referred to him as Coach Tracy.  I think that is where the cliché “I could have thrown my shoe at the set” came from.  The announcers and the production team did not even know the state championship coach.  They did not talk to Dick or, and this is probably closer to the truth, Dick would not talk to them.  “Pleasant”, “congenial”, “sympathetic”, “sociable”, “complaisant” are all words I would NOT use to describe Dick Tracy.  “Cranky”, “obstinate”, “hard-nosed”, “stubborn” and “ornery” seem to come to mind much more easily.  But, with that said, the game announcers did not do their homework.

They did not do their homework.  It seemed so ironic because these are words that could never be uttered ABOUT Dick Tracy.  He ALWAYS did his homework.  Nobody was more prepared for an opponent; nobody was more prepared for class; nobody was more prepared for a broadcast.  Nobody was more prepared!

Dick’s preparation, however, never got easier because he was a technological misfit.  All his notes were done by hand.  He had to write out lineups, background information, records, stats, etc. each and every time we did a game.  There was no computer file- there was no computer.  Why would there be?  Dick could never use one – a TV remote pretty much stretched his technological wherewithal.  But for Dick it all worked.  He was passionate about everything he did and everything he enjoyed.  He didn’t just root for the Yankees – he lived and died after every game.  He didn’t just love Notre Dame – he worshiped the Fighting Irish.  He didn’t just go to a game – he tirelessly understood the game before we got there.

What I most remember, however, about the man I spent so much time with the past 35 plus years is the iconic persona thrust upon him by so many people.  Dick was a former Marine and certainly knew the meaning of “semper fi”- “always faithful.”  His former students, his former players, his former assistant coaches absolutely adored the man and I always had the sense they would do anything for him and that they knew him so well he did not have to solicit their help.  They anticipated what he needed and they were “always faithful” as he was to them.

If respect and friendship are the true measure of a man, Dick Tracy was immeasurable.  Today they refer to these people as “peeps” or the “posse”.  Dick only heard the words “Coach” or “Mr. Tracy”.  These three words represented who this man was to so many people and represented the love and respect they thrust upon him.

Dick gave his time, his effort, his insights, and his friendship to his students, to his players, and to all of us at RCN for so many years.  He was a pioneer behind the microphone and he did the job with grace and humility.  His spirit, for me and my colleagues, continues to be a part of every broadcast.

Finally, on a personal note, I will miss my color analyst and my friend.  We had a great run together!  I have no greater wish than for him to meet up with his beloved Mary.  Much like the nights when I returned Dick home only to see her waiting at the door, I am quite certain she waited for him at the Gates!  They will be together again and, despite my sadness, that puts a smile on my face.

Frances Richard “Dick” “Coach” Tracy – May you rest in peace!

However, with both Dick and Mary in heaven together again, I am a bit concerned about God’s peace!


Not in “Musing” mood this week.

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Gary Laubach About Gary Laubach

Gary began his broadcasting career with Twin County in 1972. Twin County eventually became C-TEC and then RCN. Gary holds the dual role of Director of Media Services and Sports Director/Broadcaster. He currently broadcasts about 140 sports and entertainment broadcasts a year, and oversees the scheduling of all sporting events for RCN.

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