From The World Of Parks & Recreation
By Doug Comer
I had my first opportunity of the year to attend a West Virginia football game last weekend, a 48-21 romping of Kansas in Big-12 action. The win propelled the Mounties to an impressive 7-1 record and in the top echelon of the conference. It was an exciting game but it still was missing something.
For those who listen to the game on the radio, Tony Caridi has done a wonderful job of telling his interpretation of the game and has a ton of years under his belt at broadcasting. He has a distinguished voice and his commentary keeps you on edge even though you are not there to see with your own eyes.
But before Caridi, there was Leo W. Fleming. Who? Oh wait, I meant to address him with his radio name – Jack Fleming. Does that sound a little more familiar? Fleming, born in Morgantown in 1923, was the “Voice of the Mountaineers” for decades in both football and basketball. Along with his co-host Woody O’Hara, Fleming could tell a story that, if you listened clearly, you would actual feel like you are there and a part of the action.
Fleming could have possibly had the best gig…Umm I should say gigs in the business. For those that do not know, Fleming was moonlighting calling the play-by-play for a little steel milled town 90 miles north. Obviously, I am talking about the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was right in the midst of the Super Bowl runs in the 1970s and 80s. Perhaps his famous call could possibly be the “Immaculate Reception” against the Raiders in the 1972 AFC playoff game. For those who do not remember the call, here is how it was said.
“Hang onto your hats, here come the Steelers out of the huddle. Terry Bradshaw at the controls. Twenty-two seconds remaining. And this crowd is standing. And Bradshaw, back and looking again. Bradshaw….running out of the pocket, looking for somebody to throw to, fires it downfield, and there’s a collision! It’s caught out of the air! The ball is pulled in by Franco Harris! Harris is going for a touchdown for Pittsburgh! Harris is going…5 seconds left on the clock. Franco Harris pulled in the football, I don’t even know where he came from!”
I still get goosebumps when I see that play and I am sure Franco and Terry get a little emotional over it as well.
Fleming has called a ton of memorable plays. From the upset in Oklahoma in the early 80s to Major Harris and the “broken play,” he has been blessed to see a ton of plays and tell us the story the only way he knew how. He has witnessed many milestones in WVU sports history. He was a part of Doug Flutie’s 0-4 record against the ‘Eers in football and called the upset win over #1 UNLV in basketball back in 1983 snapping a 19-game losing streak against ranked opponents and Gale Catlett his 100th win.
Yeah, we know all that stuff in regards to WVU sports, however, did you know that Fleming was the radio announcer for the Chicago Bulls? Or that he had the call for the NBA All-Star game? Unfortunately, for him, Michael Jordan was still playing for his recreation ball team. He had a wonderful career and his pre-game opening was something that Morgan Freeman would narrate before the opening on a blockbuster movie.
Because my lifetime of words cannot compare to a few paragraphs spoken from this icon, I will leave with Fleming’s famous on-air opening call for WVU football. We miss you Jack and we know you are calling the plays as you look down upon your hometown state.
“The hills resound with the sounds of Mountaineer Football and the West Virginia University Mountaineers are on the air!”