The Voices of the Buccaneers
As a child, I had to listen to at least half of the Bucs games each season on the radio because the games at Tampa Stadium wouldn’t sell out in time to avoid being blacked out in the Tampa Bay area.
This then is my tribute to the handful of men who brought the action from Tampa Stadium to my home over the airwaves. Fellow Buc fans allow me to introduce to you:
Ray Scott was a Hall of Fame broadcaster who had the distinction of being the first radio voice of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He announced the action, what little there was of it, during Tampa Bay’s infamous 0-26 streak. Scott’s greater claims to fame however were that he was the radio voice of the Green Bay Packers during their 1960’s dynasty and helped shape the broadcast career of a then callow Pat Summerall as the lead NFL announcer on CBS. Having Ray Scott as the play-by-play man gave the fledgling Buccaneers an air of legitimacy on the airwaves.
Scott was noted for using very few words, choosing to let the game speak for itself. A typical Scott call of a rare Buccaneer touchdown may have sounded like this. “Spurrier drops back (pause long enough for you to run to the kitchen and make a sandwich)……………Throws to Owens in the end zone (pause long enough for you to jump out of the car and pick up the dry-cleaning)………….Touchdown.” If someone had attached a heart monitor to the man, it would have shown no quickening of his pulse, he was just one cool, professional.
Scott’s gentlemanly approach to broadcasting did not mean he lacked interest in the fortunes of the team. Jack Harris, the locker room reporter those first two years, said that Scott came across as very sympathetic to the team. “He portrayed their woes so well. He would do a play, (Here is Harris’ impersonation) ‘Third and short………a hand-off up the middle……..(then in a pained tone) Oh my goodness.’ You could tell just from his tone that they didn’t make it. He would emote along with the team and it was perfect for the Buccaneers the first two years.”
Scott died in 1998 at the age of 78. While he is remembered nationally for his classic call of Bart Starr’s dive into the end zone to win the Ice Bowl for Green Bay over Dallas in the 1967 NFL Title Game, Tampa Bay radio listeners will always remember him as the first announcer to describe the first official Buccaneer play against Houston in 1976 and the first to state “Bucs Win!” in the closing moments of the teams 33-14 victory over New Orleans in 1977.
Dick Crippen/Jim Gallogly
Local sportscasters auditioned for the role of play-by-play voice in 1978 after Ray Scott’s departure. Dick Crippen, a local television reporter, won the audition. Locker room reporter Jack Harris was a part of the audition and explained the process.
“They put together a tape of the game from the year before and it had an event of what looked like a touchdown. All the prospects on the audition called the play as a touchdown because the players had thrown their arms up. Then they take you to the break and come back and it wasn’t a touchdown because the referee’s hadn’t signaled touchdown. So we all made fools of ourselves except Crippen because he got it right.” That is how Crippen became radio voice of the Buccaneers for the 1978 season.
Crippen performed solid work but before the season ended Jim Gallogly, the producer of the Buccaneer Radio Network, replaced him. Gallogly had once been the voice of University of Tampa Spartan football. The 1978 combination of Crippen and Gallogly would be the shortest tenure for a play-by-play man.
Mark Champion became Voice of the Buccaneers in 1979, a fortuitous move on his part. That year saw the “Worst to First” Bucs clinch their first ever playoff appearance. Champion’s voice could be heard announcing Neil O’Donoghue’s game-winning field goal against Kansas City in the season finale. Champion’s understated style was demonstrated in his simple words, “The kick is up………..It’s good!”
This is not to say that Champion was a carbon copy of Ray Scott. One could tell from the tone of his voice that he was much more emotionally involved in the game than his predecessor, but he did not let his excitement override his calling of the game. And he was fortunate early in his career to call some of the most exciting games of early Buccaneer history.
Champion would call playoff seasons in 1981 and 1982 before the Buccaneers fell off the NFL map. Those two years saw a must win finale against Detroit in 1981 and memorable comebacks against Detroit and Chicago to end the 1982 season The 1988 season would be Champion’s last with the Buccaneers. He would spend the next decade and a half calling the action of the Detroit Lions, becoming famous for his descriptions of Barry Sanders exhilarating runs. Today he is the play-by-play announcer for the Detroit Pistons of the NBA.
Just as Mark Champion saw his career and team take off in 1979, so to did Gene Deckerhoff. In 1979 Deckerhoff became play-by-play man for the Florida State University football team. The Seminoles enjoyed their best season to date in 1979 as they raced out to an 11-0 regular season record before losing to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. Over the next decade the Seminoles became a much more powerful and popular college team. The team’s popularity catapulted Gene into becoming one of the most recognizable voices in the state of Florida.
In 1989 Deckerhoff moved from college to the pros as voice of the Buccaneers. It was Gene’s second stint with Tampa Bay pro football as he had been the voice of the Tampa Bay Bandits of the short-lived United States Football League from 1983-1985. Moving from a highly successful and entertaining college team to the dregs of the NFL was challenge enough for Gene, but the Buccaneer flagship station WDAE decided to add an even more daunting challenge to his plate.
From 1989 to 1991, Gene was lead voice of a three-headed monster that also featured local TV announcer Al Keck and former professional wrestler/actor Jessie “The Body” Ventura.
Ventura had personality, but didn’t know a first down from a hole in the ground and soon Gene was granted a legitimate color analyst in former Buccaneer nose tackle Dave Logan. After Logan tragically passed away in 1999, former Buccaneer linebacker Scot Brantley took over the analyst chair and is with Gene to this day.
Deckerhoff’s ability to make each and every play of a Buccaneer game sound like life and death despite the fact the team was handily losing most of their games made being a Buccaneer fan quite enjoyable. Unlike Scott and Champion, Gene would adamantly root for the team from the booth, a “homer” as some critics complain.
In a 1992 game against Detroit Bucs defensive lineman Mark Wheeler tackled Barry Sanders for no gain on a rather routine play. In Deckerhoff’s eyes however, “Mark Wheeler told Barry Sanders, ‘I am unimpressed with your Heisman Mr. Sanders!’ as the big tackle smacks Sanders down at the line of scrimmage!” A sack of Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick by safety John Howell in 2002 led to a scream of “I’m from Colorado State Mr. Vick and I want to be in the highlight reel!”
Deckerhoff is still going strong as the voice of the Buccaneers and has had the honor of calling the team's only Super Bowl Championship among his more than 280 games as an announcer, more than half of the team's total games.
From National Hall of Famer Ray Scott, through solid professional Mark Champion to Florida Sports Hall of Famer Gene Deckerhoff, the Buccaneers have always had radio announcers equal to or better than the talent on the field.
In my introductory column I mentioned that I had as many Super Bowl rings as Shannon Sharpe. Shannon won three Super Bowl rings with the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens, and since I still find myself with zero, that means I have the same number as his older brother Sterling Sharpe. You may remember Sterling, formerly of NFL Countdown, who used to heap scorn on the Buccaneers during their 2002 run to the title before Keyshawn Johnson put him in his place by stating that unlike Sterling, Keyshawn wouldn’t need his brother to provide him with a Super Bowl ring.