Lampley Said 'See Ya!'
Bock was very informative and entertaining in his 2-minute daily diatribe and then he actually fielded phone calls and let people give him THEIR opinions on sports stuff. Brilliant, I thought.
A year or so later, I returned to North Carolina as the sports editor of the old Durham Morning Herald. I went to see my old friend Jim Heavner at WCHL, for whom I had been a reporter and correspondent in my days as a UNC student.
“Jim,” I began, “there’s this guy in Atlanta who does sports commentaries and then spends an hour on the air taking phone calls from sports fans who get all over the lousy Atlanta teams. It’s uproarious. You ought to do that on CHL”
Heavner rubbed his chin, as he’s been doing for most of the last 70 years, while in contemplation. Finally, he spoke.
“We’re the flagship station of the Tar Heels and people in Chapel Hill love sports,” he said. “We could do that . . . and I have the perfect person to do it.”
“You do?” I said, beginning to stick out my chest, hoping of course that perfect person was the person who suggested the shows.
“Jim Lampley,” Heavner said.
Lampley was, at the time, a journalism graduate student at Carolina and reporting on games and other sports news for the radio station, then located at the bottom of East Franklin Street across from Eastgate Mall.
“Lamp,” I said, deflated. “Great idea. He would be perfect.”
So, in 19974, Jim Lampley recorded a sports commentary that ran three or four times a day on the station. Being a Univac for sports facts, Lampley’s Sports Notebook was both hilarious and knowledgeable. He also hosted a weekly talk show called Sports Switchboard that was equally successful, with people from all over town calling Lamp to ask him questions and give their own take, mostly on the Tar Heels of Bill Dooley and Dean Smith.
I was busy putting out a daily sports section in Durham when I heard a rumor.
Lampley and a young TV reporter from Philadelphia named Don Tollefson beat out hundreds of candidates to win the positions, and the UNC graduate student went from making $80 a week at the local radio station to earning $80,000 a year as ABC’s first sideline reporter. In his debut game , Lampley walked down the docks where the yachts park and party outside of Neyland Stadium in Knoxville before Tennessee games.
The Lampley story went on from there, as Jim called virtually every sporting event for ABC, NBC and CBS in his own hall of fame broadcasting career. He later became the voice of boxing for HBO and now has his own special on the history of the controversial sport. He was one of many national and regional stars (Charles Kuralt, George Hamilton IV, Bob Holiday and Warren Levinson, to name a few) to get their start at the little AM radio station at the bottom of the hill.
Oh, by the way, Heavner called me after Lampley left for ABC job and asked if I wanted to take over Sports Notebook and Sports Switchboard – for I think $10 a week. I said yes, happily, and did both shows through the mid-1980s. In the last two years, I’ve returned to WCHL to resume Sports Notebook.
On my first commentary back in 1975, I ended it with the phrase “See ya.” The station manager at the time complimented me on the Sports Notebook but told me to lose the “See ya”. After my second commentary without the sign-off, Heavner said, “What happened to the “See ya”. I told him what had happened.
“It’s great, it will become your trademark, put it back in,” he said. So back it went and, as you know if you listen at 7:30, 8:30 and other times during the day, it is still there as WCHL celebrates its 60th birthday.
“This is Art Chansky . . . see ya!”