DELPHOS — Rick Miller was the voice behind some of the most memorable athletic conquests in the Delphos area since 1982.
It’s an honor he doesn’t take lightly after 42 years of calling play-by-play.
“It has been just so overwhelming and so gratifying to be a part of these young kids’ lives,” said Miller, 69. “I went in for surgery at a hospital one time, not too long ago, and the young man looked down at me behind his surgical mask and said, ‘You’re going to be OK.’ And I looked up, and he said, ‘You did my games when I was in school.’”
The next generation of athletes won’t be able to hear Miller make the call on their touchdowns and layups on WDOH-FM 107.1 radio. Friday night was his last home game, covering Delphos St. John’s Midwest Athletic Conference game against Coldwater. He’ll cover the playoffs but won’t be back next season for football or basketball games.
That won’t mean his legacy won’t continue. Woof Boom Radio, the owner of WDOH, created an annual scholarship for one graduating athlete each from Delphos St. John’s and Delphos Jefferson in Miller’s name.
“The thousands of games that Rick has broadcasted on WDOH are an important part of our community’s history,” reads a plaque that will hang in both schools, along with Miller’s home. “The fans of Delphos St. John’s and Delphos Jefferson along with Woof Boom Radio are grateful for Rick’s work and many contributions.”
The fact the 1970 Delphos Jefferson graduate became a radio icon in his hometown seems so unlikely. He didn’t hold a full-time job at the station, working evenings at the games. He was approached in 1979 to cover games in Mercer and Auglaize counties at another station before moving over to WDOH in 1983.
“When you think about something that lifts people for a long period in your town and tells the stories of things that are really cool, that’s what Rick’s done,” said J Chapman, the president of Woof Boom Radio.
Miller’s contribution was more than sitting in front of a microphone, though. He interviewed each coach by telephone earlier in the week to understand the team’s dynamic and get lineups.
“There’s more to the game than just stats,” he said.
He developed a love of sports at a young age. He recalled Delphos St. John’s Hall of Fame basketball coach Bob Arnzen pitching to him in baseball as a volunteer coach in his youth.
He said he felt fortunate to be able to call games for both fathers and sons in some families. Some of the most memorable players he covered include LeBron James when he was at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s against Ottawa-Glandorf, along with St. Henry’s Bobby Hoying and Jim Lachey, he said.
While he appreciates the newer gyms in the region and their new technology, he’ll always have fond memories of broadcasting from the older, smaller gyms, complete with their stages on the edge of the court.
“The old schools all had their atmospheres; they had their coziness,” he said. “I would have kids sitting on my lap because there was no place else to sit. … Those are things that make you know they were special places.”
He worked at Blue Cross in Lima for years before forming his own company in the healthcare field. He retired from there about 10 years ago, continuing to cover an estimated 125 football and basketball games a year. He recalled during a morning show tribute to him on WDOH eating Snickers bars before and during games out of his briefcase simply because he hadn’t had a chance to have dinner before a game started.
“I need to spend some time with my family,” he said. “I’ve got granddaughters and kids, and I need to spend some time with them. It takes a lot, every Friday and Saturday night and a lot of nights during the week doing ballgames, a lot of time away from home. I have a very understanding and supportive family and community, and it’s just overwhelming.”