by PETER DORFMAN
Ellettsville native Tony Kale, now in his 31st year of high school sports broadcasting, got into radio the old-fashioned way: as a teenage wiseguy.
Kale played varsity basketball and baseball for Edgewood High School. “I was a big fan of Marty Brennaman, the Cincinnati Reds’ announcer, and Jack Buck, the voice of the St. Louis Cardinals,” he recalls. “I would imitate those guys. In baseball season at Edgewood games, some of my buddies who weren’t playing out on the field would say, ‘Hey, do the play-by-play.’ I just had kind of a knack for it and they thought it was funny.”
Seeing his potential, Kale’s parents sent him to the Columbia School of Broadcasting in Indianapolis for weekly instruction. After graduating from high school in 1986, Kale began doing public address system announcing at Edgewood basketball games. He chatted up local radio personalities covering the games and got a tryout at WLSO-FM in Spencer, Indiana. After three months working weekends part time, he was given an overnight slot. “When I graduated, I already had my radio job,” he says.
WLSO later became WSKT-FM. In 2005, the station moved to Bloomington and changed music formats. “We went all-Christmas through the holiday season, and then we switched from country music to classic hits and became WCLS,” Kale recalls. Now operations manager for the station, Kale produces commercials, does the FCC paperwork, and even sells advertising time.
Typically covering 10 football and 20 basketball games each year, including some girls’ tournament coverage, Kale says, “I try to paint a picture. I want people listening to feel as though they’re there, smelling the popcorn.”
He’s also the co-host of the the WCLS Morning Mayhem drive time show (6 to 9 a.m.) with John Chance. “John was my high school freshman basketball coach,” Kale says. “He just retired after 40 years teaching. He’s also my color commentator at the games.”
Kale says he sees high school sports as a rallying point for small towns. “It’s mainly local, but we stream online now, so we may get an audience all over the country,” he muses. “We did a state championship game, and a guy reached out to me through Twitter from a cruise ship in Cozumel, Mexico, to say he was listening.”