by Larry Ham
If you’re like me, you like familiarity. I like knowing when I turn on the TV at a certain time, the show I expect to see will be there. I like driving the same route to work every day. If you’re a Reedley College Football fan, and you also like familiarity, you know that when you go to a Tiger home game, you’re going to hear a familiar voice on the P.A. speaker. Paul Mitchell has been the voice of the Tigers since 1953, and he’s still going strong at the age of eighty. He’s also in the Tiger Athletic Hall of Fame.
Paul will be back for another season beginning in September and I recently had the chance to ask him a few questions about his career as Tiger P.A. Announcer.
Larry: First of all, tell us where you grew up and how you ended up in Reedley.
Paul: I moved to Reedley in 1946, during my sophomore year in High School. My Step Dad was a Ranch Hand for Herb Carpenter. We lived in a Chicken Coop, the only one with a cement floor. We had to dig our own Outhouse through the hardpan, and often plowed the nearby cemetery and what is now Immanuel High School.
Larry: You spent many years at Reedley High School as a teacher and a coach. Tell us about those years.
Paul: Fresh out of College in 1953, the only job opening at Reedley Joint Union High School was in History, which was my minor, and JV Baseball and assistant B coaching duties. With a little JC Football and no Baseball experience, I survived mainly because of my mentor, Babe Danielson. He taught me everything about how to coach, as well as the values that athletics can have for young men. Hence, my lifelong love affair with athletics.
Larry: When did you start doing the P.A. announcing for Reedley College Football, and why did you take on that responsibility? Were you asked to do it or did you volunteer?
Paul: Both Reedley High and Reedley Junior College were looking for announcers in 1953 and since my “B” Football duties were on early Fridays, I gave it a try when asked.
Larry: You have seen an enormous number of football games over the years. From your vantage point, how has the game changed over the decades?
Paul: Equipment, safety rules, conditioning, officiating have all improved. However, the action has become more predictable.
Larry: When it comes to doing the announcing, you and I have both heard a lot of announcers who seem intent on being the show themselves instead of the game. What’s your philosophy on what to say and what not to say?
Paul: Foremost, even though visiting fans may be fewer in number, the P.A. announcer should always try to be impartial and not show up visiting teams or game officials. Fans can see player numbers, but might need help with unusual penalties, or yards on a play, or touchdowns, and especially efforts by defensive players. Outstanding efforts are mostly a matter of opinion, so I let the fans decide that.
Larry: You have witnessed two Reedley College teams win the state title. Tell us about what you remember about those two teams.
Paul: Reedley’s first State title was in 1972. They actually played in the 1971 Title game as well, and lost in the worst weather and game conditions I have ever experienced. In 2002, the Tigers undefeated Tigers won the State Championship over College of the Canyons, and were proclaimed National Champs as well, by JC Gridwire.
Larry: Have you ever missed a Reedley College home game, and if not, what’s the closest you’ve come to missing one?
Paul: The closest I came to missing a Tiger home game was when my plane from Chile was delayed and I arrived just in time to announce the final score.
Larry: You also go to just about every road game as well. What is it about Reedley College Football that makes you so loyal?
Paul: Partly because I believe the Reedley College Athletic Department and coaches “go about winning” in a legal and ethical way. Another reason for going on the road is that many teams the Tigers play don’t report the stats or even the scores of the away games to the newspapers and TV stations. But one of the main reasons for traveling with the Tigers is the camaraderie with the other “RC traveling squads” – former KRDU announcers Dick Shepard, Jim Bailey, and most recently Will Goldbeck, who has provided RC Football stats for over three decades, and Larry Ham, who has Tiger Football on a nationwide web-cast.
Larry: If you can, please share a few thoughts on some of the coaches you’ve seen at Reedley College.
Paul: Michael White and his staff have to rate very, very high. They started when Reedley College didn’t even have a team in 1989, and took them to the best in the USA. J.R. Boone and his staff – Ester, Danielson, Perkins and their recruits provided Tiger fans with some of the most exciting Football ever played in the San Joaquin Valley.
Larry: What’s your number one favorite memory of the years you’ve spent as P.A. announcer for Tiger Football?
Paul: My favorite memories are when the Tigers win!
Larry: What do you do in your spare time when were not in football season?
Paul: I announce and keep score for the Tiger Men’s Basketball team.
Larry: You celebrated your 80th birthday last year by going skydiving. What was that like?
Paul: It was OK until they told me I wasn’t going to get my own Parachute! So I carefully checked the buckles with the guy on my back. The free-fall was breathtaking, the rest was a piece of cake!
Paul mentioned camaraderie, and I’ll second his opinion on that. I have been broadcasting Tiger Football on the radio and the internet since 1995, and I have had the opportunity to see some amazing athletes and some exciting games. But for me, the number one thing I’ll take from my experience is the fun I’ve had traveling to road games with Paul and Will Goldbeck. Paul and I agree on almost nothing when it comes to politics, religion and other topics, and we’ve had some spirited discussions over the years, but it’s never personal with Paul. He is about as likable a person as you’ll ever meet. His dedication to Tiger Football is amazing, and when you attend a Tiger home game this season, you can be sure you’ll hear that old familiar voice over the speaker system. No one at Reedley College would have it any other way.
Watch here for Reedley College Football Game recaps when the new season starts September 10!