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StarBulletin.com

Proctor covered sports history


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POSTED: Monday, February 02, 2009

When you have the opportunity to call some of the most historic moments in sports, you've made it in the business. From Cal Ripken's record-setting consecutive-game streak to Tony Gwynn's 3,000th hit, Mel Proctor has had a bird's-eye—and courtside—view of the action that most sports fans would love to experience. He has called the NBA Finals, World Series, NFL playoff games, NCAA basketball games. And still, Proctor has fond memories of his days in Honolulu, where his career in broadcasting began to take off.

Proctor hails from Denver and is a business graduate of Colorado College. After realizing that writing installation instructions and putting together catalogs wasn't his calling, he took a job with NFL Films in Philadelphia, where he produced, directed, wrote and narrated NFL documentaries.

Proctor worked with football broadcasting legends Pat Summerall, Tom Brookshier, Frank Gifford and the late Charlie Jones, as well as the voice of NFL Films, the late John Facenda. They inspired him to try it on his own, so Proctor started calling high-school and college games at WEEZ radio in Chester, Pa. It was at this 5,000-watt station outside Philadelphia that he ended up calling the games of College Football Hall-of-Famer Billy “;White Shoes”; Johnson at Widener College.

While on vacation in Honolulu in 1973, Proctor called on KGMB radio General Manager Earl McDaniel, who hired him. For five years, Proctor called local high-school sports, University of Hawaii basketball and football, Hawaii Islanders baseball and Hawaiians World Football. He had a radio talk show at the Columbia Inn and anchored weekend sports on KGMB television, where he worked with Linda Coble, John Kernell, Tim Tindall, Bob Jones, Carolyn Tanaka and the late Pat Brown.

“;Hawaii was the best possible training ground for a young announcer,”; said Proctor. He did play-by-play for Rainbow basketball—his color commentator back then was none other than Bob Sevey.

“;Mel was a pleasure to work with because he knew basketball and how to describe it,”; said Sevey.

In 1978, Proctor was hired to handle radio play-by-play for the defending NBA champion Washington Bullets, and made the move nearly 5,000 miles east. The team included Hall-of-Famers Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes, All-Stars Bob Dandridge and Mitch Kupchak, and University of Hawaii hoops star Tom Henderson. In Proctor's first year the team returned to the NBA Finals.

Proctor went on to call games for the NBA's New Jersey Nets, then moved over to baseball, hired by the Baltimore Orioles in 1984. During 13 seasons with the Orioles, he called games for Hall-of-Famers Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken Jr. In fact, Proctor was the voice during most of Ripken's career—calling the record-breaking 2005 game in which Ripken surpassed Lou Gehrig's mark for consecutive games played, one of sports' ultimate achievements.

Proctor was the only announcer to call both Ripken's record-breaker and Tony Gwynn's 3,000th hit. When Ripken and Gwynn were inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame in 2007, Proctor was there.

“;When they played video highlights of both players, my voice was on both tapes, calling Ripken's feat and Gwynn's 3,000th hit,”; he said. “;I'm a very lucky man. Calling Ripken's game is still the highlight of my career. When I occasionally watch video of that game, I still get tears in my eyes.”;

During his years with the Orioles, he has had President Clinton in the broadcast booth as well as producer Barry Levinson. This led a recurring role on Levinson's NBC series “;Homicide”; from 1993 to 1995, playing reporter Grant Besser and appearing with the likes of Robin Williams and Jake Gyllenhaal.

He also appeared on “;Hawaii 5-0,”; “;Sports Night,”; “;The Young and the Restless,”; in the movie “;D.C. Cab”; and in a miniseries about the Kennedys. In 1994, Proctor wrote a book about a popular 1960s series—“;The Official Fan's Guide to 'The Fugitive.'”;

In 1997 began five years of calling games for the San Diego Padres, including a trip to the World Series in 1998. In 2001 he called Tony Gwynn's final game. He has called games for the LA Clippers as well and, most recently, for the Washington Nationals baseball team's inaugural season in 2005.

Proctor lives in the San Diego area, freelancing, calling college basketball for the Big Ten Network, and Women's Big Ten Track and Field Championships. He also serves as a broadcast coach for the network. Proctor's also doing voice-over work and mentoring broadcasters. “;I look at tapes of some of their analysts, write up critiques to help them improve and then follow it up with a phone conversation,”; he said.

He still has a soft spot for the islands, where he made lifelong friends of Tindall, McDaniel and Bruce O'Neil. He credits McDaniel for his lengthy career. “;He has been my mentor, my supporter and my friend for over 30 years,”; said Proctor.

His time in Hawaii, he said, “;was the best five years of my life.”; He met his wife, Julie, here—they were married at the old Columbia Inn in 1978, with a sports theme and the national anthem playing in the background. They have two children: William, a producer with the Big Ten Network in Chicago, and Maile, a writer for the Entertainment Tonight/Insider TV shows in Los Angeles.

“;Even though I physically left Hawaii 30 years ago, I have never really left,”; he said. “;My heart is still there, Julie's family is still on Maui and we have visited Hawaii at least once a year for the past 30 years.”;