Editorial: Here’s to a local radio legend, Sam Simmermaker

Sam Simmermaker poses for a photo in a studio at WCSI. A 64-year veteran of Columbus sports broadcasting, Simmermaker announced he will retire this month.

Words like “giant,” “legend” and “icon” sometimes tend to get overused, but by the same token, they seem hardly adequate to describe longtime radio broadcaster Sam Simmermaker’s standing in the local and Indiana sports scene.

For an astonishing 64 years, Simmermaker has been behind the microphone calling local high school games and more for Columbus radio station WCSI and parent company White River Broadcasting. His voice, smooth, familiar and quick, has been a constant accompaniment for generations of sports fans. Simmermaker also was known for packing a ton of information into the few minutes he recorded for regular morning radio updates on how the local teams were doing.

The update earlier this week is that Simmermaker, 92, is retiring on May 24. He said he plans to continue announcing Columbus East and/or Columbus North baseball games as long as the teams are alive in this year’s postseason.

A native of the small town of Star City in northern Indiana, Simmermaker had big-league dreams when he arrived in Columbus in 1960. What a different time it was. Ike was president, JFK and Nixon were running to succeed him, Columbus had just one high school, and $1 would buy a carload of people a weeknight double-feature at the Columbus Drive-In Theater on Indianapolis Road.

“I thought this was just the start of a career that would take me up the ladder and do a little play-by-play on the professional level,” Simmermaker told The Republic’s Ted Schultz. “That didn’t work out.

“What did work out for Simmermaker is a career that established him as a legend in the community and in the broadcasting industry,” Schultz wrote. And though Simmermaker never quite made it to the majors, he did call Indianapolis Indians games for years, and he still looks forward to more chances to catch his favorite team, the St. Louis Cardinals.

The specialness of Simmermaker’s career, his longevity in a competitive business, is not lost on him. This, too, recalls a bygone era, and Simmermaker is grateful.

“The town has been awfully nice to us,” he said. “And of course, I want to thank the station for the employment for all of those years. It’s astounding that the ownership is the same. I owe a lot to White River.”

Over the course of his career, Simmermaker has wrapped up about every possible honor available to a sports broadcaster. He was twice named Indiana Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association and once by the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association. He was inducted into the ISSA Hall of Fame in 1998, the Indiana Associated Press Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. He twice won Network Indiana’s Best Sports Play-by-Play award and was similarly honored by the Indiana by Indiana Broadcasters Association in 2005.

Dave Glass, president of Findlay Publishing Co., which owns White River Broadcasting, appropriately paid tribute to an announcer whose voice was enjoyed by area radio listeners for many decades: “Thank you, enjoy the next chapter — you’ve earned it and then some. Bravo, Holy Cow Sam Simmermaker!”