I’d like to tell you a story about the son of a coal miner, whose dad was a hard-working, grizzled and Christian man who lived by his brains and wits in rural West Virginia.
He raised his son old school, which few children understand today, and that boy become a man’s man. The boy was born in 1939 and grew up during some very difficult financial times.
Yet, the family of three was rock solid and lived a happy, Christian life. At a young age, the boy found he had a good gift for playing baseball. By the time he graduated high school in 1957, a New York Yankees scout paid him a visit and was prepared to sign the right-handed pitcher to a contract.
The scout asked the young man what he planned to do with his life if baseball wasn’t part of the equation.
The young man replied that he was thinking about going to radio school or joining the Air Force. The scout replied that he thought the young man would be a great broadcaster or pilot, but didn’t think a pro baseball career was in his future. It seemed he had all the pitches, but just not quite enough velocity on his fastball.
The young man could have signed a contract that day, but decided it would be best to go pursue a career in radio. So, it was off to Chicago for radio school.
His father gave him a $50 bill and said good luck. He would go to school in the day and run the elevator at night at the local YMCA. It was hardly the safest of jobs.
Upon finishing radio school, the young man got his first radio job in Martinsburg, W. Va., in 1959. Thus began the awesome career of Monte Hale Sr.
He landed in McMinville in 1961 and worked there until moving to Murfreesboro and working for WGNS in November, 1961.
Monte Hale Sr. soon became a friend to all in Murfreesboro, broadcasting ball games throughout the county. He also saw no color and broadcasted the games at Holloway High School during the days before desegregation.
My mom tells me that the folks at Holloway really appreciated him including their school to his broadcast schedule. She added he could have walked down the roughest streets of Murfreesboro and nobody would have bothered him.
He soon became known as the Voice of the Blue Raiders while broadcasting all of the MTSU sporting events. I’m biased, of course, but he was the best of all time.
Monte Hale Sr. was a great husband, father and friend to all, and he is certainly best known for bringing the area sporting events to the radio dial. He is a member of the MTSU Hall of Fame, the only inductee not to have graduated from the university at the time he entered.
The gym inside Murphy Center is named the Monte Hale/Jimmy Earle Arena. The aforementioned are enough accolades for any man to accomplish, but the story of Monte Hale Sr. goes much deeper.
He was actually told in his early 20s that his broadcasting career was probably over. He was diagnosed with tongue cancer and had to have part of it removed. He, of course, beat those odds and went to his promising radio career.
What most people don’t know about Monte Hale Sr., though, is he was a tremendous business man. After a fallout with his boss who brought him to Murfreesboro, he decided to purchase his own radio stations.
With the help of banker friends who he had fostered relationships with over the years, he was able to make the purchases of 96.3-FM and 810-AM, which became WKOS and WMTS, respectively.
He was the first broadcaster of the Nashville Sounds, telling then-owner Larry Schmittou that he would do the games for free. He created his own network across the state and made a profit through selling advertising.
In the beginning, it was a struggle with the new radio stations and he even came close to filing bankruptcy. However, the stations prospered and he soon received an offer to sell them.
In a whirlwind of just a few years, Monte Hale Sr. had become a millionaire.
Unfortunately, he didn’t really get to enjoy the fruits of his labor because the cancer returned and took his life in 1982 at the age of 42.
Just think, 42 years of life with so much accomplished. Monte Hale Sr. — what a wonderful life in such a short time, and what a legacy to leave behind!
Happy Father’s Day, dad, and to proud dads everywhere.
Monte Hale Jr. is sports editor of The Daily News Journal. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org