Mr. Microphone: Boyd was fixture on local airwaves for 34 years
To set the record straight, his name was Ronald O. Boyd.
To the countless Janesville people who knew and loved him as their hometown sportscaster for 34 years, he was always Don Boyd.
Make that legendary Don Boyd, because that surely was what he became.
Boyd was such a celebrity—maybe with a little tongue in cheek here—that he had his own “stage” or “on the air” name. That started way back when.
“When I went to work in Indiana, they said I was going to be Don because it was easier to understand over the air,’’ the Batavia, N.Y., native said at the time of his 1995 induction into the Janesville Sports Hall of Fame. “And that’s the way it’s always been.’’
Since the death of Boyd at age 82 here Friday, his friends and former co-workers have been reflecting on how things were in that legendary era. Much of it reverts back to how he endeared himself throughout southern Wisconsin.
“I remember the groundswell of public appreciation when he retired,’’ said Bob Dailey, the longtime manager of WCLO radio, where Boyd was a fixture from 1946 to 1980. “We had a huge party for Don, and all his old friends, coaches, players, you name it, were there.
“Don touched so many lives,’’ Dailey said. “And that was a big, big event.’’
It also was typical of the many roles Boyd filled in four decades at the local radio station. Most people knew him as a sportscaster, but he was a round-the-clock worker in almost every aspect of broadcasting.
“He’d come in here in the wee hours of the morning, sign on this radio station, and go from there,’’ Dailey said.
And nobody knows or appreciates more how it was than Stan Milam, a longtime WCLO/Janesville Gazette employee in numerous capacities.
“Don did a lot of things that many people probably never knew about,’’ Milam said. “He ran the board, was a disc jockey, did the news, the weather, the reports on school closings—and a lot of times under less-than-ideal conditions.
“His skills as a journalist may go unrecognized by many people, but certainly not by me,” Milam said. “He had close contacts with so many sources and developed a trust among all those sources. That was something he could do better than anybody else.’’
But the best of the times for Boyd, aside from quality time with his closely knit family, came through his love of sports and live broadcasts of those events.
“Don had a great passion for sports,’’ Dailey said. “And he loved doing those games, even though it wasn’t always easy for him.’’
Boyd battled the effects of polio through most of his life. But with strong and unconditional support from his late wife, Sid, and their four children (David, Dan, Doug and Pam), nothing ever held him back.
From the days of broadcasting eventual Heisman Trophy winner Alan Ameche’s games as a Big Eight high school football player for Kenosha to Janesville Parker’s 1971 WIAA state basketball championship and beyond, Boyd became a household name in the Janesville area. People listened faithfully as he reported more than 600 high school basketball games, at least as many football games, Milton College and UW-Whitewater action and a lot of baseball, including the Janesville Legion in its hey days and the old Janesville Cubs.
Not long into his career here after arriving from Indiana, Boyd had the thrill of broadcasting Janesville High in the 1948 state basketball tournament. That included a semifinal loss to an Eau Claire team led by star player Stan DuFrane, who later coached Janesville Craig teams that were broadcast by Boyd in four state tournaments.
Nothing in Boyd’s career, however, could top the “Cinderella” Parker Vikings of ’71 and the conquest that carried them to state basketball’s coveted goal ball. As his words-eye view reported, Parker shot better than 62 percent on field goals and made all 23 of its free throws in a 79-68 title victory over Milwaukee King.
“That had to be my greatest thrill,’’ Boyd said. “I waited 25 years for Janesville to win a state championship. Then, to have the kids play a virtually perfect game, without a single missed free throw—why, that was incredible.’’
So were many of the other stories associated with Boyd’s fabled career.
“I guess the one people never have forgotten is the ‘Blueballs bird out of bounds,’ ’’ Boyd chuckled in recalling his famous slip of the tongue while broadcasting the old Janesville High Bluebirds.
“It was a basketball game against Madison East at the old Marshall (Middle School) gym,’’ he said. “There was a timeout. Then, in the heat of the excitement, I just said it was going to be the Blueballs’ bird.
“And people still kid me about that,’’ Boyd said a lot of years later.
Milam was right there for much of the kidding.
“We all have our funny stories about Don, and he used to laugh right along with us,’’ Milam said. “But on the serious side, he provided an example for some of us young people on how we should operate as journalists.’’
Through it all, Boyd became a pillar of the community.
“He reflected the community and became a part of it, not just as a person who works a while and leaves,’’ Dailey said. “He raised his family here, his kids turned out to be great kids, and he was an institution here for many, many years.’’
In fact, he was known as the dean of southern Wisconsin sportscasters.
“Don would say, ‘For years, I was the only sportscaster in southern Wisconsin,’’’ Milam recalled. “But in the end, he earned and very much deserved that title. And this is the end of an era.’’
One, for the record, that was the legendary life of Ronald O. Boyd.