Janesville sports have lost their voice.
Al Fagerli spent nearly four decades calling play-by-play and talking sports on the WCLO and WJVL radio airwaves before retiring and being inducted into the Janesville Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.
On Monday, Fagerli died after a bout with pancreatic cancer. He was 67 years old.
“Absolutely heartbroken about the passing of Janesville icon Al Fagerli,” Parker athletic director and football coach Clayton Kreger said in a post on social media Wednesday morning. “Words cannot express how much Al meant to Janesville Athletics and the entire community. Al was truly a high character person who will be missed by so many.”
After broadcasting gigs early in his career in Louisiana and Rice Lake, Fagerli arrived in Janesville in 1980 and began doing football, boys basketball and hockey games. Several years later, he was an advocate for adding girls basketball broadcasts and also eventually did some baseball.
Fagerli spent more than 36 years as essentially a one-person sports department for WCLO and WJVL.
He was up in the wee hours of the morning to prepare sports news, scores and commentaries for a 5 to 9 a.m. morning show on WCLO. Late mornings often included recording radio spots or meeting with local coaches to prepare pregame or halftime interviews. And on game days, Fagerli might not return home from a road trip to Madison or the surrounding area until near midnight.
He called all 12 of Janesville Parker’s trips to the girls state basketball tournament, including three championships. He called all four of Janesville Craig’s state baseball championships. And he was there when Milton won football state titles in 1986 and 1989.
“Al literally brought the game into the living rooms and vehicles of countless listeners ... because he displayed so much passion for the game,” Joe Dye, longtime Parker football coach and athletic director, said upon Fagerli’s retirement in 2016. “Al’s enthusiasm for Janesville sports was the defining part of his career.”
Fagerli estimated he called nearly 2,000 area games. He was the winner of the Wisconsin Athletic Director’s Appreciation Award in 2004 and won several Wisconsin Broadcasting Association awards.
In 2016, the press box at Monterey Stadium—home to Janesville’s high school football teams—was named the Wedeward- Fagerli Press Box in honor of the dedication shown by Fagerli and longtime Gazette Sports Editor Dave Wedeward.
“Al was there for a lot of the most important games,” Wedeward said at the time of Fagerli’s retirement. “But he made sure neither side of town was being short-changed.
“There isn’t anybody who cares more about Janesville and Janesville kids than Al. ... He is Janesville sports.”
Fagerli prided himself on giving local student-athletes their 15 minutes of fame.
“How many, over the 36 years, can I say they really hit the big time? ... There aren’t many,” Fagerli said in 2016. “That was their time, so let them enjoy it.”
Since his retirement, Fagerli had continued to lend his unmistakable voice in advertisements for local businesses. And during the past couple of seasons, he was the public address announcer for the Janesville Jets hockey team during home games at the Janesville Ice Arena.
Most recently, in late October, WCLO Operations Manager Tim Bremel called on Fagerli to pinch hit when the station was temporarily short-staffed. Fagerli returned to his old post on the morning show for a couple of weeks.
“He jumped right in, and after a day or two sounded just like the old Al,” Bremel said. “We got so many comments from people that said hearing Al’s voice just sounded so normal in this tough year. They were appreciative to have him back on the air.
“It almost seemed like all was right in the world.”
And now Fagerli is gone, leaving behind his wife, Mary, and daughter, Anna.
For so many Rock County residents and sports fans, however, Al’s voice will live on in their memory banks forever.