LAST YEAR broadcaster Chris Schenkel discussed his stock in trade--a smooth, soothing baritone that described the action at some of the most notable sporting events ever contested. "People say, 'How did you develop your voice?'" he said. "I tell them I didn't. I've had it since I was 12." Schenkel, who died on Sunday after a long battle with emphysema, at age 82, had more than his voice. Born in Bippus, Ind., a farm town of 275, he had a genial, upbeat manner, the kind that made people want to invite him into their living room.
And they did, for six decades. From the local high school basketball tournament he broadcast when he was 15 to the chicken plucking contest he called at Purdue, Schenkel covered almost every sport imaginable. He did the first televised Masters (1956), the historic 1958 NFL Championship Game and several Olympics. He was also the voice of professional bowling for 36 years.
Schenkel, a World War II vet, was inducted into 16 halls of fame and won an Emmy for lifetime achievement in 1993. But his fame never changed him. In 1973 his best friend, a dairyman named Rodger Nelson, told SI, "When he doesn't point out a missed tackle, it's not because he's a Pollyanna or because he's a dummy. It's because he knows that player's family might be watching. That's old-fashioned courtesy. Chris is an Indiana farm boy in the best sense of that term."