When I called LeGrand to arrange a visit, he thought it was a prank. "Why would you want to interview somebody like me?" he said. When I showed up he still seemed nonplussed, and one evening he silently slipped me a scrap of paper with a carefully written message. "I honestly feel this is more than the story of Oats LeGrand," it said. "It is truly a story of America's small-community sports-casters who bring sports to life on radio for their fans...."
This, then, is the legend of Oats LeGrand: missing only 10 games in 34 years, working without a spotter or an engineer ("Hello, studio!" is his usual station cue), writing his own stat sheets and lineup cards the night before, working despite colds, driving to games behind the team bus, still handling about 80 games a year. He averages an estimated 1,500 listeners per game, the majority from the teams' hometowns, places with names like Pelican Rapids, Underwood and Rothsay, and the hundreds of farms in between.
LeGrand could have climbed higher in radio, but he chose to stay put. His story is heartwarming in part because he gives something back to the towns that give him the chance to broadcast.
Trouble is, those towns whose games LeGrand calls are slowly dying. Most of them were established 80 years ago as railroad junctions where farmers could ship their grain and shop for supplies. Now people are moving away, and the farms are being bought up by corporations. The schools are what hold the towns together. And LeGrand is maintaining interest in the schools.