Retired QC sportscaster still likes the games

He may have been retired for 10 years from sports broadcasting, but Don Sharp still watches lots of sports on TV and in person. Just ask his wife, he says.

Don Sharp

Sharp had a more than 40 year career in radio and TV, most of it at WHBF in Rock Island, Illinois, where he was sports director (except for a stint in the ‘90’s as the station’s main news anchor).

Here are excerpts of an interview Paul Yeager of Iowa PBS, and Cliff Brockman, a retired Wartburg College journalism professor, conducted with Sharp for the Archives of Iowa Broadcasting.

(You can watch the full interview here.)

How did you get into radio? I am originally from Dundee and a friend told me about a broadcasting school because I was really interested in sports and broadcasting. So I went to broadcasting school in Chicago, it was about a three-month deal.

What was your first job? I grabbed a U- Haul, my wife, and our new baby, and pulled a trailer down to Stephenville, Texas, which is about 30 miles or so from Fort Worth. To say it was a small radio station would be putting it mildly. We were out in the middle of a field. Cows came to the window every so often and things like that. But six months was enough of that. We came back to Freeport, Illinois. And I spent a couple of years in Freeport in radio.

Then you went to Aberdeen, South Dakota for about a year and a half. That was kind of neat, because they had minor league baseball. When they went out of town, we did the broadcast when the bus driver would call back after three innings and say, ‘Here’s a single for Wallace, the double, a double play.’ And then we had to make up the game like it was going on. People thought we were actually going to the games. The bus driver a couple of times, one in particular, couldn’t get to a phone and call back. So I’m sitting there having to stall until we finally hear from the bus driver. I mean, I had bases being knocked loose. I had big scrambles for foul balls in the stands because I had to really stretch it out.

Then you came back to Illinois, to WHBF radio and TV in Rock Island. What did you enjoy most about your time there? Doing play by play of football and basketball because it was so big at that time. We’d have a full house in the gym with 5,000-6,000 people and they were filled up whether it was Moline, Rock Island or East Moline.

Any memorable moments from that time? Don Nelson was from Rock Island, played at the University of Iowa, and then was one of the Boston Celtics. He got together with Rock Island’s coach at the time, Bob Riley. And they brought the Boston Celtics to town for an exhibition game before the season. They played Cincinnati. Afterwards, they all got together at what is the Sheraton Hotel and that was one of the neatest experiences I’ve ever had. Bill Russell and a couple of the Joneses, and Jerry Lucas who was playing for Cincinnati, were all sitting around. I don’t think I said hardly a word and listened to their stories.

You’re in retirement now. Do you watch play by play or watch sports for the play by play? Are you done with sports? I watch a lot of sports, just ask my wife. I like watching and listening to the announcers, and it’s fun to compare a lot of them.

Don Sharp received the Illinois Broadcasters Association Broadcast Pioneer Award in 2017. He was named to the Mid-American Emmy Association’s Silver Circle in 2019.