When it comes to sports radio, there isn’t much Dick Palmer hasn’t done.
He’s broadcasted everything from high school sports to college and even some professional sports in a career that spans the past four decades.
“This is real,” Palmer said, looking out of the press box at Reese Smith Jr. Field through his yellow, crooked, thick-lensed glasses. “This isn’t staged. They get out there and try to bust their butts to win. I love that.”
Palmer, who was born in Lebanon, moved to Murfreesboro when he was in the second grade. He went to Hobgood Elementary School and Central High School – now Central Magnet – in Murfreesboro. It was during his younger years when his love for sports was born.
“It was a lot of sports,” Palmer said about his childhood. “I played (sports), and I went to games here (at MTSU). I played Little League and Babe Ruth League baseball. I wanted to play in high school, but my high school didn’t have a team.”
It was during this time, too, that the now 73-year-old Palmer discovered his love for radio.
“I’m a radio guy,” he said. “I liked to listen to baseball at night in my room. I would listen to all the old-time announcers. I loved listening to Larry Munson when he was doing minor-league ball in Nashville. I guess he was my favorite when I was growing up. John Ward, who was doing the Tennessee games in Knoxville, I loved him.”
After high school, he went to college, where he began his radio career. He first went to Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee, which was a two-year university at the time.
However, Palmer would return to Murfreesboro, the place he considers “home,” to go to MTSU – a choice that showed up later in his life.
“I wanted to come home,” Palmer explained.
At MTSU, he began working for WMTS, which was a daytime radio station at that time. While focusing on radio, he minored in education, which was also a big part of his life. When he graduated from MTSU in 1960, he became a teacher.
He taught eighth grade and coached baseball and basketball for two years at Hobgood Elementary from 1961 to 1963, but his radio work was still not far away. He continued to work part time for WMTS.
In 1963, Palmer received a job offer in Jackson at WDXI after announcing a little league baseball tournament in the city.
“I had to balance whether I wanted to leave here or go out of town,” Palmer said about the offer. “It took me a while to make up my mind, but I finally went down there.”
For almost two decades, Palmer would broadcast everything from high school sports to professional sports in Jackson and Memphis.
In Jackson, he broadcasted high school sports and basketball games for Union University. He took a year off from radio in 1966 to teach and coach at Humboldt High School.
He stayed in Jackson until 1971, when he heard that a team from the American Basketball Association – a rival of the National Basketball Association in the ’70s – was moving to Memphis. The New Orleans Buccaneers moved to Memphis and became the Memphis Pros.
“I saw a little squib in The Commercial Appeal that there was a team coming in,” Palmer said. “I figured if there was a team coming in, they’re gonna need an announcer.”
He decided to send in an audition tape to Fred Cook at WREC in Memphis. Cook brought Palmer in after hearing the tape and told him, “we’ll let you know.”
Cook called back, though, and told Palmer to come down to the station to meet with the owners of the Pros.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” Palmer said. “He didn’t offer me the job or anything. (Cook) put my audition tape on, and they’re all just listening to it. I started dying. I thought ‘man, I’m so bad.’”
“But they (cut) the tape off and said, “you want the job?’ I said, ‘yep.’”
He went on to announce games for the Pros, who later became the Tams and Sounds, from 1971 to 1976. In this time, The ABA had many players that went on to play in the NBA, and Palmer witnessed much of that talent.
“Julius Erving, Billy Cunningham, George Gervin, Dan Issel, the list goes on and on,” he said of four future Basketball Hall of Famers he saw. “I just remember seeing great basketball. The three-point shot was a product of the ABA. We had the red, white and blue ball. We even had the first slam dunk contest at our All-Star Game.”
Palmer was even in attendance when Julius Erving performed his famous free-throw line dunk at the 1976 ABA Slam Dunk Contest, which had never been seen by a mass audience before.
The ABA was not the only professional sports experience that Palmer got while in Memphis. In 1972, he broadcasted games for the Memphis Blues, an AA baseball team associated with the New York Mets at the time.
He even got a chance to call professional football games when the World Football League came to town in 1974. The league only lasted two years, but the Memphis Grizzlies/Southmen had snagged some players from the National Football League.
“We had Larry Csonka, John Kiick and Paul Warfield. We got all of them from the Miami Dolphins,” Palmer said. “I got to go to some big stadiums. We did a game at Soldier Field in Chicago, and one at Anaheim Stadium in Los Angeles.”
Palmer returned to Murfreesboro in 1977 after both the WFL and ABA had folded and his station, WREC, was sold. As with his decision to go to MTSU, he wanted to come “home.”
“I was out of a job,” he said. “My dad was getting up in years, and he asked me to come back and help him run his produce store (Palmer Wholesale), so I did. I figured Murfreesboro would be a better place to raise my kids.”
Upon returning to the Murfreesboro area, he did local high school football, basketball and baseball games for WGNS. He also started the first sports talk show in Nashville on WSIX.
After being away from MTSU for nearly two decades, Palmer returned to his alma mater to work for the Blue Raider Network after long-time broadcaster Monte Hall had been diagnosed with cancer.
“They said Monte can’t do it anymore,” he explained. “They called me in the summer of 1981 and asked me if I liked to come over and do football. I said, ‘yea I’d love to. It’s my school.’”
The Blue Raider Network has been Palmer’s home for the past 34 years. He has called football, basketball and baseball games for MTSU.
“I just like to stay close to the program,” said Palmer of his alma mater. “I love going on the road with these people. That’s where you really get to know people.”
Along with his work for the Blue Raider Network, Palmer has also called games for the TSSAA Basketball and Football State Tournaments since 1982 for his company, the Tennessee Sports Radio Network. He has also coached youth baseball for the past 50 years.
“I love working with kids,” said Palmer. “Seeing the progress, and seeing the kids years later, that’s what I love.”
As far as his time at MTSU, Palmer has no plans of retiring anytime soon.
“I’ll do this as long as I can do it well,” he said. “I’m not trying to outdo anybody, I just like doing it.”
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