Alaska loses radio legend with passing of Dick Lobdell

February 19, 2014

Dick LobdellIf you have ever listened to the radio in Alaska, there’s a good chance you heard Dick Lobdell’s voice. And chances are you never forgot him.

For those of us lucky enough to know the man behind the mic, Lobdell was as warm and as friendly as his dulcet voice.

For more than 40 years he worked the radio waves in Fairbanks and Anchorage, but now his voice has gone silent. Lobdell passed away over the weekend at Providence Alaska Medical Center. He was 76.

Lobdell was born June 27, 1937. His family came to Alaska in the early 1940s and he learned at an early age what he wanted to do. When he was 12 years old his parents found him under his bed making up a baseball game using his tape recorder.

His passion for broadcasting never faded.

In radio he wore many hats and handles, aka, Little Rockin’ Richard, Big Country Richard and The Sheriff of Spenard. He thrived in talk radio and tackled all subjects from politics to plants.

As a sports broadcaster, he was Alaska’s premier play-by-play announcer and worked with some of Alaska’s premier teams over the years – the Fairbanks Goldpanners, Anchorage Northern Knights, UAA Seawolves and Anchorage Glacier Pilots.

He was at his best during baseball games, where the slower pace of the game allowed him time to weave stories in between pitches. He was our Vin Scully.

Lobdell was elected to the Alaska Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame in 1995.

He will be missed.

“Dick was a legend in terms of Alaska radio sports broadcasting, a character and a great human being, I so enjoyed listening to Dick do radio play-by-play – with that folksy style of his, he was a great story teller and could paint a picture with words so well that he even made those live-read ads interesting. I got to know Dick over the years as he did some basketball play-by-play for us here at UAA and later did public address for us. He had a great sense of humor and was kind and generous – one of those people you just wanted to spend time with. Alaska has lost an original and one of its best. My heart goes out to his family.” – Tim McDiffett, UAA associate athletic director.

“Dick and I worked together during the late 80s and through the 90s on the radio at separate but joined stations. My career hit the toilet in the late 90s and I thought I was done with broadcasting forever. It was Dick who in 2001 cornered me in the halls telling me of his desire to retire but he couldn’t find anyone whom he felt would do justice to his radio program until he thought about me. He lobbied Clear Channel to place me where I am today to take over for him and it was his belief that dragged my stalled radio career out of the sewer and placed me into the position that grew into what it is today. I will always have a fond place in my heart for that man for what he did for me and simply, the great guy he was to everyone.” – Rick Rydell, radio host.

“I met him in 1982 when he asked me to help him do Glacier Pilots games. He later got me into basketball. He’s the ‘Godfather’ of the Alaska Sports Broadcasting Network; started it with myself and Brad Lauwers. The owner of the Anchorage Knights asked him to keep the night’s cash box between his legs at courtside because the IRS was in the building. He was known for saying ‘At bat is Joe Hidavitchkey. For those sports writers out their listening he spells his name J-O-E.” – Kelly Thompson, sports broadcaster,

“My first games 20 years ago were with Dick Lobdell at West High School, broadcasting Crimson Bear basketball games back to Juneau. I remember how smooth he was on the air. He made it look so easy. We had no doubt that he could have excelled at the pro level like a Vin Scully if that was the path he had chosen. I’ll never forget doing a UAA game with him from Kentucky’s Rupp Arena. He introduced me to Kelly Thompson and we started the Alaska Sports Broadcasting Network. To us, he was always ‘The Consultant’ – the wise source we would always seek out before making our next move. He often provided feedback on our broadcasts, mostly of a positive nature. He knew everyone in the media from Fairbanks to Juneau. People would ask about him all the time. He was a role model that was the dominant force and pioneer in Alaska sports broadcasting.” – Brad Lauwers, sports broadcaster.

“I remember what everybody else in our fantasy football league remembered most about Dick on draft day. He would always give the same lead in to picking some burned out player with “Mock me now, praise me later.” I would drive him crazy with calls during the week with pickups and drops not to mention last-minute lineup changers 5 minutes before pickups. I’m sure I am the reason he resigned as commissioner. He had the best laugh of anyone I know. To this day when I talk about fantasy football I refer to the Yukon League as Lobdell’s League. Miss him a lot.” – Marcus Lewis, aka, Marcus in the Morning, radio host.

“I started in radio in Alaska in 1983 when John Davis hired me at KSRM in Soldotna/Kenai. It didn’t take long to learn that “the guy” in sports broadcasting in the state was Dick Lobdell. Listening to Anchorage stations when I had the opportunity gave me chance to hear what Dick was famous for – delivering a story while still maintaining the play-by-play account of the game. Difficult to do with basketball and hockey, but he was able to do it, more manageable with football, but perfect for baseball, and that where I feel Dick Lobdell made the biggest impression on me. Dick had the gift of making the listener feel comfortable, like he was telling the story directly to them, yet at the same time never making them feel like they were missing any part of the game. When I moved to Anchorage in 1996 to become the voice of UAA Seawolves basketball and hockey along with the morning show on KBYR, he was one of the first to contact me and offer his congratulations and whatever help I needed. Certainly a nice gesture, but that was Dick, a big man with a bigger heart.” – Kurt Haider, sports broadcaster.

“He was a legend in every sense of the word. He had a passion for storytelling and a sense of humor to go along with it. He took great pride in getting information and crafting a radio broadcast that left you glued to the radio dial.” – Jon Dyson, Glacier Pilots general manager.

“Dick had a silky smooth radio voice – one that really made it seem like you had a friend in your ear calling the game. He was extremely congenial and always made me feel comfortable despite my lack of experience back then. He was a true Alaska sports and radio legend, and I will miss is warmth and sense of humor as well.” – Nate Sagan, UAA sports information director.