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Legendary play-by-play announcer Mike Tussey calls his own game ‘over’ after 60-plus-years’ career

By Andy Furman
NKyTribune reporter

It happens to just about everyone.

Some can’t wait for it – and some even count the days.

Mike Tussey

Others dread it.

It’s called retirement.

For Mike Tussey it came last week.

He retired.

The man who called play-by-play for over 2000 football, baseball, and basketball games called it a career Tuesday, November 22.

“Every play-by-play announcer knows there will be a day that your God-given skills will begin the fade,” Tussey told the Northern Kentucky Tribune.

Tussey was set to begin his third season calling Morehead State basketball games for ESPN +.

“I had prepared as usual,” the Florence resident said, “But I noticed that I was beginning to struggle. It was most evident with my instant recall of names and numbers during the team’s transition up-and-down the floor.”

He said he would look at a number to identify a player, and drew a blank.

“My description of the play-by-play was hesitant and I could feel I was losing my edge and my skills were fading,” said the newest member of the Northern Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame.

Tussey said his decision to retire came 24 hours later.

“I had a 130-mile trip from Morehead to think it over,” he said. “I didn’t want to embarrass Morehead State, ESPN, or their working staff. I always said when it’s time to step down, I will know, and it was that night.”

Tussey, who turns 84 on the 29th of this month began his broadcasting career in 1961 – and began broadcasting sports in 1965.

In 2011 he published a memoir of his 50-plus years in broadcasting, “You’re on the Air.”

In 2016, he wrote his second book, Touchdown Saints, about the Thomas More University football team.

As for his memorable career, Tussey says, “Without question, calling the NCAA Division II National Championship Game when the NKU Women defeated South Dakota in Kearney, Nebraska (63-58) for Coach Nancy Winstel’s second National title.”

NKU had one solitary vote in the Associated Press Top 25 – and were the True Cinderella for the tournament, according to Tussey.

“I told coach Winstel in the Mid-West Regionals if NKU won the championship, I would jump in the pool clothes and all to celebrate. 
“Coach never forgot and back at the hotel she reminded me of my promise – I jumped in – clothes and all.”

Tussey also recalls hosting a 60-Minute cable television pre-season Kentucky Wildcat special from Rupp Arena in 1983.

“It was a thrill meeting Kentucky Coach Joe B. Hall and interviewing the Wildcats. It got pretty funny when I was standing between 7-1 Sam Bowie and 6-11 Melvin Turpin.

“I looked like a munchkin on the floor at just 5-9,” he said.

When he was calling games for baseball’s Huntington (W. Va.) Cubs, Tussey remembers doing a game on top of the first-base dugout.

“They gave me a card table and a metal chair,” he said, “It was 90 degrees that day in Johnson City, Tenn.

Tussey had to hook up his own phone line to initiate the broadcast back to Huntington.

Tussey at an NKU night honoring him.

“I had to run that line from the right field foul pole to atop of the dugout where I had my broadcast location,” he said. “We did a test – got the dial tone we needed – and all seemed to be fine.”

That was until a car – belonging to one of the game’s umpires – ran over the cord – and Mike Tussey was out of luck – and had a rare off-night.

“There were no cell phones in 1993,” he said, “I had to find a pay phone, call the station and tell them no game today.”

That may have been the only time in Mike Tussey’s career he’s been at a ballgame – and not said a word.

And we’re all thankful for that.

See Judy Clabes’ NKyTribune story about Mike Tussey’s career here.

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