For whatever reason, Grays Harbor always has been blessed with outstanding public address announcers for high school football and basketball.
Current voices Paul McMillan in Hoquiam, William Rabung in Aberdeen and Paul Bialkowsky in Montesano have done exceptional work on multiple sports, as has longtime Ocosta announcer Bob Erickson.
The dean of them all — and in many respects the gold standard — was Elma’s Jack Prince, who died March 26 at age 79 after battling health issues for a few years.
His public address work represented only the tip of Prince’s iceberg. The gregarious retired Elma businessman forged a remarkable record of community service, ranging from Little League baseball to volunteer firefighting.
Yet Prince would be the first to acknowledge that many people knew him primarily as the voice of Elma High football and basketball, a position he occupied for an amazing 55 years.
Calling Elma football was a more difficult assignment than many spectators realized. Prince’s vantage point at the top row of the now-defunct Davis Field grandstand wasn’t really high enough to provide a clear view of goal-line plays. Posts blocked his sight lines at other points of the field.
By his own admission, however, Prince’s specialty was basketball. He was an outstanding player in his youth, serving as the captain of legendary coach John Donahue’s first Elma team. Prince’s son Marvin played on Donahue’s last team.
As a public address announcer, Prince had four major attributes — two of them obvious and two that should be emulated (but often are not) by younger counterparts.
He was endowed with a rich, rumbling baritone voice that easily could be heard above the roar of the crowd. Spectators seldom had to ask their neighbors, “What did he say?” in a game Prince announced.
As might be expected for someone who announced for 55 years, Prince’s passion for sports in general and basketball in particular was unsurpassed.
If he didn’t have an Elma assignment or other commitment, he frequently attended other high school games as a spectator. For several years, he was the designated fill-in at Grays Harbor College basketball games whenever the regular PA voice was absent.
Prince, who usually spent Elma junior varsity basketball games kibitzing with spectators, never appeared to sweat the small stuff. But unlike many contemporary PA announcers, he was diligent about obtaining the correct pronunciations of visiting player names.
Once, while double-checking the starting lineups with Prince early in my sports writing career, I was surprised to see several notations in the margins of his program. Most of those, he explained, were designed to help him remember that the pronunciation of a particular name was different than the spelling would indicate.
One distressing recent trend, particularly among professional and college announcers, is to treat visiting teams like villains in a WWE wrestling extravaganza. These PA voices frequently bellow out any home-team accomplishment while describing visiting touchdowns or baskets in a monotone, if that.
To his credit, Prince was too professional to join that school of homer announcing. While he assuredly bled Elma blue and might provide a little extra pizazz in reporting a key Eagle play, he treated visiting teams with respect.
Asked about his style in a long-ago interview, Prince explained that his goal was to make an Elma home game an enjoyable experience for both home and visiting spectators.
During his 55-year career, Jack Prince achieved that goal time and again.