It’s Montana’s worst-kept secret, but I’m revealing it anyway


I’ll never be confused with former Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, except in two categories: First, I pitch right-hander. Second: I’m a switch hitter.

I’m not a third baseman (I played the first and the outfield).

Chipper (née Larry Wayne Jones, Jr.) wore the No.10. I wore the 27.

I can’t hit a Major League fastball. I can’t even hit a Little League fastball these days. I have had enough trouble with a stationary golf ball.

Yet I have a long history in the sports arena. I have been an athlete (and still am an athlete, although some seem to think that the ability to throw 16 pounds of urethane 60 feet into a rack full of pins and knock them all off isn’t a problem. “real” sport).

I have been an official card holder in softball and baseball, and I probably would do it again if it weren’t for Type II diabetes putting neuropathy in my feet and the onset of glaucoma in my lamps. .

I’ve been a broadcaster, I’ve shot 45 rpm records and 33 1/3 rpm records (those of you under 30 can google what a record is) and I called baseball, softball, basketball, and football, from the Mighty KURVE (KRVE-FM) in Los Gatos, Calif., to my last station, 13-KEIN here in Electric Town.

Then, about 23 years ago, Tribune Sports Editor Emeritus George Geise called me up and asked if I would be interested in capturing scores from high school games on Friday and Saturday nights.

And I said, “Sure. I can’t dance.” And I still can’t.

When I was hired, I was also working at Pasta Montana. I left in 2004.

In 2006, I became a school bus driver for Big Sky Bus Lines. Stayed five years. Didn’t kill anyone (was tempted to do so, but didn’t).

But since 1999 my only constant has been the Great Falls Tribune. Sports clerk. Part-time journalist. Columnist (I took over the Ten Pin Talk bowling column after we lost the great Curt Backa to colon cancer). Scott Mansch’s right-hand man (I have to wonder if it would have made a difference if I was left-handed?). Then, after 18 years part-time, full-time journalist and sports columnist.

My professional career has never been the best. But it is the longest period of time that I have ever worked in the same building.

I greeted people at the Tribune and gave them hugs (and handshakes) as they made their way to greener pastures. I saw them retire. I even attended the funerals of some of my colleagues.

I have covered Little League Baseball, Babe Ruth League Baseball, Women’s Softball, Legion Baseball, and the Pioneer League – before and after COVID-19 and Rob Manfred.

Bowling. Stock car races. Drag races. Motocross. Bowling. Basketball. Volleyball. Cross country. Golf. To swim. Soccer. Ice Hockey. Football. Catch. Athletics.

I have attended state championships. I have seen undefeated teams. And I’ve seen a pandemic do the unthinkable – stop an entire world in its tracks.

At the Six-Man State Championship game in November, Montana’s longest-serving football coach Rodney Tweet told me he was done.

Last Friday Mark Samson and I had a long conversation when the news broke that he too was retiring.

Now is the time to reveal Montana’s worst-kept secret: On Sunday, July 31, 2022, I’ll call it a career here at the Great Falls Tribune.

Most of you already knew that I had made this decision; in fact, I told my editor, Grady Higgins, last May that this school term and this spring’s Legion baseball season would be the end of the line for me.

But like Coach Samson, I knew it was about time. Heck, not only are the youth not on my side, they’re 25 minutes away on the phone. A linebacker coming towards me at full speed is usually an opportunity to utter a two word sentence that I am not allowed to use in this forum (the first word is “OH” – you will have to use your imagination on the second word. ).

But you still have to put up with me for another six and a half months.

Until then, Babe Ruth is not allowed to return from the dead to hug me at the home plate of a stadium south of the third parallel north.

I will only throw a ceremonial first pitch if I can have a cutoff man stationed between the mound and the plate. If Vin Scully can do it, so can I.

It would be my luck that I miss the cut man.

Follow Lee on Twitter @GFTrib_LVernoy or send an email to [email protected]

About Frances R. Smith

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