Ron Menchine, a long-time presence on the Washington area sports scene and the last voice heard on the Washington Senators radio network on WWDC, died on September 11, 2010 at the age of 76.
Ron was a friend of mine, a generous, happy, erudite, kind man. He was passionate about sports and the men who played these games with excellence and class.
Ron’s voice has not been heard over the airwaves for many years, yet his is a voice we Senators’ fans hear with clarity and wonder when we remember our childhood listening to the ballgame over the radio; in the kitchen or tucked under the pillow as we listen in bed, unbeknown to our parents.
Rest in peace, Ron. You will never be forgotten.
Excerpt on Ron Menchine from “A Whole New Ballgame: The 1969 Washington Senators” by Stephen J. Walker, (2009, Pocol Press)
The loss of the Senators left Ron Menchine, a life-long Washington sports fan, dejected. One half of the Senators’ radio broadcast team from 1969-71, he toiled in obscurity for 13 years. As a broadcast specialist for the Army, he taped a show of sports highlights sent to Fort Churchill in Manitoba, Canada called “Night Train to Churchill.” Later, he broadcast Atlantic Coast Conference basketball at WDNC in Durham, North Carolina. He announced Navy football for WNAV in Annapolis and WBAL in Baltimore.
When Short purchased the Senators and put the team’s radio and television contracts up for bid, Menchine was the sports’ editor at WWDC radio in Washington, D.C. In a surprise outcome, Menchine’s station outbid long-time incumbent WTOP for the club’s broadcast rights.
Menchine said, “At the age of 35, I was doing major league baseball.” He worked side-by-side with partner Shelby Whitfield, the team-employed Voice of the Senators. In 1971, he teamed with Tony Roberts.
Erudite, sophisticated, with a broad vocabulary and a rich baritone voice made smooth with Jack Daniels, his favorite whiskey, Menchine soon won over Washington fans used to hearing John McLean and Dan Daniels. He brought a deep love for baseball to his work, even though he last broadcast the game as a college student at the University of Maryland from 1953-56.
There, he learned his craft from professionals working in the area at the time – Ernie Harwell, Bob Wolff and Jim Simpson. Harwell and Wolff later received the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick award for excellence in broadcasting. These men arranged auxiliary booths in the press box for Menchine to sit in and record himself announcing major league baseball games. Afterward, Harwell, Wolff and Simpson critiqued his work.
Menchine said, “The most important thing that I learned from all of them was that preparation is the backbone of your work. I would go through the press guides and learn the nuances of the ballplayers, a little background information on the various players. Where they had gone to college; what their hobbies were. Things you could throw into a broadcast. It makes all the difference in the world. If you prepared for a game you never felt at a loss for words.”
Menchine enjoyed a productive career as a broadcaster, voice-over specialist for radio advertising, and author of books on baseball and World War II postcards. Washington baseball fans remember and respect him for the eloquent bravado he displayed during the Senators’ final game in Washington, the saddest moment in Menchine’s career.
He said, “I had lunch that afternoon with Ron Weber, who did Capitals’ ice hockey for many years. It was a rainy day. I told Ron, ‘I hope the game’s rained out.’ I didn’t want to broadcast because of the emotions involved. As it turned out, under the circumstances, it may have been the best work I ever did.”
Menchine described the game’s melancholy, but memorable moments – Howard’s home run, the Senators’ late inning comeback, the fans storming the field, the game being forfeit to the Yankees with one out to go. During the game, he held inside his deep personal loss. Years later, he said, “This is my lifetime job, my dream job come true. I’d been waiting all my life to do major league baseball and after three years it was taken away from me.”
Ron, no one can take from us the memories you gave. Thank you!