Dave Lapham calls him “Daniel Boone.” Lance McAlister calls him “The Godfather.” The NFL has called him to the Hall of Fame after his four decades in the broadcasting booth blazed a trail for Cincinnati Bengals and Cincinnati kids alike.
“I’m proud to put that on my resume if I helped them in anyway,” Trumpy’s unmistakable baritone barked Tuesday.
Trumpy, 69, who parlayed 10 years as the NFL’s first modern tight end, a rich, smoky voice, and crystal clear opinions into a juggernaut of an announcing career, has been named this year’s recipient of the Pete Rozelle Radio & Television Award that fits snugly in a wing of the Pro Football Hall of Fame for “longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football.”
Next month he’ll be recognized along with this year’s class during the annual Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Canton, Ohio. A long way from the Illinois farm where he was first drawn to broadcasting as a kid catching the baseball calls of Jack Brickhouse in Chicago and Harry Caray in St. Louis.
“Never crossed my mind,” Trumpy said from his suburban Cincinnati home. “Never expected it.”
But people like Lapham did. Like Trumpy, Lapham played a decade as a Bengal before heading into the booth for an even more successful run.
“It’s about time. I thought he should have got it before this,” said Lapham, poised for his 29th season behind the Bengals’ radio mike. “Now I feel better about the whole process.”
When Lapham was closing down his playing career in the early ‘80s, Trumpy was branching out from his wildly popular Sports Talk show on Cincinnati’s WLW-700 into the NFL booths. He tapped Lapham to pinch hit for him at times when he couldn’t make the local show.
“A real pro. He always did his homework. Never took any shortcuts. He was a great guy to learn from,” Lapham said. “He taught me never to say no. Whatever they want you to do, do it.”
Trumpy’s career spanned not only four Super Bowls, four Pro Bowls, and six Hall-of-Fame Games before he retired seven years ago, but he also worked three Ryder Cups and three Olympiads.
He also was the first in a line of former Bengals that made it big in the booth. He literally launched the careers of Lapham and Emmy-award winning Cris Collinsworth to begin a parade of network blazers that includes Boomer Esiason, Solomon Wilcots, and Sam Wyche.
Not to mention a kid out in Anderson Township who religiously listened to Sports Talk. Lance McAlister, the show’s current host, remembers when he was 15 and stunning his parents during a vacation on Cape Cod by picking up the phone and jawing with Trumpy about the Reds.
“If it wasn’t for guys like Trump or Marty Brennaman, I wouldn’t be here today,’ McAlister said. “Listening to a guy like that (inspired) me.”
McAlister also had a chance to work with the never-shy Trumpy several years ago and their relationship survived a couple of uncomfortable on-air scrums.
“When we found out Casey needed a bone marrow transplant, Trump was the first person to call me,” McAlister said of son Casey’s successful battle against Leukemia. “He told me, ‘Whatever you need.’”
For a guy who was a mentor to so many, Trumpy really had no one besides Brickhouse and Caray on those faraway nights on the radio. When he was a freshman at Utah he came home to Springfield, Ill., for Christmas break and took a job that paid nothing to announce a city basketball tournament from a stage for three days.
While he was going to four Pro Bowls and catching 298 balls from 1968-77 (still 10th on the Bengals’ all-time list), NBC’s Charlie Jones advised him to get into broadcasting because of his voice.
And he did even when he was still playing. While the Bengals were going to the playoffs with an 11-3 record in 1975 and Trumpy was catching 22 balls, he worked the 90 minutes before the Monday night game on WCKY.
“All it played was elevator music,” Trumpy said. “It was 50,000 watts and that’s what I was looking for.”
Bengals founder Paul Brown had no problem hearing the signal and he advised Trumpy not to do it. The next year he told him he couldn’t because of a contract violation, but it didn’t matter. Trumpy was near the end and his broadcasting career was taking off.
Trumpy still took on Brown, as well as everyone else, when he became the host, cheerleader, and chief bottle washer for Sports Talk and it was that combative, blunt style that marked his rise. When he left the show at the beginning of the ‘90s to team with Dick Enberg to form NBC’s top NFL broadcast team, he never forgot about those days in Cincy. He believes it formed the foundation for his success.
“When you have to do a show five nights a week three hours at a time, you really have to work,” Trumpy said. “It made me responsible for whatever I said and I still stand by what I said.”
Although The Baritone could provide the soundtrack of the NFL of the ‘80s and ‘’90s, his most memorable moments are in golf, particularly the Ryder Cups he did for NBC.
“I couldn’t believe the way they talked about it. I told Johnny Miller and Roger Maltbie, ‘It’s just golf.’ Boy was I wrong and they were right. Just the pressure. It was amazing. There was tension everywhere. You could feel it. Guys were going off to the side and puking before they took a shot.”
Trumpy can still feel the moment during the United States’ win in England at The Belfry in 1993 when he was in the middle of the fairway with American Raymond Floyd at the par-5 15th. From the par-3 14th at their back they suddenly heard a cascade of noise from the crowd.
“Raymond came running over to me and said, ‘Who was up first? Who was up first?’ I told him, ‘(Nick) Faldo,’’’ Trumpy said. “Raymond said, ‘It was a hole-in-one, wasn’t it?’ It was. I can still feel the chills. Just the fact that he was so into it and I was the one telling him what happened.”
Even though he’s been out of the game for almost a decade, he’s still very much relevant. A week after an arbitrator ruled that the Saints’ Jimmy Graham is a tight end and not a wide receiver, it should be recalled that Trumpy was the first tight end to be used like a wide receiver.
“That’s what I was the first six years of my career. Bill Walsh split me out a lot of the time,” Trumpy said of Brown’s top offensive lieutenant. “I loved it.”
The Bengals media guide says it all in the all-time receiving list:
Bob Trumpy, TE-WR, 1968-77.
Now The Baritone has a voice in The Hall.