The Farewell/50th Anniversary Tour has begun but Bob Barry would prefer to do without all the fuss. He just wants to do his job - radio play-by-play for Oklahoma football and men's basketball - for the 2010-11 season and retire to his living room with the 65-inch flat screen.
"I didn't want to make a big deal about this," said Barry, who turns 80 in February. "I've been thinking about (retiring) the last two years. My eyes aren't as good as they used to be, the press boxes seem farther from the field. I'm not doing as good a job as I used to.
"I've been flabbergasted about all the nice things that everybody has said. It's overwhelming and embarrassing. I've just done play-by-play all my life and after 50 years, it's time."
One could say Barry fell into a career. When he was seven, he survived a fall from a second-story window, landing on his head on concrete. Doctors prescribed two months of bed rest for the fractured skull. Barry spent his time listening to the radio and got hooked on broadcasting.
From 1956 to 1961 he was broadcasting Norman High School football and basketball games. Jay and Pat Wilkinson, sons of OU coach Bud Wilkinson, played for NHS. In 1961, Barry was one of 14 broadcasters who earned a tryout to be the play-by-play man for Oklahoma football games.
"We worked the spring game back when the spring game was a game," Barry said. "All of the people trying out called one quarter. When I got the job, I think coach Wilkinson was familiar with my broadcasting play-by-play," Barry said. "I've always thought that probably helped me get the job."
Barry's OU broadcasting debut came when the Sooners opened the 1961 season … at Notre Dame. He was so nervous he had to walk around the South Bend campus to calm down.
In addition to Game One, Barry recalls broadcasting highlights like the Sooners' 1963 game against Army at Yankee Stadium, the 1971 "Game Of The Century" between Oklahoma and Nebraska plus OU's unexpected national championship season in 2000.
"That 2000 season and the national championship was a thrill to broadcast. It was definitely a highlight in my career," he said.
Barry broadcast OU games from 1961-72 until the school's radio rights changed hands. He called games for Tulsa University in 1973 and then worked Oklahoma State broadcasts from 1973-90 before returning to OU in 1991. Among print and broadcast journalists in the state, he's known as The Legend and Senior - his son Bob is also a broadcaster.
Oklahoma president David Boren points out Barry's "enthusiasm and excitement." Athletic director Joe Castiglione says one of Barry's "great traits is his humility." Oklahoma State play-by-play announcer Dave Hunziker says that Barry is one of a kind, "one of the great legends in the business."
Dave Goren, National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association & Hall of Fame executive director, says that even though Barry might not be well known outside the state of Oklahoma, he is a national presence.
"Bob Barry Sr. is one of those icons," Goren said. "No matter where you live in this country, if you're a sports fan, you know his name. Fifty years of play-by-play puts him shoulder-to shoulder with NSSA Hall of Famers such as Vin Scully, Larry Munson and Ernie Harwell. Not only did they spend decades working at their crafts, but they also served their audiences well."
Oklahoma wants Barry to continue to be involved in football broadcasts in some fashion. But when the Sooners' basketball season ends sometime next March or April, Barry will sign off as a play-by-play announcer.
"I've really come to love broadcasting basketball so that's going to be a nice way to go out," Barry said. "I'm totally at ease and the last year should be a nice way to go out. I'm definitely ready to hang it up."