Hartnett column photo

From left to right, Jeb Bass, George Lambert and Jack Boyce covering the Indianapolis 500 time trials in 1984.

Jack Boyce provided the play-by-play broadcast for Shelbyville High School’s final basketball game at renowned Paul Cross Gymnasium on Dec. 9, 1967. There was certainly no suspense regarding the game’s outcome as the powerhouse Golden Bears defeated Greensburg, 103-60.

“I remember Harry Larrabee hit the basket that put Shelbyville over the 100-point mark,” said Boyce. “Paul Cross had such a historic feel; the bleachers, the crow’s nest seating, the popcorn. The noise was deafening. It was an amazing place for a young announcer in his first year at the radio station.”

Larrabee and Boyce were at similar career points on that day in 1967. Larrabee was only a sophomore and showing flashes of the tremendous basketball talent he would demonstrate in succeeding years; talent that would make him an Indiana All-Star and standout player at the University of Texas.

Boyce would also achieve great heights as he grew from his role as a fledging radio employee to become a Shelby County icon and one of the community’s most revered and beloved citizens. His 21-year tenure with WSVL Radio was replete with numerous milestones and coverages of remarkable events, always punctuated by his deep sense of affection for the people of Shelby County.

Boyce is a native of Cannelton, Ind. – a small town near Tell City. His journey to local sportscasting fame began when he, as a recent Purdue graduate, left a job in Eaton, Ohio.

“The station had difficulty consistently making their payroll,” said Boyce. “I was newly married, so I knew I had to find stable work. I interviewed at Shelbyville and accepted the position as announcer, salesman and sportscaster in 1967.”

He would not have to wait long to become involved in seminal Shelby County events. In addition to broadcasting the last SHS game at Paul Cross, he brought play-by-play action to listeners one week later at Shelbyville’s inaugural game at its new 6,000-seat venue (now Garrett Gymnasium).

Boyce also covered Triton Central’s first varsity football game in 1971.

Shelby County listeners would soon become familiar with Boyce’s style of commentary. “I did not have much of a sports background, so, I was not well versed in straight play-by-play,” related Boyce. “I had to describe the action as best I could, but I believed that I had to supplement the broadcasts with a personal touch. So, I would talk about people in the crowd and what they might be doing at the game. Many were radio sponsors so I would mention them and their businesses. People loved hearing their names on the radio, not to mention the free advertising I was giving them. That personal touch was a hallmark of the radio station.”

Boyce reported football and basketball games from all over the county. At that time, WSVL had two radio frequencies: WSVL-AM 1520 and WSVL-FM 97.1. “We could cover a wide range of events with two stations,” Boyce explained. “And we could simulcast (simultaneously program for both) when we had special events.”

WSVL’s annual coverage of the Indianapolis 500 qualifications was perhaps the station’s most popular sports offering.

The radio station’s racing broadcast team consisted of Boyce, news director Wayne Thomas, sales manager George Lambert and local racing expert Jeb Bass.

“We were the only radio station that provided complete coverage of the trials for both weekends,” stated Boyce. “That means that we were on the air every second we were allowed, 11:00 until 5:30 each day, before ABC Radio took over network coverage.

“It could be very challenging during maintenance and weather delays,” he continued. “There was a great deal of time to fill. But Jeb Bass had a tremendous understanding of motor sports. He had an extensive grasp of racing history and would often go to the pit area and bring drivers and other personnel to our spot on the second floor of the tower.”

Bass, a longtime Shelby County REMC employee, was well known for his encyclopedic racing knowledge. He also hosted a weekly seasonal racing show for WSVL for several years.

“I worked at the station in Eaton with the late, legendary racing broadcaster Bob Jenkins,” said Boyce. “He and I would renew our acquaintance each year at the Speedway; of course, he was famous by then. I also worked at WSVL with Gary Lee. Lee would go on to be a prominent ESPN racing announcer. He came back for the 50-year WSVL anniversary event. Unfortunately, he too has passed away.”

Boyce enjoyed a remarkable career broadcasting sports. However, that was only one aspect of his work for WSVL.

He anchored the weekday 6 o’clock newscasts during his nine years as news director and could routinely be found covering news stories at all hours.

He hosted WSVL’s weekly Open Mike program (later simulcast on the station’s cable tv channel). The interview program featured local personalities and often celebrities who might be visiting Shelby County.

Boyce also served on the board of directors for the Indiana Broadcasters Association.

Shelby County Broadcasting sold WSVL-FM in 1980 and WSVL-AM in 1988 at which time Boyce left radio. “My last broadcast was the Indiana Boys High School State Final game in March of 1988,” related Boyce. “My next-door neighbor as a kid in Cannelton was Tom May. May would win three state basketball championships as a girls coach. No local or area teams were playing, so I was working by myself. I saw him at the game and invited him to work with me that day. We had a wonderful time reminiscing and spending time together. That was sure a special way to end my sportscasting career.”

Following his departure from radio, Boyce moved into the insurance business. He operated the local Allstate Insurance Agency with partner Mike Babbit for 28 years.

He also served in the part-time position of county Emergency Management Director for many years. Boyce served on the board of directors for the Salvation Army and the Operation Round-Up Grant Program for Rush-Shelby Energy.

In 2016, The Shelby County Chamber of Commerce recognized his business success and myriad community contributions with the John A. Hartnett Sr. Business Person of the Year Award.

Today, Boyce is recently retired from the insurance business. He and his wife of more than 50 years, Jean, recently sold their Long Acres home where they lived for 45 years and moved to a condominium. Jack spends a great deal of time indulging his love of photography and working through more than a half century of memories: ”I keep everything.”

Boyce is now more than three decades removed from his broadcasting days, however, his passion for radio and the joy and satisfaction it brought continue to shine brightly through him.

“I am so grateful for having the opportunities that I have had in this community,” said Boyce. “I cannot imagine my life without Shelby County.”

So many of us could never imagine a Shelby County without Jack Boyce.

John Hartnett, former Boys & Girls Club Executive Director, is a sports columnist for The Shelbyville News. Contact Hartnett at jah46176@yahoo.com.