If you've lived in Tucson for any reasonable amount of time and are not a complete hermit, the chances are good that you've heard Dale Lopez's voice at one time or another. How's this for a partial résumé? He's been the public-address announcer for the various Tucson minor-league baseball teams for the past 25 years; he's also done Amphi football for more than 20 years, Pima College basketball for more than 20 years and Tucson High basketball for more than 10 years. He did a two-year stint with UA women's basketball and is currently the stadium voice for the UA baseball team.
He has also done so many local elementary- and middle-school track events and statewide high-school playoff games and meets, that if I were to list them all, this would be the easiest column I've ever written since the time I left a blank page listing all the stuff I would miss about George W. Bush.
Let's just face it, folks: Dale Lopez is a microphone whore. He'll probably find a way to do the announcing at his own funeral.
He's got this killer baritone voice and an easy-yet-authoritative delivery. He also has lots and lots of fans. Female computer geeks want Dale to talk nerdy to them. Amphi students in the stands at Friedli Field on Friday night see their math chops tick upward as the Panthers sack the opposing quarterback and Dale intones, "That's a gain of negative-five yards for the Dorados." And rumor has it that Jim Click once took diction lessons from Dale, prompting us to wonder what Mr. Click sounded like before Dale lent a hand.
Dale is one of 12 people being inducted into the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame this Sunday. The 20th annual induction banquet will be held at the Holiday Inn-Tucson Airport-North on Palo Verde at 12:30 in the afternoon. Among his fellow inductees are former UA men's basketball coaches Bruce Larson and the late Fred Snowden; former prep star athlete and now assistant UA women's basketball coach Sue Darling; and the late Gene Adelstein, whose free-wheeling local TV station, Channel 11, was the place for UA sports back in the 1970s and '80s.
Also being inducted are Jim Scott, who coached the Sahuaro High girls basketball team to 11 conference and two state championships (his teams went 108-4 in conference play over a 10-year stretch) and Marc Janis, who started the girls basketball program at Flowing Wells and took his team to State 12 times in 16 years.
And then there's Bob Vielledent, about whom I wrote a column earlier this decade. (You can look it up in the archives.) V, as he is known, is one of the funniest people I've ever met. In the many years that I've known him, he has started hundreds of anecdotes and never finished one of them. He started a story once about how he was on his way to fight a forest fire in Utah when the guy who was driving took a wrong turn; several dozen laughs later, he ended the story with something about Margaret Thatcher and lawyers in church. I have no idea if he ever found the fire.
There are actually quite a few folks in the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame. The first name listed alphabetically is that of State Senator Paula Aboud. I'm not sure what she ever did athletically, so I'm just assuming that since she recently voted in the Legislature to let people text while driving, it must have something to do with the Demolition Derby.
Anyway, back to Dale. He's been the director of the after-school recreation program at Roskruge Elementary and Middle School for the past 35 years. Or, in a way a home-schooled kid would look at it, Dale got his job right after Richard Nixon resigned. He founded and has been the director of city-wide basketball, softball and cross country tournaments and meets since 1983. He has also been a high-school basketball referee and softball umpire since 1977.
Over the years, he has coached flag football, basketball, softball and cross country. What's most amazing is that since 1996, his basketball teams have gone a combined 124-39 for a .761 winning percentage. In that time, his teams have won seven Division championships and one overall TUSD title. They've also reached the TUSD Final Four 11 times in 13 years. And coaches whose teams win three out of every four games over an extended period of time is money!
As for his announcing, he's not quite sure how he got his start. Legend has it that a long, long time ago at an A.J. Bayless Market somewhere in Tucson, somebody reached for a jar on a shelf. The jar fell to the floor and broke open. Just as the woman behind the checkout counter was reaching for the microphone, a young man appeared out of nowhere, grabbed the mic and said, "Clean up on aisle four."
The woman was initially startled and angry, but at the sound of that voice, she immediately relaxed and right there, on the spot, she invited him to announce at her daughter's upcoming quinceañera. At that moment, a star was born.
No one has ever been able to offer conclusive proof that it was Dale who had initially "dropped" the jar on the floor.