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During A Game-Less Pandemic, Rutland's Jack Healy Retires From Sports Radio

A person in a checked shirt and red tie.

After a half century of reporting, calling, and analyzing the games people play, one of the most recognizable voices in Vermont sports broadcasting history is stepping down.

Jack Healy has been working at Rutland radio station WSYB on and off since 1971, but because sports are pretty much MIA during the COVID-19 pandemic, Healy figured now was a good time to back away from his early morning radio duties. But he emphasized he's not totally done with calling games: He still plans to videocast for Castleton University sports, and to work for the Northeast Sports Network.

VPR's Mitch Wertlieb spoke with WSYB's Jack Healy. Their interview is below, and has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Jack Healy: So even though I was thinking about retired from the morning show for at least a year, I was zeroing in on doing it sometime in mid-May. The case at the radio station was pretty much the same as everybody: No visitors allowed, nobody, you know, that type of thing. [I’m] in partial quarantine, anyway, I might as well do it now. What the heck?

Mitch Wertlieb: Jack, how did you start your career in sports broadcasting?

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a sportscaster. Even though I've been here about 50 years, I grew up in the Boston area and I just adored listening to the baseball and the basketball and hockey and all the sports.

He's probably way before your time, but I idolized Johnny Most. It was in the third grade, I think it was, when I first heard Johnny Most because I was in the Cub Scouts. And we went on a field trip, and the Cub Scout master turned on the radio, and it was right in the middle of a Celtics game, and I immediately fell in love with it.

I always wanted to do it, but I figured, well, nobody ever really does what they want to do. So I ended up taking business in college for a year. That wasn't for me. My first job was in Ticonderoga, New York. I was there for about a year. Then I went to Keene for about a year, Keene, New Hampshire. And I've been on both radio stations in Rutland. One is now defunct. And I tried to go to Burlington a couple of times, changed my mind, came back.

Well, Vermonters are so familiar with your sportscasting over the years. I wonder about some memorable games that stand out in your mind, things that you've covered in the state that really stick out.

Well, my favorite game, and it's really the best high school basketball game and probably best high school sporting event I've ever seen, was the 1981 boys basketball semi-final game between Rutland and Rice at the Patrick Gym. And Jimmy McCaffrey from Rutland and Keith's Cieplicki from Rice went back and forth, back and forth. It was just an unbelievable showing by both those guys.

Rutland ended up winning the game by about seven or eight points. I've seen games that have been determined at the buzzer, and things like that. But this one, just from the opening whistle to the final buzzer was just an unbelievable game. And I still consider it the best game I've ever seen.

And Jack, I'm so pleased to hear that you're still going to be doing some of these video play-by-play games. It's wonderful that we're not going to lose you completely with sports. But I wonder what you're gonna miss most about retiring, at least from the radio end of things.

One thing I did realize, too, that I had something to do with my retirement, just to go back to that, was getting up early after doing a game. And I never got tired of it, but I just got tired. That's another reason why I think I made the decision, too, besides the one I gave you earlier.

But yeah, I'll miss it. You know, I was on with various partners over the years and not only did I do the sports, but I was pretty much the co-host, too. And there's a lot of colorful characters out there, let’s just say, that called you all the time. So that part will be missed, for sure.

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
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