El Dorado News-Times, Saturday, 12/05/09
Ralston retiring after four decades as voice of EHS sports
By SARA MITCHELL News-Times Staff
John Ralston’s first play-by-play broadcast of an El Dorado High School football game began on Sept. 4, 1966, and his last official game is today at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, where the El Dorado Wildcats will face the Pine Bluff Zebras in the 6A championship game.
"What a ride it has been," said Ralston, whose four-decade long sportscasting career has included both football and basketball, television and radio. "This will be a most fitting way to go out. I have gotten to do what most people just dream about." To day, Ralston will broadcast his 296th football game.
"I always wanted the listener to feel like they were sitting on the 40 or 50-yard line," Ralston said of his many Wildcat fans. "I wanted them to be able to just close their eyes and visualize it." Ralston said he had a good rapport with the players and the coaches because he takes time to get to know them. "It’s all about the kids. I try to make every football practice in the summer," he said, adding that the foot ball players have all been respectful of him.
Their polite manners comes from their families and values that Head Coach Scott Reed has instilled in them, he said. Reed has actually been Ralston’s favorite of the many coaches he has known. "His attitude of teaching and coaching has made him my favorite," Ralston said.
The sports casting team of Ralston, Pete Parks, Robert "Bubba" Schultz and Nate Evers worked side-by-side in the press boxes, both at home and at away games.
Parks, who began his football tour of duty in 1993, said the men had a great time working together. Parks also played football in high school. "John is actually more nervous than the kids are before the game," Parks said, adding that Ralston was very picky about his set-ups. "He set it up early and was very precise. He did it that way because he loved it so much." Ralston agreed that he always "did his homework" before the games, sometimes spending three to four hours on the task.
Schultz, who said he worked with Ralston for at least 12 years, described Ralston as one who displays strong beliefs. "John is passionate about what he does," Schultz said of his friend. "He loves the Wildcats and everyone that knows him knows just how passionate he is."
Rosh Partridge, general manager of KLBQ , said he and Ralston had been close friends through the years. "He is a pleasure to work with," he said. "He also has a good heart. He would help anyone in need."
Ralston will be greatly missed at the games, Partridge said. "I will still see him. It just won’t be at the games." Partridge said he and Ralston had worked together in approximately 200 football games and many more basketball games.
When live sports began on the radio station, Partridge said, Ralston was the one who put it together. "John had the experience and helped to get it started." Ralston said he was first approached in the 1960s by the late Wilford McKinney, a former KELD radio station owner. Ralston was a student at Louisiana Tech and McKinney wanted him to do play-by-plays. At that time, only one business, Cliff ’s Men’s Shop, sponsored the games. McKinney went to all the games with Ralston. "He did all the commercials live. It was quite unique," Ralston said.
The men who worked in the press box were wonderful, Ralston said, and all had tremendous amounts of insight into the game. "Nathan Evers did the stats. He has a fabulous mind." One particular experience with Ralston that stood out to Partridge happened during a trip to cover an El Dorado game in Little Rock. The men stopped to eat at Hooters, a restaurant known for scantily-clad waitresses. "John took all his info in the place," Partridge said. "He was actually in Hooters talking about the ball game. That’s just how concentrated he was."
In 2003, a scholarship was established in the name of Ralston and his father by KLBQ , the radio station where he broadcasted El Dorado games. The John G. Ralston and Jesse G. Ralson/KLBQ Wildcat Scholarship Fund was created to provide higher education financial assistance for EHS students who have participated in the Wildcat football program.
Also, in the mid-1990s, "The John Ralston Classic" was held at War Memorial Stadium. The game was played between the Wildcats and a football team from South Haven, Miss. Ralston has missed only two basketball games and one football game during his broadcasting career. "I don’t know who will take my place," Ralston said. "But I will still go to the games and will fill in when needed."
Ralston, who has been an active participant in the community for many years, has served as an officer of the South Central Arkansas To urism Association and the Arkansas Travel Council. He was also secretary of the El Dorado Kiwanis Club. He worked for the El Dorado Chamber of Commerce for 17 years and is currently a licensed funeral director for Young’s Funeral Home.
Other endeavors by Ralston include membership on the South Arkansas Arboretum Board, board member of the Arkansas Tourism Development Foundation, and a six-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and Reserve.
His wife, Sandy, taught at EHS. They have two daughters, Jennifer Miller and husband Steve, and Julie Fite and husband Jody. They have six grandchildren, John Michael, Addison, and Melanie Miller, and Jesse, Jackson, and Jace Fite.