It was an inauspicious start for a man who has become synonymous with broadcasting in Bangor, but memorable nonetheless.
“I did live TV commercials. The first one I did was for Viner Music Company for their sheet music and records and I held the album cover upside-down,” said George Hale, a radio and television fixture in Eastern Maine for the last 56 years.
Hale, along with eight other Maine sports luminaries, will be inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame at a 12:30 p.m. dinner and ceremony Sunday in Bangor at the Bangor Motor Inn.
“I don’t know about other classes, but this one takes into consideration a lot of people I’ve known and admired,” said the 76-year-old, who has personal experience and/or involvement with seven of the other eight inductees.
This is the fifth hall of fame membership for Hale, who is still amazed that he’s stayed in Bangor all this time, let alone become a broadcast icon.
“It’s funny the way things work out. I threw a few tapes out there now and again and got pretty good bites back from places in Florida and the Midwest, but when I started thinking about it, being married and having kids, I was kind of impressed with Bangor, Maine and it’s hometown atmosphere,” he said. “To be honest, I never thought it’d last as long as it did, but I’ve just always been very comfortable here.”
Hale hosted the longest running morning radio show in Maine history for 51 years; has broadcast University of Maine sports, specifically football, on TV, radio, or both for 54 years; and has also been a presence in Maine’s harness racing industry as both Bangor Raceway for more than 20 years and in two stints as Maine State Harness Racing Commission chairman for a total of 17 tears. He has also been Maine’s Gambling Commission chairman for seven years.
He is currently in his fourth year as co-host for WVOM radio’s morning show with Ric Tyler and still calls UMaine football games for Bangor TV station WABI (Channel 5).
It’s been quite run for the Cleveland, Ohio, native who answered an ad for a dual broadcasting position with WABI TV and radio (910 AM) after starting out with the country’s top-rated disc jockey (Fred Wood) in New Jersey.
“Bob Patten and John McRae hired me and I drove my beat-up 1946 Chevy that wouldn’t pass inspection up here,” he recalled with a laugh. “I got a room here at the YMCA and went to work down on State Street five days a week for radio and one for TV.”
The first year of on-air work consisted almost exclusively of live commercial breaks.
“The second week, I did an a Fairview wine company ad. The women’s temperance union came to the station and protested because I looked too young to be drinking,” said Hale, who was 21 at the time. “I also used to do the commercials for the Harvard Beer Theater — pour the beer and make believe I was drinking — and they protested that, too.”
Hale’s 2009 Maine Sports Hall class also includes UMaine basketball star player and current coach Cindy Blodgett, former UMaine baseball coach and Major League Baseball scout Jack Butterfield (posthumously), former Bangor High School baseball coach Bob Kelley, former Ellsworth High three-sport star and current Toronto Blue Jays director of player development Richard “Dick” Scott, former Brewer and John Bapst High football coach and current Salem State College baseball coach Ken Perrone, ex-Stearns High of Millinocket three-sport star and University of Maryland basketball standout Jon MacDonald, ex-Bangor High/UMaine football star as well as current college football coach Pete McCarty, and former Georges Valley High of Thomaston soccer coach Charles “Sam” Pendleton.