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June 29th, 2011
Posted By: Allan Pettit
Word of mouth is a relative concept. For instance, who makes a more compelling argument for your hair product, me or Beyoncé?
Here’s a better example. During my 23 years as part of a committee that plans the York County Special Olympics Celebrity Golf Classic, a lot of people have said a lot of nice things about the tournament.
But never has someone like Johnny Holliday praised the event before the entire Mid-Atlantic Region during a live broadcast of a Washington Nationals baseball game. At least not until this year.
For all the orchestrated publicity that preceded and followed the 23rd York County Special Olympics Celebrity Golf Classic, Johnny’s kind words during a MASN broadcast of a Nationals’ Tuesday night game was PR pixie dust of the highest grade.
MASN’s television territory covers 14 Designated Market Areas from Harrisburg, PA, to Charlotte, NC. Last year, the number of households watching a typical Nationals’ broadcast approached 60,000. And last year, the Nationals were awful.
We’ll get into the specifics of Johnny’s comments in a minute. First, a little background.
Johnny had been to our tournament once before, seven years ago. Unfortunately, Major League Baseball is pretty much a daily affair and, as host of the Nationals’ pre- and post-game shows, as well as their occasional play-by-play guy, Johnny often has a conflict on the third Monday of June.
This year, though, the Nationals had the day off, and Johnny again joined us.
As a broadcaster, he’s a bit of an outlier in a celebrity field that over the years has included Pro Football Hall of Famers Johnny Unitas, Lenny Moore, Sam Huff, Tommy McDonald, Bobby Mitchell, Chuck Bednarik, Raymond Berry, Artie Donovan, and John Hannah, as well as countless other sports notables. That star power, the generosity of York County residents, and the appeal of the Special Olympics brand has enabled the tournament to raise over $500,000 for our local Special Olympics athletes.
But behind the mic, Johnny’s every bit a Hall of Famer. Named America’s No. 1 Top 40 Jockey in 1965, he later served as announcer for Hullaballoo, the Roger Miller Show and ABC’s This Week with David Brinkley, Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts. These days, in addition to his Nationals duties, he is also the voice of Maryland Terrapin football and basketball.
Scratch a little deeper, though, and you find more fascinating nuggets. He was smack in the middle of San Francisco’s burgeoning music revolution in the 60ies. He and friend Sly Stone, of Sly and the Family Stone, discussed hosting a variety TV show called Salt and Pepper. He emceed the Beatles’ last concert of their final tour at Candlestick Park stadium. He has helped to raise millions of dollars for charity and was named “Washingtonian of the Year” by Washington Magazine.
Now, back to Monday, June 20th, at Out Door Country Club in York. Despite a drenching rain, Johnny left his Kensington, MD, home for York. The sun was shining by the time he arrived, and he was matched with a group from the Law Firm of Griffith Strickler Lerman Solymos and Calkins, which, if this were a beauty pageant, would be more likely to win the congeniality award than the overall prize.
Nevertheless, the GSLSC team posted an 11-under-par 60, stunning the field by winning the tournament in a match of cards. Perhaps no one was more surprised than Johnny, himself, who claimed he had never before won a tournament.
How happy was he? The following night, with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning and the Nats trailing by four runs in what would become a stirring come-from-behind win, Johnny asked his broadcast partner F.P. Santangelo, “Have you ever won a golf tournament?”
“No, I don’t believe I have,” Santangelo replied.
Johnny pounced: “I played with a wonderful group of guys yesterday and we won the tournament – Charlie Calkins, Henry LaMar, Carl Klinedinst, Rex Feldmiller and Tom Sponaugle at the York County Special Olympics Celebrity Golf Classic. It was held at the Out Door Country Club in York, Pennsylvania. What a great tournament! What a great group of guys. Oh, and by the way, there are a lot of National fans in York.”
Even more fans now, thanks to Johnny Holliday.