As you get older, you start to realize that the best things in life are the simple things. Especially during this time, when we are all having to stay at home, if at all possible, and stay at least six feet away from others if we go out. No annual Orange and White game, no Clemson Baseball or softball, and an early finish to Clemson Basketball.
While I was sitting around practicing social distancing yesterday it gave me a chance to think. I started thinking back to a simpler time. A time when we didn’t have 24 hour sports and news coverage.
A time when not every game was televised or streamed, and it seemed better. As I thought of those times one of the first things that popped into my head was how I could still remember listening to the late, great Jim Phillips calling Clemson games on the radio.
Jim Phillips was a staple when it came to Clemson athletics and I can still remember the Tuesday when the news broke about his death like it was yesterday. He was known as the voice of the Tigers and had been at Clemson for 36 years when he passed.
For those that don’t know, Jim Phillips was the dean of all broadcasters in the ACC. Phillips came to Clemson in 1968 and broadcast his first Tiger football game on September 21, 1968. It was a 20-20 tie between Clemson and Wake Forest.
The Clemson vs. Georgia game of August 30, 2003 was his 400th Clemson football broadcast. At 69 years old he was the only ACC play-by-play announcer to broadcast his school’s football, basketball, baseball and women’s basketball games.
Over Phillips’ career he broadcast over 2,000 Clemson sporting events. He also served as host of the Clemson football and basketball coach’s shows for many years. He broadcast his 1000th Clemson men’s basketball game at the 2002 ACC Tournament in Charlotte. He missed just one broadcast of a Clemson men’s basketball game in Littlejohn Coliseum. A time period that dated back to November of 1968.
Phillips was one of the most honored people in his field. He was a five-time recipient of the South Carolina Broadcaster of the Year award. In 1992 he was presented the Master Broadcaster Award by the South Carolina Association of Broadcasters. This was the highest honor presented by that organization.
Phillips was inducted into the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame in 1992. In 1998 he received the Skeeter Francis Award from the Atlantic Coast Conference Sportswriters Association for his contributions to ACC athletics. He was the first radio personality to receive the award.
Yes, Jim Phillips was a well decorated announcer, and it was well deserved but he was more than that. I can still remember talking to other fans and all asking the same question after his passing.
Who fills those huge shoes? Who will bring us our favorite teams games? He had a way of putting you in the stadium, no matter where you actually were. Growing up I can still remember listening to Clemson games on an old, dirty, orange dial alarm clock radio at my Grandaddy Green’s Gulf station and unplugging it from the office and taking it into the bays because we had to work on a car.
Don’t get me wrong, Don Munson does a good job of calling Clemson games but he nor anyone else will ever really fill the huge void left when we lost Jim Phillips. It was his voice that came out of that radio and transformed that little Gulf station in Turbeville, SC into Death Valley or Littlejohn Coliseum for me for many years.
Those were the good ole days. Back when it was a simpler time, and Jim Phillips made it so much better. He was not originally from SC but it became his home and Clemson, SC was where his heart was. You could tell this every time he was on the radio calling a Tigers game.
If you get a chance take a trip back in time and watch or listen to a game or two called by him and remember those great times. It was truly awesome to hear Phillips calling the touchdown play that won the 2016 Natty even though it was digitally done. That is exactly how I would have expected it to have sounded if he was alive and still calling games.
Yes, it is like Dabo Swinney says. The best is yet to come, and Clemson fans will be so excited when the Tigers are back to playing ball. However, the simple times, on a little orange dial, alarm clock radio, waiting on every word that Jim Phillips used describing the play of the Tigers, will always bring back great memories for this Tiger fan and many others. Jim Phillips’ iconic sign off of “So long everybody,” will never be replicated. And those are memories that many Tiger fans can be thankful for.