By CYNTHIA McCLOUD
For The State Journal
This year’s college freshmen have never heard another play-by-play announcer for West Virginia University. All of their lives, Tony Caridi has been calling Mountaineer football and men’s basketball games on the radio.
What’s remarkable is Caridi is still working at his first job out of college.
“That does not happen often in this business,” he said. “Typically a broadcaster hops around and goes to different markets as you climb the proverbial ladder. Aug. 3 will be 30 years I’ve been in West Virginia.”
Caridi graduated from Syracuse University in 1984 and got a news reporting job at WAJR in Clarksburg.
“Every year there seemed to be a reason to stay,” he said. “We started MetroNews in 1986, and I became the sports director. I was allowed to freelance and do outside freelance play-by-play work.”
Also in 1986, he took over as host of the MetroNews Statewide Sportsline, a program he still hosts from 6-7 p.m. each weekday.
In 1987 he began doing TV play-by-play announcing and reporting for the Mountaineer Sports Network. He has broadcast nationally on ESPN, Westwood Radio, and regionally for the Big East and Atlantic 10 television networks.
Then in 1996, Jack Fleming became ill and Caridi took the mic. For almost 50 years, Fleming called the play-by-play for WVU. The title of, “The Voice of The Mountaineers” retired with Fleming, Caridi said.
“I had the fortune of working with Jack,” Caridi said. “I learned a lot from him. I learned a bunch of different things from him, not only in announcing but the whole specter of the job. You become an ambassador for WVU.
“Jack was without question one of the greatest announcers, not just in West Virginia — he’s one of the greatest announcers of all time.”
Caridi said one of Fleming’s greatest attributes was his abillity to describe a play after it happened.
“He had this fantastic ability to recreate that play in just a split second or two after it happened,” Caridi said. “I’ve always tried to add that into what I was doing on a big play — not on a lay-up or two-yard gain — so you can visually see it again.”
Caridi has a “call-it-like-you-see-it” philosophy he brings to the announcer’s booth, helping him maintain a middle ground between unbiased observer and Mountaineer supporter.
“My job is making sure the person listening completely understands and knows what’s going on as if he was there,” he said. “No matter how emotional the game is or a play is or the significance of it, you have to still be in control that the person on the other end knows what’s going on.”
Caridi also shows restraint in using the catchphrase he coined at the end of the 2005 game against the University of Louisville Cardinals in which WVU came back from a 24-7 deficit to win 46-44 in the last eight minutes of the game with three overtimes.
“It’s a great day to be a Mountaineer wherever you may be,” Caridi said for the first time then.
“I only use that when we have a victory that is significant or wasn’t expected during the course of the game,” he explained.
Broadcasting, the job he is best-known for, may take up the least of his time. His 9-to-5 typical workday is spent as special projects manager for Pikewood Creative, a video production company founded 11 years ago.
Caridi starts his days at home walking a few miles with Charles Barkley — his dog. Caridi is at Pikewood by 9 a.m. and when he leaves at 5 p.m., he heads for the radio station to host Statewide Sportsline. He’s home by 7:30 p.m.
“Once the season starts, it’s the same thing, only when I go home at night I’m working till about 10:30 or 11 on preparing for the football game,” he said. “Or I’ll do the coaches’ talk show until after 9. I travel on Friday if we play on the road.
“Once basketball starts you’re doing both football and basketball for the month of November.”
He doesn’t mind the demanding schedule.
“That’s the way I’m wired,” he said simply. “I was raised in a family grocery store and we worked from 9 a.m. till 10 at night, seven days a week. I’m not one of those people who says ‘I’ve worked this many days, now I need a comp day.’ That’s not how I was raised.
“Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I work because that’s what I do and I enjoy it.”
Growing up in Lockport, New York, Caridi aspired to be a radio announcer.
“It was a progressive thing,” he said. “I was infatuated with radio. I just had this natural interest in sports and as I got older I would listen to and watch a lot of broadcasts. I thought it would be awesome to do that and I just started to gravitate toward it. I started doing PA announcing in high school.”
He says his spirituality helps him, and student-athletes, keep things in perspective in a business where the significance of games is sometimes taken out of context, when a loss is construed as world-ending. He works with the local chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes, serving on its board when it was re-establishing itself at WVU.
Caridi and his wife, Joan, have three children: Michael, who has a degree in finance and works in Morgantown, and twins Andrew and Matthew, who just finished their freshman year at WVU.