By Charles Hallman Staff Writer
A couple of weeks ago, Minneapolis native Saeed “Big Sy” Huff joined a select group: Blacks who work as public address announcers at pro sporting events across the country.
Google sadly couldn’t answer the question on how many Black PA announcers because there are so few: Atlanta, however, might be the only U.S. city to have two Blacks on the mike at their pro games: Vince Bailey for the WNBA’s Dream, and Ryan Cameron for the NBA’s Hawks.
Legendary John Mason has been the Pistons’ voice since 2001, and Kyle Speller has been doing the same for the Denver Nuggets for six seasons.
Renel Brooks-Moon might be the only Black major league baseball announcer as she does San Francisco Giants games.
We lucked up and discovered Gary Young, now an on-air personality at Atlanta’s KISS-FM. “I was selected from 125 candidates in 1996 to become the first African American full-time PA announcer for the Philadelphia 76ers,” he responded by email. “I felt very privileged to be selected because I always wanted to play in the NBA, and I also always wanted to be a game show host. Pat Croce, the GM at that time, told me when I was hired, he wanted a ‘ringmaster’ type PA announcer, which was right up my alley.
“I not only introduced player line-ups and called the fouls and baskets, but I also conducted all time-out contests, played with the audience and read all announcements in the arena,” Young summed up his work.
The common denominator besides this aforementioned group of voices all being Black — they all work in radio. So Huff, who presently co-hosts with Lisa Moy on KMOJ-FM’s “Morning Show,” fits right in as the Minnesota Lynx’s first Black PA announcer.
“Being on the air has helped because you do have to be grammatically correct,” explains Huff, “but this is a completely different environment. In radio you are enclosed in a studio.
“The Lynx organization contacted me [and] expressed interest in me coming in to audition as the PA announcer” earlier this year, says Huff. He and “multiple candidates” went through “a grueling process. We all had to come and audition live into an empty Target Center with a panel of judges.” The auditions were arraigned in such a way “so we couldn’t see or hear each other,” he adds.
“I learned [I was chosen] about two weeks before the first preseason game [on May 15], and I was ecstatic,” admits Huff. “I’m honored to be welcomed by the organization and be the voice of the World Champs in my hometown.”
He has been with KMOJ for 13 years, joining the station after returning to the Cities at age 21 — Huff and his family left the area when he was 12 years old and lived in several states. The young man had hosted various shows before he was tabbed to wake up the Twin Cities each weekday morning, as Huff and Moy are the area’s only Black morning drive-time personalities.
Mason and Brooks-Moon both have their signature calls. Huff says that he “may be coming up with some unique nicknames for some of the players, but I will be able to coin some things and bring some originality, and a little flavor into the Target Center.
“I think that may help us stand out above the rest, and all around the WNBA,” believes Huff, who may well be the first Black PA announcer to do major league pro games locally. “It is a tremendous honor.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.