Inductee spotlight: Mike Kelly, Voice of the Missouri Tigers

By
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It’s true that sports broadcasters, by nature, do a lot of talking. However, the pro’s pros also listen. And, for Mike Kelly, he was all ears in his first season of calling Missouri Tigers basketball games.

And why not? The advice that he still remembers to this day came from none other than the legendary Jack Buck of the St. Louis Cardinals.

“He said, ‘You’re going to do some great games and you’re going to do some bad games. But just call the play. That’s all the listeners care about,’” Kelly recalled of that 1991-1992 winter.

Kelly has since broadcast more than 1,000 Mizzou basketball and football games as the Voice of the Tigers, a stretch that has covered the end of the Norm Stewart era and all of the Gary Pinkel era. He’s earned numerous awards and respect of the fan base ever since and, thus, the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is proud to induct Kelly with the Class of 2017.

The honor will be bestowed during the Hall of Fame’s annual Enshrinement in Springfield presented by Killian Construction, set for Sunday, January 29. (For tickets & the full lineup, see below.)

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Kelly was there when Mizzou basketball upset No. 1-ranked Kansas in 1997 and was there when Mizzou football attained a No. 1 national ranking in November 2007, plus its three New Year’s Day bowl games. That was part of a string of 283 consecutive football broadcasts since 1994, when Kelly officially became the Voice of the Tigers.

Along the way, Kelly also has won three Missouri Sportscaster of the Year awards.

Even better, he had to earn his way there. Just to get a job at KMOX radio in St. Louis, Kelly spent the first half of 1988 calling the station manager weekly before the crack of dawn.

“By June, he would answer by saying, ‘Mike, how are you?’” Kelly said.

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Kelly soon landed a job at KMOX and handled the Cardinals’ open line and postgame show with Hall of Famer Bob Gibson. In 1989, he began hosting “Tiger Talk,” the weekly talk show for Mizzou’s football and basketball coaches. With KMOX holding the rights at the time of Mizzou sports, it eventually led to Kelly landing the basketball play-by-play role.

It was no surprise that Kelly had sought out KMOX. By the summer of 1988, he had come a long way in the business, having turned his passion for sports into a sports broadcasting career.

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An injury while playing for Bellville Area Community College sped up his pursuits, and he expanded on radio broadcasting while finishing his undergraduate degree at Southern Illinois in Carbondale.

“I kind of knew at that point in time (of the injury) that I wanted to do something that would keep me close to sports,” Kelly said. “Growing up, every time my father would pick me up from basketball or football practices, or in the summers, we’d be listening to KMOX.”

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Turned out, he got a boost thanks to the 1985 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears. Kelly was in his first job after college at the University of Illinois when the team trained on campus ahead of the big game. That’s when Kelly met KMOX broadcaster Jim Holder, and it led to a role as an unpaid correspondent for KMOX over the next 2 ½ years.

Call it the small building blocks to a great career.

Eventually when Kelly took over “Tiger Talk” duties, the man who screened incoming calls was an associate athletic director you probably know now, Joe Castiglione. It was Castiglione, promoted to A.D. in early 1994, who then promoted Kelly to the football play-by-play role.

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Kelly later worked full-time for Mizzou from 1997 to 2008 and has remained as the Voice of the Tigers after pursuing a job in insurance. He is now with H-M Risk in Clayton as the Senior Vice President and Equity Partner. In April 2014, Kelly rejoined KMOX Radio part-time and hosts “Sports Open Line” and “Sports On a Sunday Morning.”

This in a career in which Kelly also has called games for the St. Louis Cardinals, the Kansas City Chiefs as well as in the National Football League and NCAA for Westwood One.

Fortunately, he has lived his dream thanks to the support of his wife, Laurie, and their now-grown daughters, Shannon, Shaun and Megan.

“Anytime you work in sports, you know you will have a unique schedule and you’re going to sacrifice weekends and a lot of family time,” Kelly said. “Fortunately, I have a loving, supportive partner that has done a terrific job raising our daughters while allowing me to focus on my career. I have been blessed.”

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ENSHRINEMENT IN SPRINGFIELD

When: Sunday, January 29

Early Reception: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, 3861 E. Stan Musial Drive in Springfield. Event is sponsored by Meek’s The Builder’s Choice.

Reception, dinner & ceremony: 4 p.m. at University Plaza Hotel & Convention Center in downtown Springfield, 5 p.m. dinner and ceremony. Sponsored by Killian Construction. Associate Sponsors are Advertising Plus, Hartman & Company, Inc., Hiland Dairy, Hillyard, Inc. and White River Valley Electric Co-op

Inductees: St. Louis Cardinals speedster Vince Coleman, Kansas City Royals outfielder Amos Otis, Chiefs quarterback Bill Kenney, the Voice of the Missouri Tigers, Mike Kelly, Houston Astros owner Jim Crane (University of Central Missouri baseball), former Mizzou football coach Warren Powers, Missouri State volleyball coach Melissa Stokes, Mizzou head athletic trainer Rex Sharp, B.A.S.S. champion Rick Clunn (Ava), motocross champion Jeff Emig (Kansas City), Missouri State basketball standout Kelby Stuckey, NFL referee George Hayward (St. Joseph), the Voice of the Missouri State Bears, Art Hains, track coach Rod Staggs (St. Louis Berkeley), Penney High School football coach David Fairchild and Glendale High School soccer coach Jeff Rogers. The Hall of Fame also will induct the New Bloomfield High School Baseball Program and its coach, the late Rod Haley, and the University of Central Missouri Mules Baseball Program. The John Q. Hammons Founder’s Award will be bestowed on Jack Henry & Associates, and the Hall will present the President’s Award to Leon Combs.

Tickets: Call 417-889-3100. A sponsorship table of 10 is $1,500 and includes an autographed print of the Class of 2017, sponsor recognition in the printed program and at the table. An individual ticket is $150. Numerous other sponsorships also are available, including congratulatory ads.