Strack’s resignation the latest blow to WAIK

 

By John Ring

 

As I got in my truck during the heavy rain that engulfed Galesburg last Friday night, I was headed out for the Silver Streaks-Peoria Manual football game.

It was one of those times when you ask “Why?”

The game was going to be sloppy and full of fumbles. It was between a couple of teams that probably will not make the state playoffs. And if you’ve been associated with Silver Streak football for the last twenty years as I have, you become a glutton for punishment.

You’ve seen it all.

Running clocks. Lopsided losses. Small crowds. Losing seasons. The Outhouse Formation.

But as I turned on to Fremont Street, I thought about one guy who has seen it all as I have— Robb Strack.

That’s because Robb Strack will be there. He’s as consistent as trains that roar through Galesburg, as a Pizza House pizza, as a good dinner at The Packinghouse.

He’s seen even more than I have or any other sports media guy in Galesburg. He’s made every long road trip. He’s put up with all the bad teams, the awful weather, the indifferent fans, the horrible teams.

So how ironic was it when I heard at VanDyke Field that Robb Strack has resigned his position at AM based radio station WAIK and no longer will broadcast Silver Streak football, basketball and baseball?

My first indication as to how surreal this night would be was when one of the new WAIK broadcasters talked about broadcasting from “VanDyke Stadium.”

Huh?

Not to blame Gary Peterson or Russ Hughes, who broadcasted the game on WAIK but they were clearly imported for the event.

So at halftime, I called Robb Strack from my truck to find out what happened. And the bottom line is, he was a clearly frustrated Voice of the Silver Streaks.  “There were a lot of issues over the last couple of years,” said the veteran broadcaster. “There was a big meeting in August where station management said things would be fixed, that things would be different the first week of the football season but it never came about.”

“We weren’t even on the air last week at Richwoods and to find out about it from guys on the golf course on Sunday is just embarrassing. It’s embarrassing.  I’ve done my best and tried my darndest to build up fans who will listen to our broadcasts for many years and management won’t help. It’s time to retire, it’s time to go.”

This is the second big blow for WAIK in the last year. Longtime broadcaster David Klockenga left his position last year and moved to Iowa. Klockenga and longtime sidekick Jerry Hise had built up a very loyal fan base for Silver Streak girls basketball since the mid-1990s. The loss of Strack will be just as crippling to the AM radio station and will undoubtedly drive listeners to rival WGIL.

Between the loss of Klockenga, Strack and Jon Raymond— who hosted a popular morning show on WAIK— the Galesburg radio station can best be described as being on life support.

The Richwoods fiasco of last week was the final straw for Strack. “I went in on Monday to tell them my displeasure with the way things are and I emailed my resignation in and it was accepted.”

The communication process was so bad that Strack’s analyst for football, Dick Lindstrom, wasn’t even told about the situation  until Thursday. “Dick was told he would be working with someone else for the rest of the season,” said Strack, “and Dick said, ‘I don’t think so’”.

So how did Robb  Strack feel on a Friday night at halftime of a Streaks game?

“Who’s winning?” asked Strack. “Actually, it doesn’t feel like a Friday night. I’m driving up to see my son tomorrow and watching the Cardinals lose right now so that’s fine,” laughed the longtime veteran Streaks broadcaster.

“I had supper tonight and am just watching television,” said Strack, “and staying dry.”

“I plan on enjoying retirement. I want to spend time with my granddaughters, have more time on the golf course and enjoy some long weekends.”

Asked what he would want to say to his fans on the radio, Strack answered, “Dick and Jimmie Carr and myself all appreciate the fans who tuned in to listen to us. We really did. But you have to draw the line sometimes, especially when you have become a laughingstock.. I had a good run, a real good run. I broadcasted a state champion for the Silver Streaks with the 1988 baseball team and I still swear that we would have won the 1998 state basketball championship against Whitney Young if the game had went on two minutes longer.”

So I went to the Streaks game last Friday night. I saw Andrew Steck’s first career touchdown pass as a quarterback, a kid who has a promising career. I watched the Streaks win the game. There were 16 Peoria Manual cheerleaders on the sidelines and 14 Peoria Manual fans in the visiting stands. There were more fumbles than I wanted to count.

But ask me about this football game ten years from now and I will reflect on the absence of Robb Strack. It was the first Silver Streak sporting event in the post Robb Strack era.

Robb was pure Galesburg. His passion for Silver Streak sports is second to none. He was always there.  To be sure, he railed against referees constantly and I’m sure it offended them. But he did lots of good things for a lot of Galesburg kids, many of whom are grown up and long gone from here. He made them a star on a Friday or Saturday night. He made them feel special, even if it was just an indiscriminate block or an assist or a strikeout in relief.

Enjoy your weekends, Robb. Relax and enjoy yourself.

You’ve paid your dues.

 

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