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Broadcaster Gries remembered for work in local sports

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He understood the game.

He had a good voice and an even better laugh.

That’s how Ned McGinley remembers Joe Gries, a former radio announcer from a bygone era who died Monday. Gries was 92.

“A very likable guy, too,” added John Zimich, who called sporting events for WILK while Gries worked for WBRE Radio. “Joe always had something nice to say about everybody. He wasn’t confrontational and he called the game like it should be called. Joe was a very good sportscaster. He’s one of the all-time greats in our area and a real nice man.”

The former King’s wrestling coach of 48 years, McGinley said he became friends with Gries in the late 1960s and early ’70s.

At the time, McGinley’s wrestling squad and coach Ed Donohue’s men’s basketball team would often travel together to road games. Gries would frequently ride on the team bus and stay in the same hotel.

While Gries did not broadcast for wrestling matches, he specialized in high school and college basketball and football.

“They were mostly factual about what was going on, how they were playing,” McGinley recalled of old-time radio announcers. “You weren’t going to see a King’s basketball game on television, but you could follow it on radio. Those guys were really terrific with words and they would paint a wonderful picture with words.”

Donohue, 88, said Gries was his favorite radio announcer, likening him to a small-town version of baseball icons Harry Caray and Mel Allen.

“Joe could hold his own with any of them, as far as I’m concerned,” Donohue said. “He was a very fine gentleman and a tremendous announcer, and very, very biased toward us, which is great.”

When they were an NCAA Division II program, Donohue’s Monarchs played and defeated teams like Buffalo State, American University and Army (coached by a young Mike Krzyzewski).

It’s unfortunate, Donohue said, that he doesn’t have any tapes from some of those signature wins — among the greatest triumphs in school history.

But Donohue remembers Gries’ broadcasts well, saying he covered play-by-play and color and even the postgame interview.

“Joe did everything,” Donohue said. “He was a great guy.”

Gries was inducted into the Luzerne County Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.

According to his biography on the Luzerne County Sports Hall of Fame website, Gries worked at four Wilkes-Barre/Scranton radio stations — WBRE, WSCR, WKRZ, WARD — where he focused on high school and King’s and Wilkes athletics.

Gries also helped form what is now the Dr. George P. Moses Senior All-Star Classic boys and girls basketball games.

“He’s one of the pioneers in the broadcast business around here, as far as covering high school sports and college sports,” Zimich said.

mbufano@citizensvoice.com;

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