Oct 1, 2021
BURNHAM — When talking about legendary sports broadcasters, a few things come to mind. Someone who is in the field for a long time, someone who possesses outstanding descriptive abilities and a person who is witty, creative and enthusiastic.
Few fit the bill like the voice of Penn State football, Fran Fisher did. Fisher’s legacy not only grew in a long, successful tenure with the Nittany Lions, but Fisher’s start at WKVA in Lewistown cemented him as a legendary broadcaster to those in Mifflin County, as he learned and moved up to the most prestigious job on the other side of the Seven Mountains.
Fisher’s legacy makes him of the best in the business and made him a must for the inaugural Mifflin County Sports Hall of Fame that was inducted Sept. 19 at Birch Hill in Burnham.
Fisher, who died in 2015 at the age of 91, was remembered fondly by those in attendance.
Guest speaker and current Penn State football radio broadcaster Steve Jones, spoke highly of the late Fran Fisher and recalled his favorite memories of Fisher and the lessons he taught him.
“As the person who actually sits in the chair right now, I understand all the traffic that goes with that,” Jones said. “He was a master of the one-liner and the quickest wit I ever heard in my life was Fran Fisher. He was a great play-by-play announcer and he taught me that passion is important for the job and how important it is to connect with people. Nobody connected with people like Fran did. He put the excitement into every single game he broadcast, and he is forever the voice of the Nittany Lions, no matter who is sitting in that chair.”
Fisher called many of Penn State’s most memorable victories during the Joe Paterno era, including the 1983 Sugar Bowl victory over an undefeated Georgia team to give the Nittany Lions their first national championship. Fisher teamed up with George Paterno to form the Penn State Sports Network and in their first of six seasons together in the booth, Penn State finished 12-0, capped with a victory over Oregon in the 1995 Rose Bowl game.
Tim Curley spoke on behalf of Fisher at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
“I had the great opportunity to not only work with Fran as a colleague with him, he was one of my mentors and somebody that I just thoroughly enjoyed watching growing up and he made a great impact on my life,” Curley said. “A couple of guarantees I can tell you about Fran Fisher is that he would cherish this honor tonight. It would mean a great deal to him. I also can guarantee that he would’ve been honored to be selected with this phenomenal class.”
In Mifflin County, Fisher got his start with WKVA, where he began as the play-by-play announcer. In 1963, Fisher broadcasted Rothrock’s 43-41 state championship over Jim Thorpe. Fisher also broadcasted local little league games and races at Port Royal Speedway, before beginning his Penn State broadcasting career in 1966.
“Fran never forgot where he came from,” Curley said. “He was as big as life. Some thought he was bigger than Joe Paterno sometimes. But he never forgot where he came from. Those little league games, the state championship game he called, really honed his skills to put him in position to go on to do the things he did in a great way.”
Fisher continued his broadcasting career in the 1990s and he hosted a weekly television and radio call in show with Paterno. He was instrumental in the development of the iconic Nittany Lion logo that is still used today.
He is remembered as more than the voice of Penn State sports and will always be known as an ambassador for Penn State University.
“My dad just loved the student athletes,” Fisher’s son, Jerry said. “He would get excited at times, whenever he was broadcasting — I don’t know if this ever actually happened, but I’ve heard it from people. There was a time when he was doing a game when a Penn State ball carrier when he said, ‘he’s at the 40, the 40, the 50, the 55,’ which we all know there is no 55 but he put it in there.
“His first real scream fest came whenever that ball went in (for Rothrock to win its state title),” Jerry said. “Then there’s the ever popular Sugar Bowl when it was ‘3-2-1, Penn State national champions.’Everyone remembers memories like that and that’s what makes my dad who he is, and we miss him very very much.”