It was a career that started in 1971.
A career that lasted 50 years.
Jack Ashmore covered teams including Tuscola, Villa Grove, Oakland, Paris, Chrisman, Martinsville, Arthur, and for the past 26 seasons, Charleston. He also covered Eastern Illinois since the late 1980’s. He has probably aired somewhere close to 2,200 games in his career.
It was a fateful Saturday evening in late February 1983 that we first crossed paths. Jack was working for WITT in Tuscola and doing the games for a Warriors team that would eventually make the Class A Sweet Sixteen, with the likes of Murray, Peach, Von Lanken, Meyer, Fruit, and Bates. They were playing host to a very young Arcola team with only two seniors, one of which seldom played. Yes, that one senior who hardly played was me.
Tuscola was winning a blowout when both coaches decided to clear their respective benches. Jack got to announce my best game as a basketball player. If you call five points in the fourth quarter on 1-of-1 shooting from the field and 3-4 from the free-throw line a career night. Arcola lost that night by the score of 58-51 after the Purple Riders staged a large comeback, but was too far behind to get any closer.
Needless to say, he had no idea that he would end up working with me for 21 years of football and 16 years of basketball on the radio for Charleston High School. He says he remembers writing my name in the book for that game. I am not really sure how, but I believe him. I can tell you I had no idea who was broadcasting that game.
We did not cross paths again until 1998. It was that year that I began working at WEIC-AM broadcasting Charleston girls’ basketball. We decided with a crew of four (Todd Fultz, Manny Steffan, Jack, and me) that we would broadcast as many games in the Charleston Holiday boys and girls tournaments as we could. We ended up doing 33 games, to be exact.
It was my first experience working with Jack. We ended up doing the tournament like that for two more years before we decided that it was too much for a small crew to do.
The next year, we followed Arcola in the high school football playoffs. After I worked two games with him, he asked me to be his color commentator for football. In 2000, we broadcast our first CHS football game together, a 40-0 home loss to Taylorville that was cut short to three quarters because of lightning. In the first two years we worked together for football, Charleston went 1-17.
We started doing boys basketball together on a regular basis in 2005 and worked together for 16 years. The games switched stations several times over those years. We always joked that wherever the games went, they foolishly kept asking us to do it.
I always knew that Jack was going to retire, I just never knew when. I had people ask me that a lot. They were prepared for him to retire when he left his teaching position at Eastern Illinois University in 2009. In fact, he was named the Charleston Holiday Tournament Honorary Manager in 2008 because of that.
I said this then and I said it until he retired from broadcasting that there was not going to be an announcement until the season was over. He would not want any fanfare. He would leave on his own terms and he did just that. His last game was on April 23, 2021. What a way to go out … a Charleston football win over Mattoon 27-7 in the Coles County Clash.
Not only has Jack been the best broadcast partner that a guy could ask for, but he is also a good friend. I think anyone who listened to any of our broadcasts could tell that. Jack was a true professional in every aspect of his broadcasts. He was knowledgeable, thorough, and well prepared. His pregame and parts of his halftime and post-game reports were scripted out.
We were thrown for the occasional loop when halftimes were extended, without our knowledge. That happened at Taylorville this year when they added an additional 10 minutes.
Jack always had a good rapport with the coaches of the teams that he covered. For Charleston, that was Steve Simons, Jeff Miller, Trevor Doughty, Jim Wood, Blain Mayhall and Brad Oakley for basketball. The football coaches he worked with were Bill Monken, Jeff Rolfson, Brian Halsey, Tim Hogan, Tyler Hanner, and Jerry Payne. He also did baseball games with Bob Lawrence as the coach. I am sure that if you asked any one of those coaches, they would all tell you the same thing: Jack Ashmore was a very professional in the way he called the games.
One of the things I learned from him was the treatment of student-athletes. He always said to remember that they are high school athletes. Do not focus on the negative, if they make a mistake. But, when they do something positive, focus on them. He said even if you are the Charleston announcer, show a level of enthusiasm for the opponent as well. He said you never know who will be listening.
We were fortunate through all of our travels together that we hardly had to battle the weather. I can remember one trip back in a snowstorm from the Taylorville Holiday Tournament and one trip back in a torrential rainstorm from Peoria Manual in football. We had two football games that were delayed by weather in 2012, that ended up playing past midnight.
The road trips were always fun. It was always a contest to see who would get a Seinfeld reference in first. If the Cubs were playing, it would be on the radio. We would always stop to eat before the game and always had our favorite places to go. We always marked the calendar for our Mt. Zion trips to Krekel’s. A stop by Dairy Queen was always another good place to go.
We had some exciting times in football with a trip to the semifinals in 2011. The next year was probably the best team we saw together at Charleston. However, they were derailed in the second round of the playoffs by Rochester. We saw one regional championship together in basketball in 2009.
He only missed three games since we started working together. He missed a football game in Salem in 2009 because he was travelling with EIU to Penn State. A basketball game at Effingham was missed due to a scheduling conflict. Another basketball game at Mattoon was missed when he did not feel well.
I estimate that we did 190 football games together and 355 basketball games together for Charleston High School. To say I knew him well was an understatement. We hardly ever talked over each other and I feel we have similar broadcast styles.
I don’t know who my next broadcasting partner will be for CHS basketball and football. I will be moving into the play-by-play role. But Jack Ashmore can never be replaced. I want to continue with the same professionalism that he had to continue the legacy that he created for Charleston High School.