A-K Valley Hall of Fame to honor broadcasting legend Bob Tatrn
Bob Tatrn’s broadcasting career didn’t get off to a great start.
On his first newscast at the former WKPA radio in New Kensington, a story about Virginia Sen. Harry Byrd came out “cherry heron bird.”
Fortunately, the station manager was in the restroom and didn’t hear the faux pas, and when Tatrn aced the remainder of the newscast, a broadcasting legend was born.
Tatrn would go on to a 57-year broadcasting career, including 53 years carrying high school sports.
He even had time to co-found the Alle-Kiski Valley Sports Hall of Fame in 1970 along with Bob Schank, former Valley News Dispatch sports editor.
While recovering from open-heart surgery last July, Tatrn died from injuries received in a fall at his home.
For his contribution to local sports and his role in establishing the hall of fame, Tatrn will be honored posthumously at the 50th A-K Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet Saturday at the New Kensington Quality Inn. Eight inductees will be part of the milestone event.
Tatrn’s career spanned radio, over-the-air TV, cable TV and satellite-based TV.
He is most famous for carrying scholastic sporting events with his longtime partner, Joe “Pippo” Falsetti, who died in 2006.
One person who admired Tatrn’s work is Rick Ricchuito, longtime general manager of Comcast Cable of New Kensington and nephew of Falsetti.
Said Ricchuito: “I knew Bob through my Uncle Pip. All the attention went to our local kids, athletically and academically, and it was a pleasure working with him.”
Mike Pavlik of Lower Burrell worked with Tatrn for 17 years.
“I always called into the ‘Sportsline’ talk show,” Pavlik recalled. “When Burrell and Valley both had home games to start the 1993 football playoffs, Bob called me out of the blue and asked if I wanted to do the game with him since he and Pip had to split up that night.”
Later, Pavlik was a co-host with Tatrn on “Sportsline” for many years until the show went off the air in 2016.
Pavlik worked with Tatrn a final time in 2017.
“Our Highlands game with Blackhawk was moved to a Saturday night,” Pavlik said. “I showed up at the Burrell-Valley game Friday, and Bob had me in the booth and he asked me if I could do the second half of the game so he could watch his grandson (Seth Tatrn) play. I’m so glad I did.”
The Alle-Kiski Valley Sports Hall of Fame got its start mostly by accident.
Tatrn wanted to honor of all of WKPA Radio Players of the Game at the end of the school year at a banquet.
Nelson L. Goldberg, WKPA general manager, urged that Tatrn evolve the high school honorees into a vehicle to honor all-time greats of the A-K Valley. He and Schank unveiled the first set of inductees in 1970: Buddy Jeannette, Dick Modzelewski, Joe Page and Pirates broadcaster Rosey Rowswell.
When former Oakmont and Clarion football standout N.W. “Skip” Cady was inducted into the hall in 2014, he noted how he got his start as a student honoree.
“I’ve come full circle,” Cady said. “I was once with the students, now I’m up here on the dais.”
“His behind the scenes commitment was amazing,” Ricchuito said. “Those games just didn’t happen to get on the air on their own. He would sell the ads and do whatever it would take to get the games carried.”
Tatrn broadcast the first 38 Valley-Burrell football games before his death.
His son, Rob Tatrn, will give Bob’s acceptance speech Saturday. A symbolic, empty chair will be at the dais to honor Bob, who attended the first 48 banquets before becoming ill last year.
Ticket sales for the banquet concluded last Friday.
George Guido is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.