Steve Bassewitz (center), who was the first to broadcast play by play for WRST campus radio in 1966, is flanked by current news director Dylan Eckhart (left) and sports director Deven Michalak, at a recent football game between UW Oshkosh and UW-Whitewater at Titan Stadium.
On a beautiful fall Saturday, a University of Wisconsin Oshkosh alumnus had the chance to make the hike to the press box at the top of Titan Stadium, recalling the first football play-by-play broadcast he sent across the WRST campus radio airwaves in September 1966.
Nearly 60 years ago, Fond du Lac native Steve Bassewitz covered Titans football, basketball and baseball. For a time in its infancy, he was co-sports director for WRST. Though technology has greatly advanced over the years, the preparation, enthusiasm and knowledge of the game and the players remains key to this day.
“I so enjoyed the experience in the press box and meeting the folks that run the program and the students that participate,” he said, adding that it was a treat to meet current sports director Deven Michalak, a junior from Milwaukee; and news director Dylan Eckhart, a junior from Bristol—both majoring in radio TV film.
Bassewitz, a retired K12 educator who lives in Cedarburg with his wife, Leslie, graduated from UWO in 1968, following a freshman year at UW-Madison and studies extended by service in the U.S. Army Reserve at Fort Lewis, Washington, during the Vietnam years.
Bassewitz recalled when he heard that a campus radio station would be started.
“I thought, ‘I’d like to at least try this,’” he said, adding that he had been imitating announcers since he was a young boy.
The first play-by-play broadcast for WRST was a baseball double header between UWO and UW-Stevens Point on May 16, 1966, according to Senior lecturer emeritus Randall Davidson, who said it is likely Bassewitz was on the call.
“We do know for certain that he did the first football play by play over WRST on Sept. 17, 1966, versus UW-La Crosse,” Davidson said. “They did a pregame at 1:15 p.m., with kickoff at 1:30 p.m.”
Basketball games were broadcast beginning in December 1966, starting with road games at Drake University and Creighton University, before the first home game Dec. 5 at Albee, according to Davidson’s WRST history. Bassewitz recalled making that road trip with “Buzz” Barlow, who called the game with him.
Listen to a clip from Bassewitz that is believed to be a Jan. 9, 1967 game versus UW-Whitewater played in Albee gymnasium, Davidson said Bassewitz interviewed retired NFL player R.C. Owens in September 1966—believed to be the first WRST sports interview—and a year later, did a couple of live in-studio interviews with Green Bay Packers players Willie Davis and Henry Jordan
Bassewitz credits former UWO faculty member Robert “Doc” Snyder with making the station a reality on campus. Back then, it was called Blackhawk Studio. The station went live in April 1966.
Bassewitz studied speech and U.S. history at UWO and returned to take education courses and earn his teaching certificate. He did his student teaching in Neenah and then started his career in the Milwaukee Public Schools—first at Edison Junior High and later at Riverside High School. He retired in 1998, and he and his wife enjoy traveling, including to Phoenix, Arizona, the spring training site for the Milwaukee Brewers—a team he enthusiastically follows.
A dedicated fan of Wisconsin teams, Bassewitz has a pair of season tickets for the Green Bay Packers—coveted seats that have stayed in his family for decades.
He keeps up with UWO Titans teams and has attended several men’s basketball games.
He can’t help but think back to his days broadcasting basketball from Albee gymnasium when Bob Kolf was the athletic director; football games were on Jackson Street Fields; and baseball games were broadcast from the roof of a hotdog stand located behind home plate. Bassewitz marveled at the current facilities on the UWO campus and enjoyed his time with student broadcasters during the Sept. 30 football game with UW-Whitewater.
“I told them they have so many opportunities when they graduate,” he said. “Here I was the first guy to broadcast and I’m with the broadcasters (of today). It was a lot of fun.”