A legend remembered
Frank Barber knew how to make you feel better.
On the radio, his smooth, deep voice carried a reassuring quality. It was a piece of what made the veteran newsman who died last week, so special.
But only a piece.
There are talented people you don’t want to be around because they’re irritating or arrogant.
Frank was neither. He was a man who was unfailingly kind, generous beyond words and remarkably perceptive.
Everyone who met Frank has a few stories about him. I have a few I love to tell, but one that stands out. It showcases Frank’s compassion and his complete lack of ego.
Tiffin University’s football team was hosting Ohio Dominican and I was seated next to the veteran broadcaster in the pressbox.
Frank always was jovial before games, and he asked me how I was doing.
I took this as an opportunity to vent about something I’d messed up. I’d called the
decorated Ohio Dominican
quarterback Cris Reisert “Cris Reichert” in that morning’s paper, and I went on and on about how awful this was.
Frank took it all in, and told me not to worry about it. But he could see I was gonna be upset for a while.
Then the game started.
Frank, on play-by-play, began to describe a Panther play.
“Back in the pocket stands the ODU quarterback, Cris Reichert…”
He turned to me, smiled and gave me an elbow to the ribs.
Frank had made an error. And while he never would admit to it, he had done it on purpose so I would feel better.
Would Bob Costas do that? Forget that. I’m not sure if I would. But Frank was that type of man.
Over the years, I got to know Frank pretty well. We talked sports, politics, music. On a ride up to Michigan for a football media day, he shared with me how he’d covered the infamous “Garden Party” at Madison Square Garden in the early 1970s that spawned Rick Nelson’s song.
When I was a guest on his radio shows, the two of us – more than once – essentially hijacked the program and went on for minutes about the sorry state of the Cleveland Browns, a team we were passionate about.
Occasionally I’d go back and listen to games he and former Columbian football coach Steve Gilbert did together for Seneca County Radio. They were a perfect pair, with Barber’s strong play-by-play skills and Gilbert’s perspective transferring perfectly to radio analysis.
Frank scaled back his play-by-play work in recent years, but I still got to see him once a week for a radio segment we did on Seneca County Radio with Keith Hodkinson. It was something I cherished.
I last saw Frank after Calvert’s overtime football game with Norwalk St. Paul three weeks ago. Frank was uncharacteristically down. He told me it was the worst game he ever called.
All I could do was tell him a bad game for him would be a great one for almost anyone else. I don’t know if that made him feel better.
He didn’t dwell on it. He immediately told me he thought Calvert should have went for two on the last play of regulation.
I’ve heard Frank called the “Voice of Seneca County.”
To me, he was more than that.
It wasn’t the voice that was special. It was the man behind it.
Frank Barber may be gone, but his kindness, his humor and his stories remain.
Thank you, Frank. We will miss you.