Monday, June 15, 2009

Joe Frank's boyish enthusiasm

His signature call over the years may have been the most quoted line in the summer by kids and many adults in Amarillo: "That's an MRL fow-ul baaaall!"

Joe Frank Wheeler, who died Monday of an apparent heart attack, was hours away from the home opener of the Dillas. With the exception of a year or so, he's been the Dillas PA announcer almost since the franchise's inception in 1994.

Joe Frank had a variety of jobs. He worked at Herring National Bank. Before that, he was a financial planner briefly with Edward Jones. He's been active in chambers of commerce, serving as director of the Borger Chamber for an extended period.

It was a perfect job for someone who never met a stranger. I got to know Joe Frank more than ever last fall when he and I worked several high school football games in Amarillo/Canyon on the radio and shared a couple of road trips to Lubbock and Frenship.

Two guys. Four names. He could make a road trip pass as fast as a baseball game. He was affable in the car as he seemed to Dillas fans at the Dilla Villa. A native of Clovis, he loved his hometown and loved trivia. He was an encyclopedia of local history, sports and otherwise. He always seemed interested in you and what you were doing.

Local sports radio and local PA pays a little bit, but it's not the money. Joe Frank genuinely enjoyed what he was doing. It was easy to tell, not only watching the Dillas, but working alongside him in a radio booth.

He had a boyish enthusiasm about life. He wore it well in a life that was way too short.

5 comments:

Radiodad said...

I met Joe Frank when he became general manager of KQTY-AM in Borger back in 1986. I got to work with him until he left for the Borger Chamber of Commerce.

Joe Frank was exactly as described here, a friendly guy who loved sports. I learned a lot about radio from him; in fact, I doubt I would have stayed in the business very long at all without his encouragement back then.

The High Plains has lost a good man. My condolences to his family.

USHorseman said...

No matter where my travels have taken me and how far from Amarillo I have been, I just can't help but say to myself "That's an MRL fow-ul baaaall!" after ever foul hit.

Mr. Wheeler was such a major part of the games in Amarillo, and he will be sorely missed.

Excellent piece, Mr. Beilue, and a great guy.

nik v. said...

Thank you Jon Mark, writing this, I was shocked to hear the news today, and your blog was the first thing that came up when I was trying to find something out, and with a heavy heart, i just wanted to say a few things,

On behalf of Route 66 Roller Derby, we send our condolences to Joe Frank's family & friends. He honored us with his announcing skills last season, and was looking forward to this one as well. I was lucky enough to be able to announce alongside him for several bouts, and will miss him terribly. He was a great man, and had such a love for everything he did, such a good soul...
Route 66 will be playing our next bout this Saturday, at the Civic Center, and we will be honoring our friend and the voice of Route 66 Roller Derby, he will truly be missed.
Nik Vicious

Dave said...

I've known Joe Frank since college, where we were both in Sigma Chi Fraternity. One trait of Sigma Chi members is a "spirit of youth." Joe Frank never lacked that, nor did he ever lack a passion for anything he ever did. He was a wonderful man who loved our fraternity and your community. To hear him so proudly discuss Amarillo and Borger always brought a smile to my face. It wasn't so much what he said, but how he said it. Our fraternity chapter will miss him, as I'm sure will everyone who's crossed paths with him.

Dave Mathews - Albuquerque

Robert said...

I was in theater at Eastern New Mexico University with Joe. He's the funniest guy I've ever known. He used to do a bit about a Southern preacher, starting with, "I talked to God today..." That was our cue to put our drinks down, otherwise any and all liquids would be snorted out through our noses. I was Adam Oakhart to his Mookie Maguggins in "Dirty Work at the Crossroads." He absolutely stole the show - the funniest country bumpkin ever. The world down here is a little grayer without him, but I know he's talking to God today.