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.