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May 2, 2023 23 mins

The original voice of the San Antonio Spurs Terry Stembridge joins Bill Schoening in this episode! Terry shares stories about his beginning with the Spurs, he talks about the transition from Dallas to San Antonio, and then he describes the impact Red McCombs had on the organization. Later, Terry shares his memories of HemisFair Arena, the baseline bums, the camaraderie between players and fans, and the Spurs first ever NBA victory. 

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Speaker 1 (00:06):
Welcome to another edition of Sound of Spurs podcast on
the longtime radio voice the Spurs, Bill Schulding, presented by SWBC.
It's a very special show for me personally because I
get to visit with the original voice of the Spurs
from nineteen seventy three to nineteen seventy nine. Terry Stembridge
was the voice of the Spurs when they first came
to San Antonio from Dallas, and it's our pleasure today

(00:29):
from Kilgore, Texas, to be joined by the original voice
of the Spurs, Terry Stembridge. Terry, first offall, thanks for
joining us and so good to have you here with
us today.

Speaker 2 (00:39):
Well, it's my pleasure, and what a great thrill it
is to be back on WAI. And I've listened to
year ball games many a night, thrilled along with you
as the Spurs had many adventures. But what a wonderful
recollect to the San Antonio fifty years ago.

Speaker 1 (00:56):
Yes, it's the fiftieth anniversary. I know, it's very very
hard to believe it's been that long. But before we
came on the air, you were visiting with me and
you said it was this week, last week of April
fifty years ago. That the organization was starting to move
from Dallas to San Antonio. You, of course, were part
of that organization, the Dallas Chaparales. I want to get
to your entire story, and I feel like the best

(01:18):
way to start at the story, Terry, is in the
very beginning. You're a native of East Texas, Kilgore, Texas.
You were bored and Tyler and raised in Kilgore. When
did you decide at what age that you might want
to get into broadcasting.

Speaker 2 (01:32):
I've graduated from the University of Texas in nineteen sixty
one with the degree in history, and I had no
skills and no professional career ahead of me. But I
looked into teaching school for a couple of years. But
along with that, I started broadcasting Kilgore College basketball and
football games, Kilgore High school basketball and football games. And

(01:58):
they took a hand and wound up going from a
two hundred and watch station that didn't even reach Longview,
thirteen miles away on the fifty thousand what w KRILD
at that time in Dallas broadcast to Dallas Chafrals. And
of course, the Chaffralls had six pretty good years in
Dallas in some respects although the fans didn't turn out

(02:21):
in the numbers that were profitable, but the games were great,
the play were great, and the American Ball Association changed
the face of American sports in so many ways. But
we ran out of money finally, and not that the
owners who owned the team. There were about three guys
that had all of them were said to be missionaire

(02:44):
and they didn't run out of money, but they ran
out of the willingness to support a team that was
drawing only about fifteen hundred people. But despite the lack
of fans, the games were so exciting. American Basketball Association
meant so much to the development of sports. Had changed
the life of the refees, It changed a lot of
the players, and it was wonderful to go from a

(03:08):
fifty watch two hundred and fifty watch station to fifty
thousand watch in Dallas. And then then the most wonderful
thing was that we went from being in Solivon going
to San Antonio, and the rest is a continuing history
of great basketball and great excitement and a great boost

(03:29):
of the city.

Speaker 1 (03:30):
Terry, I have to ask you a few questions about Dallas,
because we talk a lot about the move from Dallas
to San Antonio. But you mentioned the fact that they're
only averaging about fifteen hundred fans a game. Where all
the games played at Moody Coliseum, or did the Mavericks
move around a little bit before they had to went
to Moody.

Speaker 2 (03:48):
We started out at the Convention Center in downtown Dallas,
and it was very seldom used for basketball, but we
managed through our political affiliation, played games there, and then
in the spring when they would have a convention or something,
we would play at SMU's Boody Coliseum, and also played

(04:11):
a few games at Low's field House, which was the
Independent school District's field house, which was pretty nice arena.
We had some great games out there.

Speaker 1 (04:20):
I've got very good memories of Moody Coliseum from my
days at the University of Texas. Of course, years later
when SMU played their games there. The early days of
the ABA, I think a lot of us who followed
the ABA. Of course, I was a young kid back then,
but I read books, and my favorite book one of them, anyway,
is Terry Pluto's book Loose Balls, which I think recounted

(04:41):
a lot of the crazy stories that happened in the
old ABA. But in those early days in Dallas, you
were not just the broadcaster, and of course this was
going to continue to be true in San Antonio as well.
You had many hats to wear, Terry. So what different
responsibilities did you have besides just calling the games?

Speaker 2 (05:01):
I worked as the when I first went to Dallas
and they hired me to help Max Williams. He was
the general manager and he was only employed at Chaprals
at that time, and said, Max is going to need
some help. We don't have a radio contract. I'd been
loving for the radio job. I thought, surely they would
put the games on the air, and long story doesn't

(05:24):
need retelling. But I did finally get an opportunity to
work for the team, and they said, well, Terry, if
we get a radio contract, you might be the radio voice.
And as on and on they said, Terry, when we
get the radio contract, he'll be the radio voice. And
sure enough, about a week before the season opened, officials

(05:47):
from KROLED came out to the office we officed in
the Dallas Cowboy Building and they wanted to put us
on the air. And that was the start of a thousand,
two hundred and fifty two consecutive broadcast every exhibition game,
every playoff game, and every regular season game on KROLD

(06:09):
and then on WAI and San Antonio, although we started
out on KKYX in San Antonio that first year.

Speaker 1 (06:18):
How about that two legendary stations. Of course KROLD. In Dallas,
my dear friend Brad Sham, longtime voice of the Cowboys,
was on CARO l D along with Vern Lundquist for
years and years. I'm probably throwing some names at you
that you're very familiar with.

Speaker 2 (06:32):
Well, Brad Sham, of course is the great voice of
the Dallas Cowboys at that time. I remember Brad he
was had come from Chicago, I believe correct. You know,
he was just a young reporter and didn't know his
way around and the old veterans sort of mistreated him
a little bit. And then Brad got the job on

(06:53):
Dallas Central, had that sports show, and his career took off.
He was just got better and better and he's really
a legend, no.

Speaker 1 (07:04):
Question about that. And of course he worked with Vern Lundquist,
who was also a legend that had a lot of
years up in Dallas. Let's talk about that transition from
Dallas to San Antonio. When did you first get inkling
that the team might be for sale or eventually for lease,
as it turned out to be that first year in
San Antonio.

Speaker 2 (07:21):
It was our sixth year in San Antonio, and I
was sitting in the office with Bob Briner, who was
the general manager at that time. He had come over
from Lamar Hunt's office, and people thought Lamar was going
to buy the Chaparales, and Bob was there to take
a look and see whether could recommend it. Well, he

(07:41):
didn't recommend, or at least Lamar didn't buy it, as
he ran the team as general manager that last year.
And we were sitting there one afternoon and we knew
we were insolvent, and the word was that we were
going to be sold to a group in New Jersey.
The franchise was going to Newark, New Jersey, and I

(08:01):
remember guys telling him he said, you know, if you're
going to Newark, New Jersey, you better not take a microphone.
You better take a machine gun.

Speaker 1 (08:10):
But the league that did not.

Speaker 2 (08:12):
Approve of the sale. They felt like that part of
the group might have had something to do with the Underworld,
so that fell through, and we were sitting on zero
at that time, and mister bron said, what are we
going to do? And I said, you know, I don't know,
but I said, there's a guy that i've heard of

(08:33):
who owns a semi pro football team down in San Antonio.
Bred McCombs, he might be interested. And mister Browner said
we why don't you call him? And I said okay.
So I called the Ford Dealership there in San Antonio
and they said, mister McCombs is not here, and I said, well,

(08:53):
where might I find him? And he said he's in
North Carolina? And I said where? Raleigh, North Carolina. And
I said, do you know where he's staying? And I
couldn't believe. She told me where he was staying at
the Holiday Inn in Raleigh, North Carolina. I called the
Holiday Inn and I was shocked. I said, could you
ring mister mccomb's room, and she said yes, and read

(09:16):
answered the phone, and I told him who I was
and why I was calling, told him that our basketball
team is about the fold. Might he be interested? He said,
I might be interested. Said I tell you what I'll
do when I come back to San Antonio. I'll stop
off in Dallas and talk about it. And sure enough,
true to his word, he got off a commercial flight

(09:39):
and came out to the office, and then mister Briner
started talking, and then the ownership of the Chaparrals got
involved with Red, and in a really unusual deal, the
Chaparrals became the property of San Antonio and its owners.
The detail sort of blurring my mind, but I think

(10:01):
it was at least for a dollar a year, and
they had put up about four hundred thousand dollars in
expense money that first year. And then later on Angelo
Drosses came into the picture. He was very important. What
a wonderful man he was, and what a great leader.
In between Red and Angelo and their followers, the team

(10:24):
came to San Antonio, and then it came time to
pay up that other four hundred thousand dollars to the
Dallas owners, and Red called him. He could always make
a deal and recognize leverage, and he called and he
said tell us. He said, I've got some bad news

(10:44):
for you. Said, we don't have that four hundred thousand dollars.
We're out. We're going to have to just give you
the team back. The Dallas owner said, no, no, no,
that's all right. You just keep the team. So I
guess the team came to Antonio at half price, which
may have been overpriced at the time.

Speaker 1 (11:05):
But one thing Red said, of course, you know, we
just lost him a few months ago, and I got
the chance to, of course watch the funeral, and we
were on the road, as a matter of fact, the
Spurs were, so I got the chance to watch that game,
or watch the funeral rather online, and hear all the
different tributes that people had. But one of the things
that kept coming up was Red's going to get the
deal done. Red gets deals done. That's what Red does.

(11:25):
He gets the deal done. So I was just thinking
about that first conversation you had in the hotel room
in Charlotte and not dreaming that that's the beginning, the
origin of the San Antonio Spurs.

Speaker 2 (11:36):
And how many people investors would say, yeah, I'll get
off the plane and come by and see you guys.
And that was just Red. He was a remarkable individual,
great memory, great voice, very intimidating. But I remember in
one of the documentary series that they're putting on now

(11:57):
during this fiftieth anniversary, Red said he realized the Dallas
that San Antonio had an image problem, and he thought
that a professional team would help that. And it really did,
because once the Spurs came to San Antonio, every day
in every national paper the name San Antonio appeared, and

(12:20):
of course the club from time to time made some
really good headlines. But San Antonio and the Chaparrals, that
was a great blend.

Speaker 1 (12:29):
Growing up in the East Coast, Terry at the time,
I knew of two things about San Antonio, the Alamo
and the San Antonio Spurs went from the Old ABA
of course into the NBA, so from around the country
the perception of the Spurs and San Antonio hand in hand. Really,
it wasn't until I really got involved with the organization
starting twenty two years ago, that I understood or started

(12:49):
to understand anyway, the relationship, the very special relationship between
the fans and the team, and you got to see
that on the ground floor, Terry, I.

Speaker 2 (12:59):
Did get to see it on the ground floor, and
that was one of the most wonderful things about being
in San Antonio, was the camaraderie between the players and
the fans. And I used to get down to the
arena real early and set up the radio equipment and
people would come by and talk to me.

Speaker 1 (13:16):
And I had many, many fond.

Speaker 2 (13:18):
Memories of those people. I remember doctor Joe Moore and
his wife. I think she was the doctor. He was
the golf pro. But they were devoted fans. There were
so many of the Altmans, just so many good people
in San Antonio, and if you worked for San Antonio
the Spurs, people couldn't be any nicer to you. I

(13:40):
think maybe it was the six happiest years of my
a dull life.

Speaker 1 (13:44):
You mentioned that to me in a conversation we had
a few days ago, and I found that very very
interesting because you're a broadcaster and you were part of
what was going on, especially back then. Terry. You know
now all the games are on television. Back then, I
would imagine very very few were on television.

Speaker 2 (14:03):
We had about maybe four or five ball games a
year on television. Rudy Dobelos and I did a couple
of games. In fact, we did a ballgame from the
Spectrum in Philadelphia where George McGinnis broke the backboard and
the game was delayed for an hour. Rudy and I
had to talk to each other for an hour. That

(14:23):
was quite interesting.

Speaker 1 (14:26):
It's called tap dancing. Before we let you go, I
wanted to get a couple of your memories of those
days when you think of Hemisphere Arena. And of course
they had to expand the size of Hemisphere Arena and
raise the roof and put those seats upstairs, But what
are your thoughts and memories of that arena, that special place.

Speaker 2 (14:43):
Well before they raised the roof, I thought the Hemisphere
Arena was the most ideal place to play basketball. Ten
thousand seats, not a bad seat in the house. And
when I got there, it was actually the San Antonio
Convention Center, and I kept calling it the Hemisphere Arena
because of the hemisphere and tower, and the city fathers

(15:09):
called me and told me, don't say Hemisphere Arena, say
Convention Center. But I kept on saying the Hemisphere. And
I feel like that my persistence in that a little
legacy for myself.

Speaker 1 (15:25):
Oh absolutely, And I've never heard anybody call it anything
but the Hemisphere since we've been around. The baseline bums,
the electricity and the excitement that they brought, and maybe
a story or two because I know, Terry, you were
sitting right there in the front row, you got a
good view of it. I know that opposing players weren't
big fans of the baseline bombs.

Speaker 2 (15:46):
The baseline bombs were really a creation of John Begzo's
who had been the general manager of the baseball team,
and he brought the idea of the baseline bumbs to
the arena to the Spurs, and he's put them right
there where the tunnel is that led to the visitors
dressing room, and the visitors visiting team had to go
through there, and they were always the victim of noise

(16:09):
and some debris to throw them their way, And they
especially disliked Larry Brown, who monically would later be one
of the coaches of the Spurs, but when he was
at Denver, there was animosity between Larry and the baseline buffs.
I think they poured guacamole.

Speaker 1 (16:28):
On it in a little bit that didn't go good
with the suit. One of our previous guests was a
guy that you covered very well, Captain Late James Silas,
who of course made the move from Dallas to San
Antonio with you, and he said that one of his
good friends, doctor j. Julius Serving, was one of his
friends that was the most vocal about not liking the

(16:49):
baseline bumps. He got under their skin a little bitter
they got under his skin.

Speaker 2 (16:53):
Well, that's sort of surprising to hear, because I thought
Julia Serving was one of the most talented knowledge both
great players, not only on the court but off the court.
And in the seventh game, or in the first game
that the San Antonio Spurs played, they played in the
Spectrum in Philadelphia, and it was the night of the

(17:15):
six million dollar Man. Julus Irving had signed to play
with Philadelphia for six million dollars, which at that time
was an unheard of contract. They brought him out at
the start of the game in a doctor's white coat
and a doctor's bag, and there was a six million
dollar man. And the San Antonio Spurs won that game,

(17:37):
the first game in the NBA. You go into Philadelphia,
a tough city, into the Spectrum, noisey crowd, and the
Spurs won the game. And I actually I say this,
and I'm not embarrassed to say it. I had tears
in my eyes when the game was over.

Speaker 1 (17:53):
I believe it because what a journey was, not just
for the team, but for you personally, you know, to
get into the NBGA five and that team, I believe,
averaged one hundred and fifteen points per game and led
the league in scoring. So it's not like the Spurs
didn't belong in the NBA. They did, But what a
special moment in memory of going in there and winning
that first game.

Speaker 2 (18:13):
It was. And also, you know, the end of the
the end of the ABA came when we played against
the New York Nets. We lost. That team should have
won the last ABA championship and we lost to the
New York Nets. Silas got hurt in that ball game
and we lost it. And then my final broadcast was

(18:36):
at Landover, Maryland in late May of nineteen seventy nine
when we lost to the Washington Bullets. That was the
game when Dick Matta said the Fat Lady ain't sun yet.
But we were up three games to one and lost
three straight.

Speaker 1 (18:55):
And there was a problem with lights in game seven.
Is that right? You know, pep.

Speaker 2 (19:01):
Memory will fade. People tell me that that happened, but
Shah have only a faint recollection of those lights going off.
It didn't seem like it was important. And I tell
you what the most important thing was that they didn't
keep Bobby Dandridge off the baseline for that last shot
that put them ahead by one. And then the Spur
swept down the other way and Elvin Hayes got a finger.

(19:24):
If you look at the films, you can see one
finger of Elvin Hayes touched the ball as Silas shoots it.
And had that not happened, I think that Silas's shot
would have gone in. We would have won that series.
We would have beaten the Washington Bullets of the Washington SuperSonics.
We'd beaten them every time that year. I think we

(19:45):
should have won the championship in nineteen seventy nine.

Speaker 1 (19:48):
But.

Speaker 2 (19:51):
History was just delayed a little bit.

Speaker 1 (19:54):
That's true. Of course, Jack Sigma and the Seattle SuperSonics
did defeat Kevin Greevy and Bobby dani and the rest
of those Bullets and the finals there in seventy eight
seventy nine.

Speaker 3 (20:04):
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Speaker 1 (20:26):
Apply today at.

Speaker 3 (20:27):
SWBC dot com slash careers. That's SWBC dot com slash careers.

Speaker 1 (20:42):
Before we let you go, Jerry, I wanted to talk
to you about the legacy of the Spurs. You've alluded
to the fact that you've kind of continued to follow
the team even though you haven't been involved since the
seventy eight seventy nine season, and you've seen the success
of the Spurs organization, the consistency they've had through the years.
Just your thoughts on the legacy of the Spurs, especially
from your unique perspective having been with them since the

(21:03):
early days of the Dallas Chaparales.

Speaker 2 (21:05):
Well, I was so happy to see the greatness descend
on San Antonio, and I think it was well deserved.
All those early guys who put up their money, not
as Redcombe said, not expecting a return, and all the
fans that supported it through the lean days. What a
great what a great tribute to San Antonio and its fans,

(21:30):
and to the people that have owned the San Antonio
Spurs and coach Popovich who's done tremendous in the Hall
of Fame, and so many great players flashing through the
memory of the years, and you know to see George
Gervin and the iceman James Silas captain late play against Judus.

(21:52):
Irving to star Walk across those nights was pretty special.
I used to get letters from all over the West
and norm Boys and occasionally from the Northeast people who
would hear the games. And I really think the radio
and the fact that it was a fifty thousand watch station,
I think it helped the ball club immensely.

Speaker 1 (22:14):
Especially back in those days. As you mentioned, there was
not a lot of television coverage, so you guys had
thirty seven states at night on the blowtorch. Terry Stembridge
has been great to catch up with you and visit
with you the original voice of the Spurs from seventy
three to seventy nine. I've got many, many fond memories
of people talking about you through this year because they

(22:34):
remember you very well as a fine broadcaster and a
good person. And we certainly do appreciate you taking time
and being part of this recollection this fiftieth anniversary with
us for the South of Spurs podcast.

Speaker 2 (22:44):
Well, thank you, Bill, and I envy you your talent
in your career. I've listened to you many types and
been envious in your great calls.

Speaker 1 (22:54):
Well, thank you very much, Terry. It means a lot
coming from you. This has been the Sound of Spurs
Podcast episode number twenty four, brought to by s WBC.
I'm Bill Schooning. So long everyone, m
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