Five ACC basketball teams have been selected to advance to the big dance, better known as the NCAA Basketball Tournament. The perennial cream of the ACC tobacco road crop includes UNC, Duke, NC State, Virginia and the new geographical interloper, Notre Dame.
To complement the stellar performances on the hardwood, a collection of marque commentators will call the play-by-play action. In the next few weeks, we will hear Jim Nantz, Marv Albert, and Verne Lundquist, to name a few. But, way back in the day, there was another famous voice describing all the action, Ray Reeve.
A few months ago, Reeve was featured in a CapCom Throwback Thursday article. His fame first came as a radio sportscaster. His voice modulated the airwaves in a way that cast a spell over his listeners. One of those who fell under his spell was Tom Suiter.
WRAL has had the grand fortune of knocking it out of the ballpark when it comes to sportscasters. Every one of them; Ray Reeve, Nick Pond, Rich Brenner, Tom Suiter and now Jeff Gravley have the right stuff.
Tom Suiter discovered Ray Reeve at a very early age. Tom grew up in Rocky Mount listening to Reeve and Bill Currie call the games on the old Tobacco Radio Network. He remembers being at home in his “courtside” seat by the radio waiting for the game to start. Then the magic happened; the radio speaker crackled “This is Ray Reeve from the Reynolds Coliseum…” From that point on Tom would hang on to each word spoken by the gravelly-voiced sportscaster.
Tom says, “Ray made you feel like you were at the game.” His words, his timing, his inflection painted a picture in your mind exactly what was happening on the court. When Reeve’s voice became excited and louder, so did the crowd. You could visualize the point guard dribbling the ball up the court while he analyzed the defense. Reeve’s commentary would anticipate the setup that would result in a nothing-but-net shot. Then it would happen – a player would curl around, sneakers squeaking on the floor, clear the lane and go for the lay-up. Ray was right! Two points! Tom remained on the edge of his chair for the entire game, hanging on to every word.
Suiter remained an avid sports fan and knew he wanted to be a sportscaster. During his senior year at Erskine College, located in Due West, South Carolina, Tom mailed resumes to every station in North and South Carolina. He heard back from two; WFBC (now WYFF) in Greenville, South Carolina, and WRAL-TV. Tom was especially happy to hear from WRAL since he grew up watching the station from his home in Rocky Mount. Plus, Ray Reeve was the sports director.
The letter to Tom was from CBC Vice President, Jesse Helms. He let Tom know that he would soon be hearing from Ray Reeve. In late April, 1971 Tom received a telegram to set up an interview at WRAL. Tom would soon meet the very person who inspired him to become a sportscaster.
Tom graduated from Erskine on May 23, 1971. Two days later he interviewed with Ray Reeve at WRAL. There he was, face to face with the man, the voice, the legend. Tom remembers being very nervous during the interview, in fact he termed it “an out-of-body experience.”
Tom went on vacation for a few days. On June 1, the phone rang at his home in Rocky Mount. The voice on the other end was Billie Krisulewicz. The voice was deep and raspy. Billie asked Tom a few questions and Tom responded kindly with several mannerly “yes sir” responses sprinkled into the conversation. He started work the very next day, June 2. That is when Tom found out that Billie was a she, not a he!
Even though Ray Reeve was the sports director at WRAL-TV, he was first and always a radio man. His brilliant ability to broadcast on radio did not transition very well to television. Tom remembers that Ray basically read directly from his script, rarely looking up. His use of graphics was sparse. It was radio on television. Ray stayed with WRAL until June 30, 1972, eventually Nick Pond took over the anchor chair.
Tom was grateful for the time he was able to work with Ray Reeve. Not many people meet their heroes, let alone work for them. However, Tom credits Nick Pond, a legendary sports anchor in his own right for being his mentor to the ins and outs of television. Lightning struck twice for Tom.
As a cherished memento, Tom inherited Ray’s typewriter. Someone during the years placed “The Legend” sticker on the typewriter, and that seems almost fitting for a machine that served Ray and Tom for so many years. Tom used the old typewriter before he reluctantly transitioned to a computer in the mid-80s. When Tom sounds the final buzzer on his time at the Big 5, he will a take the typewriter with him. Rick Gall said he could!
Thanks to Corp’s Pam Allen for this capcom story & these photos. Pam Parris Allen is a former WRAL newscast producer/director who now works as a researcher and producer on the CBC History Project.