The full court press; Jim Senich championed the Knights with his pen and his golden voice

By John Goralski

Sports Writer

Jim Senich still remembers the nun’s comments when he delivered his oral report to his sixth grade class. “Someday you’re going to be a radio announcer,” she said, and the velvety-voiced youngster slid back into his seat with a satisfied grin.

Some boys practice last second shots in their driveways with dreams of screaming fans. Others swing sticks in their backyards with visions of ninth inning homers that clinch World Series rings. Some practice slap shots against brick walls which transform into last second goals and Stanley Cup trophies.

Senich dreamed of being the narrator that announced the score to the cheering world.

“I wanted to be a sportscaster from sixth grade on,” he said. “Most kids don’t know what they want to do even in their first few years in college, but I always knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a play-by-play guy for the Cardinals.”

So when his high school coaches cut him during the preseason, Senich’s dreams weren’t totally shattered. When his parents shifted him from the Waterbury public schools into the Catholic prep schools, Senich didn’t complain too loudly that his teams wouldn’t win state titles. Instead, he focused on his studies, listened to games on the radio, and continued chasing his dreams.

When graduation day came and went, Senich packed his bags for Boston on the advice of his cousin Bob Crane (from Hogan’s Heroes fame) and entered the Leland Powers School of Radio, Television, and Theatre. He was determined to make his dreams come true…

“I wasn’t too thrilled about acting, but you had to take it because of the name on the marquis,” he said. “I wasn’t going to be a Hollywood star, but we did Shakespeare. We did Molière and all the classics with the long soliloquies. After a while, I didn’t embarrass myself, and it really helped my elocution and pronunciation. In those days, we didn’t have microphones on stage. Your voice had to reach the back row. That helped me work my way into radio because I learned to strengthen my voice.”

At graduation, some of his classmates chased the bright lights of Hollywood and Broadway. Others headed straight for big-city TV shows. Senich made a beeline for the sidelines. He bounced around the radio dial from Bridgeport to Greenwich and Bristol. He wrote freelance sports articles in Greenwich, and began to show up at Fairfield College for basketball games and New York Giants preseason camps in the mid-1960s.

He covered the Raybestos Brakettes in Stratford when they were the best softball team in the world. He championed Fairfield University basketball teams and interviewed players and coaches from Tom Seaver, Mel Allen, and Red Smith to Frank Gifford and Rosie Greer. If there were sports to be covered, Senich was eager to please.

“They had me do reports on the yacht club, and I knew nothing about yachts,” he said. “But you meet somebody who’s nice. You tell them that you don’t know anything about it, and they guide you through. It’s the same thing at any job.”

His path began to unfold before him. He abandoned the newspapers for the radio. He worked his way up to news director at WBIS in Bristol, but those childhood voices still rang in his head. Sports, not news, was beckoning. So when yet another format change chased him from the radio, and the rising cost of gas threatened the long commute to Greenwich newspapers, someone told the Waterbury native about a new radio station in Southington.

“I was from Waterbury,” he said. “All I knew was that Southington was a town at the bottom of the hill. We thought they were all farmers down there. I knew a little bit about Joe Fontana. Outside of that, I knew nothing.”

From his first sentence on the air, Senich was absorbed into the Southington sports community. The local radio station had him chasing high school football teams and scoring varsity baseball games on the air. His enthusiasm was contagious. His research was impeccable, and his timing was perfect.

“I worked with him at my very first job at WNTY in Southington in the early 1970s. In fact, he hired me,” said radio personality Tom Shute. “Years later I hired him at WATR in Waterbury. He got to continue his love of sports during our sports broadcasts. Also, he got to do our sports on the morning show. Eventually, we made him our news and sports director, and at one point he did a talk show for us, but sports was always his favorite. He just loved to do the play-by-play.”

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