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Features

The Voices from On High

September-October 2003

In 1930, Harvard hired its first public-address announcer for home football games, and in the intervening 73 years, the position has turned over but once. Charles Arthur Dale Sr. called games at the Stadium from 1930 until his death in August 1991—an astonishing 61 years at the microphone. At his wake, Dale's widow, Ann Dale, although devastated by grief, greeted Bill Cleary '56 and John Veneziano, then Harvard's directors of athletics and sports information, respectively, who had come to pay their respects. "Thank you, boys," she said. "And wouldn't my grandson Chad do a fine job in Charlie's spot?" 'Nuff said. Charles Arthur Dale III, known as Chad, has been announcing Harvard games ever since.

The Stadium had arc lighting installed as early as 1916 to permit after-dark practices, and by 1924 there were microphones to pick up the crowd's cheering for radio broadcasts. Yet it was not until 1929 that sportswriter Victor Jones '28 had a public-address system installed just for the press box. Some graduates sitting in sections 31 and 32, immediately below the reporters, could hear everything spoken above, and asked, "If you can do it for them, why can't you announce to the whole stadium?" In 1930 an improved PA system went in, and by 1931 the whole Stadium could hear Charlie Dale's voice.

He was hired at an open tryout. Dale was the first candidate of four scheduled to audition, and the last three never got a chance: Charlie Dale was so impressive that he was hired on the spot. During the rest of his life he missed only two games: in the mid 1940s due to illness, and later for a wedding.

"He would get up bright and early on Saturday morning," Chad Dale recalls. "He would already have read the media package cover to cover—he knew everything about the game. Those five Saturdays in the fall were the best Saturdays of his year." Over the years, Charlie Dale became friendly with Thomas Stephenson '37, A.M. '38, and his wife, Libby (Forster) Stephenson. (Their son Thomas F. Stephenson '64, M.B.A. '66, has endowed the Thomas Stephenson Family Coach for Harvard Football.) The Stephensons became press-box regulars as spotters for Charlie Dale, and continue in that role for Chad.

The elder Dale, who worked in the printing business, had no truck with the idea of a forward pass being "incomplete"; he invariably declared that the pass had "failed." On occasion he had a bit of fun with players' names. In 1936, when Amherst's A.A. Snowball tackled Crimson fullback Vern Struck '38, Dale announced, "Struck by Snowball," to the crowd's delight. Later that year, when a player named Cohen entered the backfield as a substitute for Pope, Dale deadpanned, "Cohen for Pope."

Like his grandfather, Chad Dale—who played baseball and hockey and was a high-school quarterback—did not attend Harvard, but loves the job: "It's a classy program, nice people, and also a successful football team." A downtown lawyer, Dale has his grandfather's penchant for preparation, and also gets an occasional rise out of the crowd, as when he first announced a penalty infraction for the bona fide violation "illegal touching." Chad has also inherited much of his grandfather's iron-man durability and has missed only two games. "I enjoy it very much," he says. "I want to do it long enough for my kids to do it with me." Since those kids include boys of six and four years, plus a baby girl, there should be Dales atop Harvard Stadium for a long time to come.