ASHLAND, Ky. – Dicky Martin hasn’t missed broadcasting any football games for the Ashland Tomcats since taking the main mic from his father in 1976, a streak of 533 games.
He’s missed only two basketball games – one when his father, DIck, died and another when he was sick with the flu. That’s all over 45 years of calling games.
So putting his name and that of his father, who started the broadcasting tradition in 1953, on the front of the Putnam Stadium press box was even more than fitting. It’s a natural.
Dicky Martin was emotional after being told the news on Wednesday in front of the stadium press box. He’s called games in that structure since 2014 when the “new” Putnam Stadium was built. But he logged games from 1976 to 2013 in the old press box that was razed during renovations.
School board chairman David Latherow, vice chairman Patsy Lindsey, Putnam Stadium restoration chairman Greg Jackson and committee members Donna Suttle (and me) and Putnam Stadium groundskeeper Steve Conley shared in giving Martin the news that left him literally speechless.
“That hasn’t happened to me too many times,” he said.
How true. Coaches, referees, fans, band directors and the players themselves have come under criticism from Dicky Martin, who has frankly mellowed some with age.
His father moved the family from Huntington to Ashland in 1952 and he started doing Tomcat sports over the air on WCMI a year later and thus the tradition was born. Dick Martin was a brilliant businessman who was ahead of his time and he made radio important to the community. He knew sports needed to be part of that outreach.
Both father and son always “told it like it was” over the air and their styles were similar in other ways, too. They would always let you know if the Tomcats weren’t playing up to par or if the officials weren’t playing fair (through their maroon-colored eyes). Dicky would always say the radio has an on and off switch if you don’t like what you’re hearing. While Dicky could be critical of the Tomcats, nobody else better be. It was like taking on his family.
Both father and son are radio icons and were must-listens to anyone who followed the Tomcats.
Dicky Martin was quick to say that it was indeed an honor but not because of him but his father. “This is for him,” he said. “Not for me. He was the best. He set the bar high. I’ll never reach his level.”
“This is for both of you,” Lindsey quickly said.
Football and Putnam Stadium have always been special for Martin, who admits it’s his favorite sport to call and watch – “I love this place,” he said – although admitting the undefeated 33-0 basketball season from two years ago would be hard to ever top.
Last year was a mammoth highlight in getting to call the Tomcats’ 11-0 state championship season – the first title since 1990. It was Ashland’s first undefeated and untied season since 1942.
But he said the memories of Putnam Stadium are too numerous for him to count.
“What a place, what a place,” he said looking over the landscape.
Jackson and the restoration committee took the naming proposal to the Ashland Independent School Board meeting on Monday where it received unanimous approval. Then they had to keep it a secret from Martin, who said he had no idea the honor was coming when he was invited to the stadium “to talk about the season.”
Jackson had asked him to come to the stadium to talk over some ideas for the season.
“When Dicky starts this season, he and his father will be in their 69th continuous season of calling Tomcat sports,” Jackson said. “Nobody will come close to that accomplishment in our lifetimes. They are such a large part of Tomcat Nation and we felt like the Martin family needed to be recognized.”
The Tomcats will celebrate the 2020 state championship in the season opener and the press box ceremony will take place in the second home game, Jackson said.
Martin begins season No. 46 on Aug. 21 when the Tomcats open at Putnam Stadium.