It’s not easy becoming a legend when you follow a legend, but Don Voltz managed to do it. And now, like his Hall-of-Fame predecessor, Voltz rides off into the sunset of retirement having left an indelible impression on Delaware sports and Delaware sports fans.
Voltz was an announcer and much more for WDEL radio for more than 30 years, until he walked off into that sunset last week. He was an almost-local kid who grew up right across the Pennsylvania border in Norwood, Pa., went to college in the Midwest and started his career there before coming home.
And home is where he stayed, even though he had the chops to go onto bigger and supposedly better things.
Voltz worked closely for many years with the late, great Bill Pheiffer, who set the standard for class and professionalism that Voltz followed. Pheiffer was inducted into the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame in 2003, and it’s just a matter of time before Voltz joins him.
Both of those broadcasting giants were from a different era, of course. That was when broadcasters and analysts were professionals who didn’t spend all of their time screaming at each other.
When Don Voltz did a high school game or simply delivered the sports news, he always put the story ahead of the story-teller. He could be clever and humorous, but he never tried to draw attention to himself and he always, always understood that sports stories were really about people, not events.
Voltz has been an integral part of the fabric of the sports scene in Delaware for decades and it’s hard to imagine that scene without him. He is known, respected and even liked by, well, everyone – athletic directors, coaches, players, parents and fellow journalists.
He could be critical, but it was always honest criticism and not something that was merely click bait. His only agenda was the game and his listeners.
Perhaps Voltz’s biggest key to success as a broadcaster was his ability to make a high school game sound like an NCAA Final Four game and, at the same time, do it in an easy-talking style that reminded you that, oh yeah, these are a bunch of 17-year-olds in little ol’ Delaware and we’re all neighbors and maybe even friends.
Of course, Voltz did a lot more than high school sports over his long career. He covered pretty much everything and switched gears into different sports with enviable ease.
But even though he covered the Olympics and World Series and University of Delaware sports, I’ll always remember him as the guy who treated a high school game the same way he treated a World Series game.
That’s because Don Voltz realized that what he said about a high school kid would be remembered by that kid and his or her family forever. What he said had an impact on young lives and Voltz took that seriously. He showed everybody respect, and in return everybody respected him.
The journalism business has changed dramatically over the last decade, and losing a veteran like Voltz is certainly a loss for the station. But a representative with WDEL says the station hopes to bring Voltz back to do some occasional play-by-play for the games they cover. It seems like a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away that Pheiffer broadcast every Salesianum School football game.
So, Don Voltz is getting out of the business at the perfect time. He leaves behind a Hall-of-Fame legacy and, more importantly, the respect and affection of everybody who dealt with him. Now he and his wife, Sally, get to enjoy that legacy, not to mention their grandkids.
Sometimes, good guys do finish first.