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Broadcaster Wiebel dies at 79

January 13, 2007|by MARLO BARNHART

HAGERSTOWN - Though he ended his SportsLine radio show on WJEJ-AM in 2002, Russ Wiebel's reputation as a promoter of youth sports and young people in general never faded for his many friends and fans.

Wiebel died Thursday at the age of 79.

"Russ was one of the most beloved people in this area," said Lou Scally, who knew Wiebel through their years as fellow broadcasters.

Scally, who also is a weatherman at NBC25, pointed out that Wiebel also had the distinction of having his name on a bronze plaque at the new South Hagerstown High School press box.

Wiebel also is a member of the Washington County Sports Hall of Fame.

To many, Wiebel was the voice of high school and college sports, both on the radio and announcing games live.

"He officiated at ball games, and played sports for many years, too," Scally said.

Retired NBC25 sportscaster Glenn Presgraves first knew Wiebel when both men worked at the U.S. Post Office in the 1960s.

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"I got into broadcasting auto racing because of Russ," Presgraves said. "We were always good friends through the years ... never competitors."

Carroll Reid, who retired in 1996 after 30 years coaching football at Smithsburg High School, said Wiebel meant a lot to him and many others to whom sports was a passion.

"Russ did it all and with endless energy," Reid said. "He was responsible for promoting sports in the area."

Dwight Scott, retired coach at Boonsboro High School, took that one step further and called Wiebel a pioneer in getting high school football broadcast on local radio.

"On his Monday night show, he had the local coaches on the air, and that was extremely beneficial for trying to get the message out about supporting youth," Scott said.

Jim Brown recalled his days at North Hagerstown High School when Wiebel was the voice of the Hubs.

"He broadcast our games at North and then at Hagerstown Community College," Brown said.

After leaving North as coach, Brown went to HCC, where he retired as athletic director and head basketball coach.

Brown said Wiebel and his wife, Helen, truly were a team, often sitting together while he broadcast games.

Brown also credited Wiebel and former Boston University coach Roy Sigler with initiating delayed broadcasts of games over Antietam Cable Television in the 1980s and 1990s, which was another big boost to local sports.

As president/general manager of WJEJ, John Staub said he has known Wiebel for most of his 34 years at the station.

"He was very sincere and very friendly, and it wasn't put on," Staub said. "Russ was a full-time supporter of any kind of youth sports."

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