By R. Alan Richardson
Last month we focused on one of Morgan’s Finest Clifton Hanes with 38 years behind the camera for the Bulldogs. This week it’s all about long-time educator, math teacher, and the Voice behind the mic Mark Argo who spent years as the announcer for the Dogs.
The 61 year-old started his background while in high school where he ran the scoreboard at home football games. The MCHS graduate returned to his alma mater as a teacher around 1978, and principal James Hagin asked him to announce when long-time announcer Hunter Foy retired. He served in that capacity until 1987 when he moved to Milledgeville to be an assistant principal at Baldwin High School. He returned home in 1999 and current principal Andy Ainslie asked him to be in charge of the press box. He agreed. Argo stated, “After that first year, the next year I was on the list as the press box administrator. Mr. Hagin was still doing the announcing at the time. I ran interference for all there. He retired nine years ago and they handed the mic to me. After I retired from teaching, I continued in that roll until last year.”
Argo then was asked to start announcing for baseball games by head coach Brandon Patch. He said, “Coach Patch told me he wanted to create a game experience at baseball games. At the time, there was nothing more than a scoreboard keeper. Baseball has always been my favorite sport so I agreed. We went from speakers to a full sound system to music. One year I tried to keep the scoreboard, do the music, and announce. I finally figured out it was impossible, so I told them this wasn’t going to work. Patch had a brilliant idea during those years by going out and recruiting a group of girls to be the Bulldog Booster Ladies (he wasn’t sure of the name of the group exactly). It was a group of 10th-12th grade girls that took a lot of pride in what they were doing as the Diamond Dog hostesses. They were always there. However, coaches change and things change. When we went to the new baseball field configuration, there wasn’t room for much of a press box so there were a lot of changes that had to be made. I started worked at Foothills last year and had to give that up as well.” Argo was Morgan County’s salutatorian in 1976.
We went back to his earliest days as a football announcer at the old press box on the visitor’s side at Bill Corry Stadium. He commented, “We had to carry amplifiers and equipment up about an 85 degree ladder. In the new press box on the home side we do have some measure of climate control, but the filmers are still on the roof. It’s a little harder to see the action, especially in the left and right side of the end zone on our side.”
Argo went back to his beginnings as a sports fan living in Atlanta saying, “I’ve always been an avid baseball fan, but not so much football. I started high school in Atlanta, and didn’t move to Madison until I was a sophomore. The Atlanta schools mostly didn’t have their own fields and it wasn’t the same as it is here. Some of those fields were in very questionable areas of town, and still are. They might have had an attendance of about 200 fans. When we moved here in 1973, I found out that everybody went to the games. We had some great teams from the 70’s through the early 80’s. That old 4AA Region was tough. If you made it out of the Region, those teams were highly competitive in the playoffs. They all had a hard time getting outside Region games because they were so good.”
When asked why he enjoyed announcing, he said, “The biggest reason I enjoyed it was as a teacher I was very demanding in my classroom. I realized that extracurricular activities bring in a lot of kids. For some kids that might have a poor home situation school becomes their family. It can’t be all about academics. A lot of kids need extracurricular activities and sports. I figured that if I’m going to be demanding in the classroom, I also needed to support these kids, especially baseball. For a long time it was not the thing to do. They didn’t feel like they were as appreciated and supported like some of the other sports. The players would see me at school or in my class and ask, ‘Are you the guy up there’? It was kind of funny.”
Argo then began to reminisce about some of the other Behind-the-Scenes greats. He mentioned Hagin, Doyle Huff, Ray Brown, Hoyt Sullivan, Dr. Lewis and a few others. He then noted, “Most people have no clue about how many volunteers it takes to put on a football game. Hamburgers start frying about 6 p.m. the boosters and President Lynette Knight start manning the concessions with dozens of people, and ticket sellers and ticket takers are there early as well. The band boosters are in one concession stand, cheerleader boosters and cheerleaders are selling programs, and folks are in the press box, and filmers and others are in place. There are also ball boys, faculty at five gates, and the band boosters sweep the stadium after every game. Cleanup afterwards is a major undertaking. We could also mention the crew that lines the field before every game. All of these volunteers.”
In his final thoughts, Argo gave us these nuggets of information. He said, “Announcing is more difficult than people think it is. You can’t see that well. With those funky new age jerseys you couldn’t tell the difference between a five and a six, or a nine and an eight. I even have binoculars. If you can, you’re better than I am. Parents want their kid to be recognized, so if I got it wrong I heard about that (he laughed).
Another thing he mentioned was that there are GHSA rules and regulations on announcing, especially at basketball games. He called it a hot bed of contention. “They can be pretty tight about it. You are only supposed to describe the game, no play by play, and not allowed to cheer the crowd on. I do use a different vocal inflection in certain situations. I don’t think anybody would say anything about that, but the referees can throw a flag on the announcer for unsportsmanlike conduct for 15 yards. They can also throw a flag on the band for playing during a play. It’s very inconsistent, but there’s a two page GHSA memo that comes out every year that the AD is supposed to share with their announcers. It’s pretty common sense stuff. They do have a workshop for announcers, but it’s not mandatory.”
The highly talented pianist and organist at Madison Presbyterian told us that he had announced in every type of weather imaginable. “Wind, horizontal rain, lightning, heat, and even a hurricane that passed through during a game with Pepperell were part of the job. Because we start earlier now, we have more football games in severe heat than anything. I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Thank you Mark Argo for all the hard work and years of service to the Morgan County High School Community!