Humanities & Cultural
For more than five decades, Chris Schenkel was among the top broadcasters in America as he called play-by-play for numerous sports on radio and television with his recognizable baritone voice.
A native of Bippus, Schenkel’s sportscasting career began when he rigged a PA system from the Bippus High School gym to the town’s drug store to broadcast Tiger basketball games. While a student at Purdue University, Schenkel worked for WBAA radio, and then moved on to WLBC in Muncie before he served in the military in World War II and Korea. He returned to work for local radio in Rhode Island, then was hired by the DuMont Television Network to broadcast New York Giants football and championship boxing for the network.
Schenkel moved to CBS Sports in 1956, where he continued to broadcast Giants games along with boxing and Triple Crown horse racing. He also became the voice of the Masters golf tournament, narrating some of the greatest moments in the event’s history. Schenkel was the top sportscaster in the country when he went to ABC Sports in 1965, covering nearly every sport, along with nine summer and winter Olympic Games. He was the network’s primary anchor in Mexico City in 1968 and in Munich in 1972.
He became best know later in his career as the voice of professional bowling. Schenkel has been inducted into 16 halls of fame, including the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame in 1981. He was named National Sportscaster of the Year four times and earned a lifetime Emmy Award in 1992. Showing his lasting influence, Schenkel was ranked 25th in a list of the top 50 sportscasters of all time in a 2009 poll, more than 50 years after his television debut.
Schenkel, who grew up with members of the Miami and Potawatomi tribes in Huntington County, championed the causes of Native Americans and was named an honorary chief of the Miami Nation and Sac and Fox Tribe. He helped raise funds for Huntington’s Historic Forks of the Wabash and served as vice president and director of the Eitljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art in Indianapolis. In 1983, Schenkel was instrumental in having the 1912 Olympic medals of Native American athlete Jim Thorpe returned to his family after they were stripped from him.
Schenkel, who died in 2005, always took pride in his Huntington County roots. His funeral was at Huntington’s Saints Peter and Paul Church and he is buried in his hometown of Bippus.