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Grohol relished ‘captain’ role

Altoona contingent was part of Penn State TV network

Our longtime friend and all-around good guy, John Grohol, passed away on Jan. 13 following a long, tough battle with leukemia.

He was 76, and I can tell you that he lived those 76 years to the fullest.

I got to know Grohol nearly 50 years ago when we met as part of the production crew for the Penn State football television network.

Jeff Webster, whom I’d known since our days in the Altoona Little League, was there, too, and the Altoona contingent of TV production was born.

In future years, the contingent expanded as Ron Rickens and Charlie Fisher — both of whom have since passed away — came on board as spotters and statisticians. Skip Dry joined the crew a bit later.

Grohol, who had the nickname of “The Captain,” loved this avocation and would go anywhere to be part of the TV crew of any event.

We covered Penn State football and basketball, Ohio State basketball, Steelers preseason football, the Big East basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden, Big 33 football and PIAA basketball.

Whatever or wherever the event, “The Captain” and his guys could be counted on to be there and to do a good job.

One year, Grohol, Fisher and I even got assigned to go to California and Hawaii for the Holiday and Aloha bowls.

Grohol got to be quite well known to the national and regional networks, and he was on their crew call lists up until just a year ago when his illness forced him to hang up his headset.

He had been the TV timeout coordinator for Steeler home games for several years until he was unable to do that anymore. He would get called for various jobs with Penn State football and basketball, where we would be a team again.

Grohol even was part of the TV crew that televised the Joe Paterno memorial service from the Bryce Jordan Center.

He was the jack-of-all trades in TV production. His childhood friend, Guido D’Elia, who had become a trusted adviser to the Paterno family, knew Grohol would handle the assignment with dignity and professionalism.

Grohol had earned a spot on the NBC crew to be part of the Seoul Olympics in 1988.

Unfortunately, arrangements couldn’t be worked out with his full-time employer so he had to pass on that opportunity. But to be chosen for the Olympics, that was really something.

We logged many miles together over the past 50 years. I don’t recall us having one argument or disagreement over those many miles through the many years.

Many times we got home in the wee hours only to go to work the next day.

That’s life in the TV production business.

You can’t schedule the hours; the event does that. But it was such fun, and “The Captain” was a huge part of that enjoyment for the entire Altoona contingent.

He was a great guy, and I, along with all the TV production family of which he was a part, will miss him dearly.

Ted Beam resides in Altoona.

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