Looking Back: Chuck Shuffett



Chuck Shuffett took over the play-by-play duties for Racer athletics after he purchased WNBS in 1957.

Shuffett had gotten his start at a station in Glasgow, Ky.

"I auditioned for a job as an announcer and when they hired me they told me that I would also be calling ballgames which was something I had never done," he said. "A month or so later they told me I had a game on Friday night. Well, I thought that was peculiar because most places don't start basketball in early September.

"It turned out that I was supposed to do a football game. I had never even seen a football game. So I called the first football game I ever saw and I went on to do basketball too."

Rex Alexander was the head coach at MSU when Shuffett took over as the Voice of the Racers. But Alexander was replaced by Cal Luther in 1958.

"In my opinion Cal was the best coach we ever had," he declared. "He had less to work with than modern coaches. And of course he got paid a lot less.

"He was extremely fiery on the sideline, at practice, and after games if we lost. There were times I had to walk him down after games the way you would a race horse and we became very good friends."

Anyone who does play-by-play will tell you the biggest downside of the job is travel. But no matter how bad announcers have it now, it was far worse in Shuffett's day.

In 1963 the Racers played defending national champion Loyola of Chicago in a first round NCAA tournament game in Evanston, Ill. But they almost didn't make it to the arena.

"We were going to go up there on a train but there was a flood and the train couldn't get across the river at Wickliffe," Shuffett recalled. "We finally managed to get some kind of transportation to Carbondale and we rode the train from there.

"We jumped out ahead of Loyola 22-8 and a broadcaster from Mutual Radio the following day said 'Murray State was beating Loyola handily until the referees took charge.' And I agreed with that. Most people who ever heard me do a ball game knew I thought I was a better official than I was a broadcaster."

The names of players from those days roll off of Shuffett's tongue with ease - Skeeter Sullens, Scott Schlosser, Jim Jennings, Hector Blondette...

"I remember Hector very well," Shuffett said. "He was a great passer. He never gave away what he was going to do with his eyes. We went to play Eastern Kentucky and he stayed out beyond curfew so the morning of the game Cal told me to take Hector to the bus station and buy him a ticket home. And he said not to give him any money. I thought that would be the last we ever saw of Hector but he played in the next game."

There were, of course, lighthearted moments along the way.

"We were down at Middle Tennessee one year and the guy who did play-by-play for Middle sent an exotic dancer to grab me by the neck during the game," Shuffett said smiling. "She was a lady of considerable physical endowment and it was kind of embarrassing."

Shuffett stopped doing the games in 1975.

Current play by play announce Neal Bradley remembers listening to Shuffett when he was a kid.

"I could barely get WNBS where I lived so I listened to Chuck whenever I could," he said. "I thought he did a great job. He painted a great picture and I became a Racer fan by listening to him. I never thought I'd be doing something like that myself."

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