Steve McClure graduated from Southport High School (Indianapolis) in 1963 without a clue. No fault of Southport. That version of Steve McClure just was not ready for the world at Ball State that awaited him.
“I had no idea how to be a college student,” McClure said.
He lasted a year. Then another semester. McClure’s father told him he was not going to pay another dime of college if he did not improve his grades. Instead, a family friend drove McClure downtown to the Air Force recruiting office. “It’s what I needed,” McClure said.
Four years in the Air Force changed McClure. He re-enrolled at Ball State after his tour and zoomed through school, “making ‘A’s’ instead of ‘D’s.’” McClure, 77, earned his degree from Ball State in 1971 in radio and television. He was off and running in a career that spanned 51 years in various roles of sports media and communications.
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McClure never really stopped working. But he also never seemed to be moving so fast that he stopped enjoying his work, whether it was covering golf and tennis for the Center Grove Sports Network, the local network in Greenwood, Indiana, as he has the past five years, or working as a spotter at Indianapolis Colts games for 36 years, or working as a public address announcer at Franklin College for the past 16 years.
“I think it’s mostly that I have a passion for what I do,” McClure said. “If you don’t have passion for what you do, why are you involved in it? I never considered stopping. Why would I? I’ve had people ask, ‘Steve, when are you going to give up some of the things you do?’ I’d say, ‘Why, are you jealous?’”
McClure delivers that last question with a laugh. He pauses briefly and before pondering the next line. The road ahead for him is bleak. But he would rather focus on something else entirely.
“If you took a piece of paper and listed 1 through 100 of all the things I’m thankful for, there wouldn’t be enough numbers,” McClure said. “I try to encourage others to live in that spirit. I’m a man of God and I’ve felt his presence throughout this whole ordeal. I’m resolved in my beliefs so I’m comfortable with those feelings. That’s the way I want to be remembered: I lived my life.”
McClure saw his doctor three weeks ago Friday. The pain in his lower abdomen had become unbearable. He had been treated periodically for irritable bowel syndrome for the past five years and believed that was again causing the discomfort.
Following a CAT scan and more tests, a biopsy of his liver discovered a malignant tumor that had spread to his colon. Doctors laid out the options for McClure and his wife, Sylvia.
“It was not a difficult decision for us,” McClure said. “Since it is an aggressive type of cancer, the prognosis is not good. I could not live the type of life I’m used to living if I’d gone through with chemotherapy.”
McClure does not know how long he has left. Time is precious. Steve and Sylvia, who have been married 34 years, welcomed their daughter, Jenni, and granddaughter, Erin, to their home this week when they visited from Florida.
The news was, admittedly, “jolting.” McClure had been healthy his entire life. “It’s like a heavyweight boxer knocks you down,” he said.
But he did not stay down long. Kevin Conrad, who has worked with McClure the past five years with the Center Grove Sports Network, compiled a touching video tribute from coaches, athletes and others in McClure’s life.
“What I like about Steve is he has a way of entering a press box and covering a game that was refreshing,” Conrad said. “It was never like, ‘Ugh, we’re doing another game.’ He had a big smile and a hearty handshake. He was always an eternal optimist. You knew you were going to have a good time broadcasting a game with Steve.”
At golf events, McClure would often go out on the course to interview and watch the golfers while Conrad worked in the clubhouse. But with a lot of downtime during those long events, Conrad came to know McClure as a friend.
“He really relished in covering those kids who may not get the headlines in sports like basketball or football,” Conrad said. “He had a way with those kids to get them to smile. He’s a professional, but you could tell he also really enjoyed what he was doing.”
McClure looks more like Sparky Anderson than Tommy Lasorda. But Dodger blue runs through his veins. He has attended the Los Angeles Dodgers’ fantasy camp 17 times, including last spring in Vero Beach, Florida, the team’s spring training home.
“I was a damn good player in Little League,” McClure said.
He played with the Indiana Central Little League program. When McClure was 12, Indiana native and then-Brooklyn Dodger Carl Erskine played the national anthem on his harmonica at his Little League All-Star game. McClure was already a Dodger fan, but that sealed the deal.
“I hated the Yankees,” he said. “I could not stand them and the Dodgers couldn’t beat them until they finally did in 1955. The Dodgers have been my team ever since.”
McClure met Erskine at a dinner at the Indianapolis Zoo in 1994 when his wife, Sylvia, a longtime teacher, was being honored. Erskine was the featured speaker. Sylvia convinced her husband to talk to Erskine, who asked for his business card. Three days later, a manila envelope arrived with registration for the Dodgers fantasy camp.
“I couldn’t fill it out fast enough,” he said. “That was quite a thrill for me. We won the championship that year. I’ve gone to 16 more camps and never won again. But I’ve met guys from all over the world who have become some of my best friends.”
Many of them have reached out to McClure since finding out about his dire health situation. McClure makes friends easily. He made them at his first job at WRCR radio station in Rushville, Indiana, where he was the news and sports director and called play-by-play for Rushville and Eastern Hancock basketball and football games. He then moved on to New Port Richey, Florida, to work at an all-news, all-sports radio station from 1973-78 and then transitioned into a career in sports information at Youngstown State, Cincinnati and Barry University (Fla).
“Good thing I was single,” he said. “Because I was working all the time.”
He moved back home to Indianapolis in 1985 and found a job at Sharp Ford through a longtime friend, but on the condition that he could continue to pursue his passion in sports. And he did, working as the public address announcer for the University of Indianapolis basketball from 1985 to 2005. McClure also hooked on with the Colts as the interior press box announcer, a position he held for 18 years. After helping to develop a Spanish radio network for Colts games for a couple of years, he worked as the spotter for stadium public address announcer Mike Jansen for many years.
“I like to take on new challenges,” McClure said.
In recent years, he has worked for Franklin College as a public address announcer and has worked for the Daily Journal as a correspondent, in addition to his duties with the Center Grove Sports Network. Sylvia often joins him.
“He loves life,” Conrad said. “He’s that kind of guy. I don’t think it ever became routine for him.”
Last Friday, Steve and Sylvia went to see the band America at the Brown County Music Center in Nashville. What is the point of living life if you are not out there living it?
“I try to remain my youthful self,” McClure said. “That’s what I’ve done my whole life and I’ve loved what I do. I have a lot of things to be thankful for.”